Counting Crows Biography

This San Francisco, California, USA-based adult rock band grew out of the acoustic duo Sordid Humor, formed in 1989 by Adam Duritz (1 August 1964, Baltimore, Maryland, USA; vocals) and David Bryson (b. 5 November 1961, USA; guitar). Mat Malley (b. Matthew Mark Malley, 4 July 1963, Oakland, California, USA; bass), Steve Bowman (b. 14 January 1967, USA; drums), and Charlie Gillingham (b. Charles Thomas Gillingham, 26 January 1960, Torrance, California, USA; keyboards) fleshed out the line-up of the newly christened Counting Crows, a name lifted from an old English nursery rhyme. Early reports suggested the influence of the singer-songwriter tradition, notably Van Morrison. Other comparisons were made with the Band. In interviews Duritz was keen to point out that they were more than a retro outfit, although he applauded the organic approach to musicianship that lay behind the Band and their ilk. This was reflected on their stunning Geffen Records debut, August And Everything After (1994), produced by T-Bone Burnett, which mixed traditional R&B elements with a raw, rocky delivery. The MTV rotation of ‘Mr. Jones’ undoubtedly augmented sales, as did critical reaction, David Cavanagh noting in UK newspaper The Independent that: ‘Its musical warmth makes it sound like a bunch of understated anthems in which, conceivably, millions could find solace.’

By mid-1994 the band’s remarkable debut had achieved multi-platinum status, but they saw founding member Bowman depart for a session career. Ben Mize (b. 2 February 1971, USA; ex-Cracker) was brought in to replace him, and Dan Vickrey (b. 26 August 1966; lead guitar/mandolin) was also added to the line-up. The ‘difficult’ second album, Recovering The Satellites, debuted at number 1 in the Billboard album chart in 1996, although the band sounded strained in their attempt to recreate the impact of their debut. The stopgap live set, Across A Wire: Live In New York, reached the US Top 20 in July 1998. The following year’s This Desert Life was a return to form, with the loose swagger of tracks such as ‘Hanginaround’ and ‘Mrs. Potter’s Lullabye’ attaining an effortless peak.

The band’s first album of the new millennium, 2002’s Hard Candy, featured additional guitarist David Immerglück, was a lighter album lyrically and generally brighter musically, brought to life with snatches of 12-string Rickenbacker guitar and some uplifting middle eights and harmonies. Mize was subsequently replaced by Jim Bogios, and in 2005 founding member Malley also departed. Millard Powers was brought in as his replacement, making his debut on the band’s first studio album in six years, Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.