The Black Crowes talk 30th anniversary of ‘Shake Your Moneymaker’

Rich (left) and Chris Robinson are the core of The Black Crowes. The Atlanta natives were forced to postpone their reunion tour until 2021. Courtesy of Josh Cheuse
Rich (left) and Chris Robinson are the core of The Black Crowes. The Atlanta natives were forced to postpone their reunion tour until 2021. Courtesy of Josh Cheuse

Credit: Josh Cheuse

Credit: Josh Cheuse

The Robinson brothers and producer George Drakoulias dig through the vaults - and look ahead

Almost exactly a year ago, Chris and Rich Robinson returned to their hometown to play a stripped, acoustic set at Terminal West under their alter-ego moniker, Brothers of a Feather.

During the show, a visibly ill Rich barely spoke and mustered through admirably on guitar. He and his brother are now convinced the younger Robinson, having recently returned from Europe in the early stages of the pandemic, had been afflicted with COVID-19.

“I never felt anything like it. I had a sore throat and just fell off a cliff,” Rich said in an interview last week from his Nashville-area home.

The concert was a precursor to a planned blowout summer tour for The Black Crowes and the recently reunited Robinson brothers – separated for years by acrimony and side projects – as a celebration of the 30th anniversary of their smash debut, “Shake Your Moneymaker.”

ExploreChris Robinson gets candid about The Black Crowes’ reunion, his mended relationship with brother Rich and the early Atlanta days

While the rescheduled outing (including July 3 at Cellairis Bank Amphitheatre at Lakewood penciled in) remains tentative, The Black Crowes will revisit their landmark work on Feb. 26 with “The Black Crowes Present: Shake Your Money Maker.” The multi-format reissue is stocked with demos, unreleased recordings and an unearthed concert particularly special to Atlanta fans: the 14-song set was recorded in 1990 at Center Stage.

Working with original “Moneymaker” producer George Drakoulias on the package, the Robinson brothers also discovered tapes and fliers from their Mr. Crowe’s Garden days as well as the song “Charming Mess,” the band’s initial first single that was ultimately nixed from the album.

Chris and Rich Robiinson, the core members of the Black Crowes, performed an acoustic set as the Brothers of a Feather on Sunday, February 23, 2020, at sold out Terminal West. This intimate show was a warm-up for their summer reunion tour.
Robb Cohen Photography & Video /RobbsPhotos.com
Chris and Rich Robiinson, the core members of the Black Crowes, performed an acoustic set as the Brothers of a Feather on Sunday, February 23, 2020, at sold out Terminal West. This intimate show was a warm-up for their summer reunion tour. Robb Cohen Photography & Video /RobbsPhotos.com

Credit: Robb Cohen Photography & Video/

Credit: Robb Cohen Photography & Video/

“Rich is the one who, with George, they would send me stuff to listen to,” said Chris Robinson. “They’re like the archeologists of this one, digging up the bones and the fossils. We just had a ton of stuff.”

In separate conversations with the Robinson brothers and Drakoulias, they reminisced about the Atlanta concert, finding old pieces of Mr. Crowe’s Garden and the joy of revisiting their early history.

On what made that 1990 concert from Atlanta’s Center Stage so special:

CR: We did two or three nights there and one of them was my 24th birthday. The year before we were probably playing The Cotton Club or The Point in Little Five Points to 30 people. To have that first year of success with the record and us (becoming) The Black Crowes – it was super special to see all of our friends and family there. People magazine was there to interview our parents! We were so excited to have Chuck Leavell (who played on the album) play on those shows. The footage from the “She Talks to Angels” video was from those shows.

RR: I was 19 when we made (“Shake Your Moneymaker”) and realistically a year out of high school and living with my parents. So to get on a bus and go out for a year and come back to two or three sold-out shows at this venue where we had watched so many people play…I mean, I saw the Replacements there, I saw Iggy Pop with Jane’s Addiction opening, The Church - just so many cool bands had played there. For us to come back and play it was pretty cool. I was shocked at how good the show sounded. There was a lot of energy, a lot of good playing, a lot of excitement.

GD: The live concert was basically that – young twentysomethings firing on all cylinders and having something to prove. (Hearing that show) put a big smile on my face. It was big a homecoming and it felt good. Just hearing how “on it” everyone was; it was a full-tilt boogie. I remember it was the end of the year, a Christmas show and Chuck Leavell came up to do the show; we cut “Jealous Guy” in that session, too.

The Black Crowes' "Shake Your Moneymaker" album celebrates 30 years.
The Black Crowes' "Shake Your Moneymaker" album celebrates 30 years.

On finding old memorabilia from Mr. Crowe’s Garden

CR: I’ve never lived in the same place more than five years since I left home in 1987 and most of my stuff gets lost. When my dad passed six or seven years ago, he had a bunch a stuff and Rich opened a box and all that stuff was in there.

RR: When my dad passed, all of his stuff came to me. It was sealed and stayed in my garage and it’s hard to let go of. (I decided) to finally get in there and see what he had when we were talking about doing this 30 anniversary box set. It was cool to delve in. The funny thing is there was a notebook, a folder of old fliers that was put together by an old girlfriend of mine at the time. Old photos and all sorts of things. I feel fortunate to have all of that and incredibly fortunate to have found it. (Our dad) had tons of photos and posters and old albums.

On finding songs such as “Charming Mess” and digging through the vaults:

RR: I remembered “Charming Mess,” but haven’t heard it in 30 years. To look back in time, it brings you to this place, about where we are, where we started, and it taps into the whole thing Chris and I had been planning and doing, anyway - tapping back into what that original inspiration and love was. You get on a train and you’re on these tracks and a lot of times you can’t get off and you live by the decisions you make. We made a lot of great music, but later there was a lot of tumult that we had to deal with. So to go back to that time, it was a pretty innocent time. It was wide-eyed and joyful. For me, that’s a cool thing to leave with fans after the way the band went the last seven or eight years, going down our negative roads. A constant theme that went through this project was just fun. We had fun just doing stupid (stuff) that 20-year-old dudes would do. But we also took what we did very seriously, and I think you can feel that on the record.

GD: I thought we should do a cover (on the album) and I think Chris came up with “Hard to Handle.” I think he was kind of reluctant to doing Otis (Redding) and I said, “We’ll make it into a rock thing.” I was reading the review (of the album) in Spin magazine and they quoted the song and said, “Pure poetry from Chris Robinson.” (Laughs) We had an opportunity to expose kids to Otis and this amazing song and put this music out in the world.

CR: (The anniversary edition) is representative of where we started. We’re not precious about our (stuff), but we definitely know that when fans of the Black Crowes haven’t heard a concert in 30 years, it’s cool to share that. The reunion was going so well, to just have contact with George and reminisce about all the silly (stuff) and all the laughs. That’s ground zero for a career that’s been such a gift, you know?

Rich (left) and Chris Robinson are the core of The Black Crowes. The Atlanta natives have a reunion tour planned for summer 2020. Photo: Courtesy Big Hassle Publicity
Rich (left) and Chris Robinson are the core of The Black Crowes. The Atlanta natives have a reunion tour planned for summer 2020. Photo: Courtesy Big Hassle Publicity

On the reality of whether the already once-postponed anniversary tour will take place as rescheduled this summer:

CR: When they call me to go to rehearsals, I’ll be there. It’s sort of futile to put a date on the wall. We’ll see. We’re not the only band and not the only musicians that want to get out there. When it happens, we’ll be so happy. We have our band and our presentation none of that is going to change.

RR: I think it’s likely the tour will happen. I’m cautiously optimistic that June-July will be a totally different scenario by then with people being vaccinated. And we’re playing 90 percent sheds (outside amphitheaters), so I think it will be OK.

On playing Atlanta during their Brothers of a Feather tour in February 2020.

CR: It was a great show, an amazingly respectful crowd. When you’re playing that music with just me and Rich, you’re getting a real look at the essence of what the whole thing has been fueled by for three decades. We’ve done acoustic shows in the past that have been very good, but in the reality of our relationship to be in a positive place, it makes the music more dynamic and more emotional.

RR: Man, I think I had Covid. We had been in Europe and apparently it was in Europe when we were there. I literally woke up, played the Atlanta show and drove back (to Nashville). And my guitar tech got (sick) later.

On the emotional impact of revisiting the old material:

GD: It’s very bittersweet, like God, has 30 years passed? The most shocking thing was seeing my handwriting on cassette tapes, reel tape boxes, seeing some of the titles of the songs and going through the vault and finding 25 mixes of a song. I’d listen back to them and think, they all sound similar – what the hell was I thinking (doing so many takes)? (Laughs) I think that’s just youth.

RR: Ultimately, to be able to honor all of this, it’s like a time capsule with the photos and footage and recordings and extra songs and things I had forgotten about. I had no idea we recorded “Jealous Guy.” I knew we played it, but forgot we recorded it… By digging in and getting that feeling, it makes me more excited to get out and play that record, which Chris and I never wanted to do in the past and now to focus on this one thing as a piece.

Producer George Drakoulias, who worked with The Black Crowes on their debut album, also produced the 30th anniversary edition.
Producer George Drakoulias, who worked with The Black Crowes on their debut album, also produced the 30th anniversary edition.

Credit: Courtesy

Credit: Courtesy

On new material from The Black Crowes:

CR: Rich and I have been doing the limbo. We’re working on George with these (reissued) songs and in the next couple years we plan to work on a Black Crowes album with George. We’re doing sketches and writing back and forth. We don’t want to do anything until we finish the tour. The tour is the main focus. There’s nothing to rush. We’ll collect as many songs as we can and get some gigs in and then see where it goes.

RR: I have a studio at home and have been writing some songs and sending stuff to Chris. We both agreed that we wanted to work with George. For us to have someone we trust and with great ideas, it was cool to be able to do that. It comes down to, we went through that rough patch and now we get to look at George and sort of start over. Families can have dynamics that can be negative, and that can be tough to break. For Chris and I, we felt we could deal with our own dynamic and strive for the two of us not to make these mistakes that we did in the past, and we want this to be right for us and the band and creative partners.

GD: (Laughs) That’s like Space Force, man, I can’t talk about that! We’ve been talking for a couple of months; there are some strong songs there. It’s great to hear them singing and playing. Who knows when we can get to together and do it? I think they’ll have a lot of fun when this (touring) thing opens up. But nobody stops you from writing songs. We’ll see what happens.

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By the numbers:

“Shake Your Moneymaker”

Released in 1990

5 million copies sold

5 singles charted: “Hard to Handle,” “She Talks to Angels,” “Jealous Again,” “Twice As Hard” and “Seeing Things”

Reissue includes a 4-LP and 3-CD “super deluxe version; a 2-CD “deluxe” package; and a single CD and LP

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