Counting Crows

  • Alternative rock band formed in 1991 from Berkeley California. The original band members were Adam Duritz (lead vocals, keyboards, songwriting), David Bryson (guitars, backing vocals, songwriting), Charlie Gillingham (keyboards, accordion, clarinet, backing vocals), Matt Malley (bass guitar, backing vocals – replaced by Millard Powers in 2005), David Immerglück (guitars, bass, banjo, mandolin, backing vocals) and Ben Mize (drums – replaced by Steve Bowman in 1994, and then replaced by Jim Bogios in 2002). Dan Vickery joined as a second guitarist and backing vocalist as the band’s popularity grew after their first album.
  • Before collaborating with Bryson, Duritz contributed vocals to a few San Francisco bands. Bryson was the producer of a recording by one of the bands, and he and Duritz became friends. In 1990, Duritz formed the band The Himalayans, with Bryson joining the group. Duritz and Bryson also performed as a duo at Bay area coffeehouses. The group cut some demo songs and submitted them to a record label. At the same time, Duritz and Bryson submitted a demo of just the two of them performing stripped down music – they called themselves Counting Crows. The name came from a British nursery rhyme about the counting of magpies, called One for Sorrow.
  • As they became more popular, they expanded the members of the band. By 1993, they were signed to a record label, and in September that year, they released their debut album, August and Everything After. It included the song Mr. Jones, written about the bass player for The Himalayans, Marty Jones, and their desire to someday make it big in the music business. MTV started playing the video to the song, and it became an unexpected hit. The album became the biggest selling album since 1991’s Nevermind by Nirvana. It went on to be certified 7x platinum. Mr. Jones peaked at #2 on the Hot Modern Rock Tracks chart, and another single, Round Here, reached #7 on the chart.
  • In 1994, the record label released a compilation album from various artists that were part of the label. Included was a track by Counting Crows called Einstein On The Beach (For an Eggman), originally recorded in 1991 and excluded from their debut album. It was released as a single, and it topped the Alternative Songs chart in August. Later that year, the band performed on SNL and also toured with The Rolling Stones.
  • They performed only 2 concerts in 1995, with Duritz using much of the year to write new music. The sudden rise in fame of the group created an uneasiness for Duritz, which was reflected in their second album, Recovering the Satellites, released in 1996. It topped the Billboard 200 album chart. Singles that charted on the Modern Rock Tracks chart included Angels of the Silences (peaking at #3), A Long December (#5), and Daylight Fading (#24).
  • They toured extensively, and in 1998 they released their first of 6 live albums – Across a Wire: Live in New York City. It is a double disc, and it was certified platinum in sales. The band is especially beloved by fans for their live performances, and Counting Crows encourages fans to record and swap recordings, using their website as a portal to enable people to exchange the performances.
  • Their next album, This Desert Life, was released in 1999. It became their fourth platinum album, led by the single Hanginaround, which made it to #17 on the Modern Rock chart. It was their first song to chart on the Hot 100 chart, peaking at #28.
  • With the turn of the century, Counting Crows continued to release new music. They released 4 studio albums between 2002 and 2014. Notable songs include a cover of Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi (with Vanessa Carlton on backing vocals and featured on the soundtrack to the film Two Weeks Notice), and Accidentally In Love (featured in the Shrek 2 movie soundtrack and nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song, as well as a nomination for a Grammy Award for Best Song Written for a Motion Picture).
  • Today, the band continues to tour, while Duritz also records a podcast. I like their sound – a solid band playing alternative rock with a heartland rock feel. They definitely emerged from the 90s as a force in modern rock – post 80s new wave/pop and post 90s grunge/R&B pop, as rock music was rediscovering its place in music. Watch the video from their breakthrough hit, Mr. Jones. 

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