Black Crowes’ Success in the Alt-Rock Dominated 90s, R.E.M. and other musical inspirations, Celebrating the ‘95 World Series with the Atlanta Braves
By Max Stewart
We are pleased to bring you Part II of our conversation with former drummer of the Black Crowes, current drummer of Trigger Hippy, and host of the radio show Steve Gorman SPORTS! on Fox Sports Radio, Mr. Steve Gorman. Never a dull moment when chatting with Gorman, in this section we discuss the evolving musical climate in which the Black Crowes saw mainstream success in 1991, some of his major musical influences, and an epic recount of the time he ran film during Game 6 of the World Series and celebrated with the Atlanta Braves on the field!
If you didn’t already pick up on Gorman’s razor sharp wit and laid-back demeanor in our previous release, after Part I was published, Gorman’s tweet was perhaps the best announcment of an interview by anyone that we have seen:
Please be sure to tune into Steve Gorman SPORTS!, a nationally syndicated radio show broadcast weekdays from 6:00 – 8:00 ET on Fox Sports Radio.
The Black Crowes Maintaining Course Through an Evolving 90s Musical Landscape
As a music and sports fan myself, I feel like the Black Crowes were the Cinderella Story (call it the 2010 Butler Men’s Basketball team or the Miracle on Ice) when they ‘hit it big’ in the early Nineties, a NEW gritty Rock ‘N’ Roll band amongst all of the hair metal and Eighties synth dominating the charts, and then later all of the grunge stuff.
Did you guys feel like the underdogs at all in that time?
Well, we had a minute where everything was all about us, the Spring of ‘91, for about three months, we were it. It took a year for us to become ‘it’, but really the first six months of 1991, we were the band. And then by the summer… you know, I saw an article recently and Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Blood Sex Sugar Magik, Pearl Jam’s Ten, Nirvana’s Nevermind, Metallica’s Black Album, and Guns ‘N’ Roses Use Your Illusion – all of those albums came out in the same six week span. So there’s a reason by the Mid-Summer of ’91, Shake Your Money Maker stopped mattering overnight. And really that was the biggest burst of huge rock records, that was the last gasp, there’s not been a six week period where six albums like that all came out in any genre since, you know what I mean?
At the time, you don’t see that, but when you look back you realize, wow that was a monumental moment for rock music. But really it was Nirvana. I mean we were still riding high and we were the young band. It’s funny looking back because we won the Rolling Stone Reader’s and Critic’s Poll for Best New Band, and that rarely happens. We were very popular but critics thought we were really good, with potential to be one of the great bands, that’s what everyone looked at us as. But the album took a year to get any real heat too, it wasn’t an overnight thing. Whereas Nirvana, it was released and three weeks later it was #1. They went on a comet blast, that was an entirely different experience. And that sucked all of the air right out of the room. I mean, look at what Nirvana still is to this day. That album and what it did and how it changed the way people… it made alternative rock real. I mean, [previously] there was just rock radio, and then on the back of one rock record (Nevermind), an entire new format of rock radio was formed. And you were either on the new boat or you weren’t. And a lot of people immediately classified us, we were like Eighties. Suddenly the bands that we helped kill, all the hair metal bands, because of Nirvana we got lumped in with those bands and all of sudden, we were old.
I can remember when Amorica came out in 1994 and we were doing an interview and a guy said, ‘I mean you guys have been at this so long..’ And I said, ‘What do you mean 4 years?’ And he said, ‘Well, but these young bands like Pearl Jam..” And I said ‘Every member of Pearl Jam is older than every member of our band, what are you talking about?’ It was just funny you know. On our first album we opened for Aerosmith, Heart, Robert Plant, and ZZ Top. That’s the company [we kept], and we got lumped in and we were always looked at as a much older band than we were. And at the time we didn’t care, we were so in our own head doing our own thing, it wasn’t anything we were even concerned with. It’s real easy in hindsight to look back and go ‘Oh, that’s why that happened’ or ‘That’s why that didn’t happen’. But at the time, we were just working non-stop.
Southern Rock, R.E.M., U2 and Other Musical Influences
I do not associate you guys with the wave of Nineties nostalgia going on – like a band such as Hootie, obviously – because your sound was so unique and did not try to adapt to the stylistic musical fads of the time and you did what you wanted. That being said, the Black Crowes definitely are often times categorized as Southern Rock. But you guys avoided the gimmicky, “South Shall Rise Again” crowd – and resisted Rick Rubin’s infamous opportunistic attempt to shape you guys as a novelty act, managing to be an authentic, progressive southern rock band a la the Allman Brothers.
Obviously you grew up in Kentucky, and Chris and Rich Robinson are from Atlanta. It seemed that ‘Southern’ sound seeped into the songs via osmosis.
Who would you say are your main musical influences, Southern or otherwise?
My entire world was R.E.M., the dBs, Let’s Active, and Jason & the Scorchers. All Southern bands, from the Eighties. Those were all the bands that made me want to be in a band. The Allman Brothers didn’t mean a thing to me, I mean, hell, Led Zeppelin didn’t mean anything to me in high school in college. When I was in 8th grade, I saw Devo and the B-52’s on Saturday Night Live, and both those things just changed my world, like blew the brains just out of my ears. I thought, ‘I don’t know what that is, but I am in, on both counts’. And when I was in 9th grade, U2 was on a show with Tom Snyder, it was a 1:30 a.m. talk show. It was just a guy sitting on a chair smoking cigarettes interviewing guests. And U2 were all 18 or 19 and it was their first trip to America, and it was the only TV show they could get booked on, and I just happened to see it because I was up late one night. And it was an Irish band and I was from an Irish-Catholic family and I thought, ‘Oh, I will probably like them.’ And I did. They played, “I Will Follow” and I was just totally in with U2. And then right away I just went down the rabbit hole of what in Hopkinsville, KY was obscure music. Now, the fact that these bands were on National television meant they hardly were obscure, but to the town I lived in they were. I had to order those records and wait for them, they weren’t at the record store.
R.E.M. is the single most important band for my career. I mean the Beatles started everything and were inspirational. But R.E.M. was the band, when I got into them, everything about how they were as a band [including] the way they thought about things and the the way handled their affairs, that’s what I always wanted. I wanted to be in a band like R.E.M. I didn’t get that, I didn’t get anything close to it. But they were the band that when I saw them, I was still in high school the first time I did, I thought ‘I gotta do that, I have got to be in a band and at least try’. They haunted me for 3 years in college, cause I’d see them a couple of times of year, and I would leave their shows in a manic state thinking ‘I’ve got to do this.’ So when I got to Atlanta, it was 5 years of thinking about it but it felt like I had been waiting 1,000 years for the chance. And I got to Atlanta ready to go.
It’s funny cause when I got to Atlanta, I bought my first drum kit and it was the first time I had ever owned a drum kit. And the first day I set it up my buddy Clint was listening to Led Zeppelin I. I had heard Led Zeppelin on the radio my whole life, but never owned a Zeppelin album. But all of sudden it just clicked. I thought, ‘Oh shit, listen to THAT.’ It was just enough time was removed for it to make sense. I mean, Led Zeppelin was what the rednecks listened to who wanted to fight me. Led Zeppelin and AC/DC were the two bands that I never got into because the people that liked them, just drove around pick-up trucks and were like the bad guys in Dazed & Confused (laughs). That was my childhood.
So, with a little separation from it and being in the center of [Atlanta neighborhood] Little Five Points listening to it was a whole different context and I could just hear the records for what they were. And I was figuring out how to play drums, so the stuff I was listening to had a way bigger impact. You know I never listened to an R.E.M. record and thought, ‘I am going to sound like that drummer’, but I loved the band and loved who they were. But I started listening to Zeppelin, and Big Star with [their drummer] Jody Stephens. I realized ‘Man, that’s the way to play, that’s it right there.’ It took a long time before I felt like I could even try anything, but that’s the stuff that was sort of burning its holes in my brain.
It’s interesting how you when you re-discover music at a different place in your life, you are more accepting of it, to take it in. For years, I just resented country music because of similar reasons and because it seemed like a joke to me. And thanks to guys like Sturgill Simpson and Jason Isbell I have come around to it and really dug into it and love it. It is funny how it works like that sometimes.
Oh yeah. Most of the time you are first exposed to music, you are a teenager. So you are incredibly impressionable, you have no perspective and context is everything at that age. So yeah, it makes a huge dent. I can’t remember the last time I put on a Beatles album, but I would never have to because I spent ages 5 -12 just listening to Beatles’ records, Wings’ records, John Lennon records. I was just obsessed. And that stuff is so hardwired into my hard drive. I can still listen to any of it and love it. If you put on any McCartney record, even like Wild Life or Ram, if you put it on right now it’s as familiar to me as anything… as my dog is to me (laughs). All the music, all the movies, all the books, all the stuff you do as a teenager. That always makes the biggest dent I think in any creative person forever. Those are always gonna be your major reference points, whether you acknowledge that or not.
It’s like a sponge.
Getting back to R.E.M., I know Mike Mills has the band The Baseball Project with Peter Buck [from R.E.M, too], and they write songs exclusively about baseball. It’s a fun concept for a band and cool that he is also implementing the sports theme directly into the music. You have gotten to know the fellow sports-music enthusiast Mike Mills right?
Yeah, he was on the show a few weeks ago, we are buddies. He’s doing that [band] with Steve Wynn (from the Dream Syndicate). I went to Atlanta in 1984 to see The Dream Syndicate open for R.E.M. at the Fox Theater with Clint. This is 3 years before I moved there, but that moment… you know, Trigger Hippy played with the Baseball Project a few years ago and I took a picture with Steve Wynn and Mike Mills and tweeted it saying something like, ‘I quit college because of these two people’, but it is true.
You know R.E.M. was always #1, but there was a lot of those other bands that just got under my skin to the point that I just realized ‘I am just gonna go do this I don’t give a shit what happens, I have to try it.’
And when I talk to Mike, I always say two things about R.E.M.: 1.) the most impactful band of my life, and 2.) by far and away, the greatest breakup in rock history. Everything about them, they are so smart. And to just issue a statement out of the blue, ‘We are no longer a performing or recording band again. Later’ (laughs). And they mean it. They will never do a reunion tour or record, they’re done.
And Mike can do The Baseball Project, something that is purely for fun, because he knows he could never have something that was as magical as R.E.M. was. You don’t do something from 20 – 50, and then at 50 try to go do it again. That’s not gonna happen. You have a 30 year run at a band that makes its own rules and lives its own way. Those things happen once.
You know Trigger Hippy, we could put out a record later this year and literally become overnight the biggest band in the world – it’s not gonna happen – but even if it did, in no way shape or form could that ever overtake or be bigger or more important than what the Black Crowes were. It’s not possible, I’m 51 years old. There’s not gonna be a new thing that suddenly makes what I did before, ‘Oh that was nothing, this is the real thing’. It’s just preposterous to imagine that.
Running Film at Atlanta Braves’ 1995 World Series and Super Bowl 51
Well, I kind of have to ask this being from Atlanta, listened to your interview with [former Atlanta Hawks NBA Hall of Famer] Dominique Wilkins a few weeks back on your radio show. There’s not a whole lot of people in Atlanta sports fans can look to as a hero, aside from maybe [Atlanta Braves’] Chipper Jones. But you were living in Atlanta as a member of the Black Crowes during the Atlanta Braves 1995 World Series win, and they were just kicking a..
(Interjects excitedly) Dude, dude. When they won that World Series. When that pop up was caught to clinch Game 6, I was on the field with the Braves celebrating.
Really?! No way.
Yeah (laughs) I had a buddy who was a photographer for Reuters, the news agency. So he got me a photo pass and I was his film runner. So this was still before digital. So, he goes ‘Hey, do you wanna come to all the World Series games with me?’ And I was like, ‘Uhhh, YEAH. As a matter of a fact I do.’ And actually the photographer was a friend of a friend. And my friend Brian from New York said he was coming to Atlanta to run film for this guy Mike and he asked if I wanted to do it. He said we could run film and we would be on the field and I thought, ‘Yeah, done’.
So this is how I spent games 1, 2 & 6. I was positioned just inside or outside the the [Cleveland] Indians dugout. So literally on the field, squatting down. And I was either on the home plate side or the third base side, with a photographer. And every other inning, and [the photographer] would hand me a bag full of film and I had to run up the left field line all the way to the left field wall where there was a door. Open that door, run up a tunnel, drop film off to a guy in a dark room and then run back before the next inning started. And everybody’s like, ‘You had good seats, why would you do that?’ And I say, ‘No man, I was ON THE FIELD. You can’t imagine the difference, you know?’
But the main reason I did it was we had full media access, so I went to the stadium everyday at 4:00, watching batting practice right on the cage. I was talking to all the players, all the coaches. You know Ned Yost was the bullpen coach back then and he was a Black Crowes fan so I knew him, and we would just shoot the shit before the game.
Before Game 6, I am on the field, it’s like six o’ clock. And I see Ned and I say ‘Hey man, you gonna [clinch the World Series] today?’ And he goes, ‘I feel good, I feel good’. Then he leaves. He comes back and it’s about 6:45, and first pitch is like 8:00.
And he comes up to me and he goes, ‘If you are gonna place a bet on this game I would go ahead and do it.’ I said, ‘Oh yeah?’
And he said, ‘We’re winning.’ I said, ‘How do you know?’
He said, ‘Cause Tommy’s [Atlanta Braves pitcher Tom Glavine] in there sound asleep. When he falls asleep before a game, he’s unhittable.’ And I said, ‘Are you serious?’ And Ned said, ‘Yeah, he’s in the locker room in a La-Z Boy sound asleep. They’re not gonna score tonight.’ And he was right, it was a 1-0 game.
That’s truly amazing.
And so my cousin [and co-host of Steve Gorman SPORTS!] Jeffrey Gorman, he worked Game 6. So the day between Game 5 & 6 my buddy Brian calls and tells me he can’t make it to the game, and that I can pick a buddy to be the film runner on the first base side. So I called Jeffrey and I told him what it was and he got in his car and he drove from Detroit to Atlanta. He literally hung up the phone and said ‘Alright, I’ll be there in 10 hours.’ So he ran film with me that night, so I stayed on the third base side because I already knew the photographer and plus I am such an Eddie Murray fan because the Baltimore Orioles are really my team (he was on the Indians at the time), and I just loved being around Eddie. Just wanted to get as much of that as I could.
[NOTE: Gorman’s brother Jim, also an O’s fan, lives in Baltimore and is battling a rare disease called Multiple System Atrophy. Please take a moment to read Steve’s heartfelt write-up and consider donating to this worthy cause: https://www.multiplesystematrophy.org/blog/orioles-multiple-system-atrophy-awareness].
So when the Braves won, my photographer Mike looked at me at the Top of the 9th and goes, ‘OK, if they win the game. We’re running to the pitcher’s mound.’ It’s called ‘Jubee’, like ‘Jubilation’. He goes, ‘I gotta do Jubee on the field, so you gotta come with me’. And I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ (laughs). And he said, ‘Yeah, that’s what we do.’ So as soon as [Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Mark] Wohlers is celebrating and they go into that… if you ever see a backed up version on TV of that mound of people at the pitcher’s mound, there’s a bunch of photographers around them. And I am with them, standing 5 feet away. I saw [Atlanta Braves catcher] Javy Lopez and he ran up and just hugged me. I have a picture of me and Javy five minutes after the Braves won the World Series.
It was awesome. So.. Jeffrey my cousin, because he was on the first base side, his photographer went into the locker room. So Jeffrey’s in there for the trophy presentation and he disappears into the Braves clubhouse. And I had to stay on the field. And he came out 20 minutes later covered in champagne and he had a little disposable camera and he had pictures with Ted Turner and Jane Fonda and Newt Gingrich all those people that were in there (laughs). We just had the best time.
And so the answer to your question, was yeah that was a pretty big deal.
Unreal, that was a high point for Atlanta sports right there. And it could be argued that right now is a low, given the Super Bowl 51 monumental collapse by the Atlanta Falcons. I was in Atlanta for the game, and it was brutal.
I was wondering, I talked to a couple of buddies and they were all at home but I hadn’t talked to anyone that was at a bar watching that.
Yeah, some of us figured we might as well go downtown to a bar called Stats. That first half was about as most exciting sporting event I have ever watched as an Atlanta fan, but in the third quarter everyone kind of knew what was happening. Like, ‘Yeah, we’ve seen this story before.’ It was rough.
Man, in the second quarter I was literally thinking, ‘I could get in the car right now [from Nashville] and make it to Atlanta by the end of the game’. Then I thought, ‘A. It’s the Falcons. B. It’s the Patriots. I don’t think I want to do that.’
I was getting texts in the third quarter telling me congrats on the Super Bowl. It was awful.
Yeah, that’s pretty rough man. You just don’t get over that one anytime soon.
Please look out for Part III next week where we will discuss Gorman’s drumming influences including recording at Levon Helm’s studio, a Led Zeppelin Tribute Show in Nashville last December with members of Wilco, My Morning Jacket, and Moon Taxi, and the “Good Times, Bad Times” lifestyle that comes with being in a touring band like the Black Crowes.