The Black Crowes Talk Early Influences, Late Icons Don Rickles and David Crosby, & What Inspired Their First New Album in 15 Years

Brothers Chris and Rich Robinson also reveal why they needed to breakup before they could get back together

March 27, 2024

“Wanting and Waiting” isn’t just the name of the Black Crowes latest song and music video — it’s what fans of the multi-platinum rock legends have been patiently doing for the past 15 years. The brothers Robinson have learned from their mistakes, put aside their differences, and are definitely back to their groovin’ ways with their new studio album “Happiness Bastards.” On Wednesday, the band returned to the Stern Show for an eye-opening, career-spanning conversation covering everything from their earliest influences to their friendships with late legends Don Rickles, Richard Lewis, and David Crosby. The Atlanta-based rockers also discussed the details of their new tour before performing a trio of tunes live from SiriusXM’s Nashville studios.

The Black Crowes have been rocking and rolling since the 1980s, but for several well-publicized stretches over the past four decades, frontman Chris Robinson and lead guitarist Rich Robinson weren’t getting along. Howard imagined it tough for siblings to stay estranged, but Rich said the brothers’ temporary split helped him to see the forest for the trees. “Chris and I were stuck in this submarine for 24 years — and that’s what being in a band is like,” Rich told Howard. “And then you get away, and you can have more of a 10,000-foot view of what just happened.”

Chris offered a similar sentiment. “It was like a kettle someone left on in a kitchen … and I’m like, ‘Someone please turn the heat down,’” he said. “We needed that break.”

Photo: The Howard Stern Show/Getty Images

“It looks ugly on the outside — and it some of it was,” Chris continued. “[But] during that time, I went through a lot of changes. I found the love of my life, my wife Camille [Johnson], who could bring around so much positivity.”

Chris and Rich aren’t the first sibling bandmates who ever struggled to keep it together. But as Chris explained that’s sometimes just how those complicated relationships go. “Our brotherhood, in reality, isn’t just being brothers,” he said. “We are songwriters. We are performers. We have a business to run as well … but I know that Rich and I — now more than ever … [we] love each other and have deep respect.”

Carrying on With David Crosby

The Black Crowes meteoric rise to the top in 1990 was something to behold. As Chris explained on Wednesday, the Robinsons could barely get anyone to show for a “Shake Your Money Maker” listening party. “Twelve people showed up—and they gave away free liquor,” Rich recalled with a laugh. “Then within three months we’re opening for Aerosmith.”

Before long they were also touring with acts like ZZ Top, Robert Plant, and AC/DC, traveling the world and getting the opportunity to meet an array of rockers who’d influenced them, from Mott the Hoople frontman Ian Hunter to MC5’s Rob Tyner. Before the album even dropped, Guns ‘N’ Roses co-founder Izzy Stradlin requested an audience with the band to dispense free advice on how to deal with their impending success. “He was like … ‘When this rocket ship takes off, you guys just hang on for dear life.’ And I was like, ‘What is he talking about?’” Chris recalled. “And I think that kind of naivety is good … I don’t think we take it for granted at all.”

Chris certainly didn’t take for granted his interactions with Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young, a band he’d idolized since he was a little boy. “One of the earliest memories I remember was listening to [CSNY’s] ‘Carry On,’ … It left a huge imprint,” he said before sharing a story about meeting the band backstage in 1999. “If you had told me … growing up that all of these people would’ve even known my name … That is something I’ll remember forever. That was a magical moment.”

Chris had especially kind words for the late legend David Crosby, who had first reached out to the Black Crowes singer after hearing him cover CSNY’s “Almost Cut My Hair.” Crosby apparently loved the rendition so much he left Chris a musical voicemail, along with an invitation to watch him perform with Graham Nash at the infamous L.A. club Whisky A Go-Go.

“We go up to the dressing room, and we’re in all our like Black Crowes bell bottoms, and Graham Nash goes, ‘They look like us in 1971!’” Chris laughed, explaining Crosby then invited him to perform together on stage. “We just hit it off. He was a real character, and very talented.”

A Wild Weekend With Insult Comic Don Rickles

When the Black Crowes were tasked with helping present fellow musician Chuck Berry with a Kennedy Center Honor in 2000, they made an unlikely friend – comedian Don Rickles. “Unbelievably funny, unbelievably quick, but very sweet,” Chris said of the insult legend, who passed away in 2017. Chris also recalled Don managing to score some vodka at the Kennedy Center’s State Department dinner, where liquor supposedly wasn’t being served. “He like snaps his finger, next thing you know there’s a bottle of Grey Goose on the table … [He’s] the Keith Richards of comedy.”

When Rickles suffered a wardrobe malfunction, he turned to Rich for assistance. “He asked me to put my hand down his pants,” the guitarist admitted before explaining it was after the comic’s suspenders broke. “He was doing shtick, and he had commentary for everyone who walked in.”

Years later, Chris bumped into Rickles along with Bob Newhart at a Santa Monica restaurant. To the singer’s delight, Don remembered him. “He gave me a hug … maybe better than [meeting] Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young was to have Don Rickles introduce me to Bob Newhart,” he said. “It was like fucking amazing.”

Chris Turned Richard Lewis Into a Nick Drake Fan

In addition to mainstream artists like CSNY and the Stones, the Robinsons were also influenced by lesser-known acts like singer-songwriter Nick Drake. “I’ve spent my whole career trying to combine Nick Drake and Keith Richards,” Rich admitted to Howard.

Unfortunately, Drake never found huge commercial success before his untimely death at the age of 26. “Not everyone can be Survivor [with their hit] ‘Eye of the Tiger,’” Chris said. “It’s the same with cinema, with literature — that’s just the nature of the beast.”

“With Nick, it’s pretty emotional and deep, and I don’t think people are comfortable tapping into that,” Rich added. “There’s an extreme melancholy … It’s not escapism.”

That doesn’t mean the brothers haven’t done their part to spread the gospel of Drake. So much so they made a fan out of comedian Richard Lewis, who befriended the Robinsons after he attended an early Crowes concert. “After that show, we drove to Tower Records together and I bought him Nick Drake records,” Chris exclaimed. “Every time I saw Richard after that for years he would always be like, ‘Man, thanks for those Nick Drake [records].’”

Still, Lewis had even more enthusiasm for another band. “Richard Lewis was the biggest Procol Harum fan I’ve ever met — he had Procol Harum license plates,” Rich noted of the late comic’s fandom of the “Whiter Shade of Pale” rockers.

“He used to go on tour with Procol Harum and like ride on the bus with them,” Chris revealed.

From Living With Their Parents to Partying With David Bowie

When the Crowes first came onto the scene, instead of being praised for their originality, they were constantly getting compared to rock elders like the Rolling Stones. “When we wrote ‘Shake Your Money Maker’ … I was in high school and there’s not a lot of life experience to draw from,” Rich said of living with their parents while creating material for their debut album.

By the end of that tour, however, they started to come into their own. And they even got to spend time with some of those legends they looked up to — like when they stayed at the same hotel as David Bowie and tagged along with him to a surprise birthday party for U2’s The Edge. “The Edge had a nice spread,” Rich recalled of the party. “I remember having a conversation with Bono and Van Morrison, and Bono … had like a full military outfit.”

When Chris had some technical difficulties with his stereo, it was Ziggy Stardust himself who repaired it. “I said, ‘Thanks a lot David Bowie … by the way, I’ve made one album — are you impressed?’” Chris recalled to Howard. “He was like, ‘No, not really, man.’”

“Those things build your life experience, and then we came into ‘Southern Harmony’ almost whole,” Rich added in reference to their second album. “We stepped into that record like, ‘This is us.’”

‘Wanting and Waiting’

The Black Crowes kicked off their in-studio set with an energetic rendition of “Wanting and Waiting,” the lead single off their new album “Happiness Bastards.”

“I was blown out when I heard the album — and I think the single is great,” Howard told the band before they cranked out the guitar heavy jam. “Rich, whatever you wrote here musically just works for me. It just moves me. You really hit a home run with this song.”


For their second song of the day, the Crowes performed “Remedy,” which, in addition to being the theme song of the Wrap Up Show, was a single off their sophomore effort, “The Southern Harmony and Musical Companion.” Despite all the comparisons to the Stones, the Faces, and other bands, George Drakoulias, who co-produced the album, said otherwise at a recent listening event.

“We put ‘Remedy’ on, and he was like, ‘This doesn’t sound like any of that. This is very unique … where the groove sits, just the chords themselves,’” Chris recalled of Drakoulias’ note. “It was a unique track.”

‘Hey, Hey What Can I Do’ Cover

The Black Crowes concluded their live Nashville concert with a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Hey, Hey What Can I Do,” which debuted as an “Immigrant Song” B-Side in 1970. Thirty years later, the track also appeared on “Live at the Greek: Excess All Areas,” the live concert album featuring the Black Crowes and legendary Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page.

“This one’s for you,” Chris told Howard before talking about his ongoing friendship with Page. “It was a real blessing and an honor to play music with him,” Chris added before revealing the Black Crowes also had a new box set in the works featuring even more collaborations with Page.

Happiness Bastards” is available now.

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