“I got a girl just as fine as she can be…”
–Elmore James

On April 6, 1995, while enjoying a day off in Pensacola, Florida, the Black Crowes left Duck Dunn’s (Booker T. & The MGs) house after an old-fashioned barbecue and headed to a local recording studio for some first-class fun with the Allman Brothers. Duck’s son, Jeff, served as the Crowes’ soundman on the Shake Your Money Maker tour.

Over the years, the Crowes developed a relationship with the Allman Brothers since Chuck Leavell played piano on Shake Your Money MakerIn their early years, the Crowes performed a stellar cover of the Allman Brothers’ classic, “Dreams”. The Crowes heard the Allmans were at Telstar Studios and paid them a visit.

In the 1990s I knew a dude who recorded and collected a wide selection of live recordings, or what were once called “bootlegs”. In 1997, he sent me this recording. Sometimes the past is hazy. Crowesbase, a reliable Black Crowes archive, indicates Telstar was the studio located in Pensacola, Florida, but I heard the session transpired at another nearby recording studio called Spirit Ranch.  In 1995, the Allman Brothers stayed on the road, recording and weathering changes. Naturally, the two Georgia  bands enjoyed each other’s company.

The songs recorded on these two Pensacola discs include “Blues Jam”, “Bottle of Red Wine”, “I Need Your Love So Bad”, “Shake Your Money Maker”, “Any Little Country Girl”, “Woke Up This Morning”, “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” and “Tobacco Road”. The sonic quality is remarkable. You can hear chatter between songs, stray riffs, and spontaneous jamming. It’s gritty, bad ass blues at its finest. Chris Robinson, Warren Haynes and Gregg Allman shared vocal duties. “Say, you look like a junkie/She was so beautiful/But she lived her life too fast”, Robinson sings as the band lays down some potent mojo.

Right before they render a version of Dylan‘s “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” (with a “All Along the Watchtower” fade out), Allman yells, “Stop! You know what they call people who hang out with musicians? Drummers…”

In 2007, Marc Ford told me about the session. He was still a member of the Crowes in those days, and played guitar on this session. I’ve interviewed Marc Ford many times. In a 2007 interview (which appears in Insured Beyond The Grave Vol. 2), I asked him about that singular evening. 

JC: Who is playing guitar when the Crowes and Allmans recorded in that Florida studio?

MF: It was me and Warren (Haynes). Dickey (Betts) or Rich (Robinson) weren’t there. It was me, Chris (Robinson), Johnny Colt, Gregg and Allen Woody. I just saw a picture from that night the other day, Duane Betts was there. 

JC: That night Gregg was…

MF: …He was drunk as hell, and sassy and he ran the band out of rehearsal earlier, so they all split. We were jamming and I was playing through Dickey’s amp loud as hell, and Gregg was like ‘Turn that down! I can’t stand you guitar players playing so loud.’ By the end of the night–he was like ‘You’re my brother. I dig you (laughs)’. It was hilarious. There were a few hangers-on, probably the dope man was around. The fire department came at one point and we had to shut it down because there was so much smoke being blown in that place that the fire department came (laughter).”

I corroborated the story with another friend who was present that night. He told me when everyone in the studio received word that official vehicles with flashing lights and sirens were outside, someone said, ‘I can’t tell if its the cops or the fire department’. Dearly departed Crowes keyboardist Eddie Harsh replied: “Well god dammit, do they have guns or ladders?”

Ah, the last glorious embers of rock & roll fading in the mid-1990s…

The night after this Crowes/Allman recording session in Pensacola, the Black Crowes would open for the Grateful Dead at Tampa Stadium.  During the summer of 1995, the Crowes would go on to open shows throughout Europe for the Rolling Stones (Chuck Leavell still serves as the Stones keyboardist) as well as Page & Plant. The Crowes had recorded their furious Amorica album the previous year, and were entering a strange zenith of their career. 

These recordings serve as an interesting piece of time travel. Trust me.

(Photo #1 John Popplewell, Photo #2 Kirk West Photo #3 James Calemine)


Happiness Bastards