Gary James' Interview With Larry Wiegand Of
Crow








In 1969, Crow recorded a song titled "Evil Woman (Don't Play Your Game With Me)". That song made it into the Top 20 of Billboard's Hot 100 chart. Crow went on to share the stage with the likes of Jefferson Airplane, The Steve Miller Band, Eric Burdon And War, Steppenwolf, Three Dog Night and Janis Joplin. In 2005, Crow was inducted into the Minnesota Rock / Country Hall Of Fame and in 2009 The Iowa Rock And Roll Music Hall Of Fame.

Bassist Larry Wiegand spoke with us about Crow.

Q - So Larry, what is the status of Crow? Do you perform out regularly or not?

A - Yeah. We have been for some time. We did break up in the mid to late '70s, but got re-formed again, I guess you'd call it in the late '90s, and we've been playing out ever since. There are three original members and we have two local guys here who are filling in for the two that can't make the commitment. We play, not a lot. We're kind of a mid-West group. There's certain areas, The Surf Ballroom, just places around the mid-West here that we do every year. Mostly festivals.

Q - How many gigs a year are you doing then?

A - Probably anywhere from ten to twenty.

Q - How then do you make a living? Are you doing something else in the music business?

A - Oh, yeah. I work with a guy name Cory Stevens, who's a national guy, a Blues guitar player in the Clapton type mode. I work with him quite often. So does our drummer. He's with us also. The lead singer is retired. He worked for Phillips 66 for years, along with playing music. One guy has a printing business he does. The guitar player also has his own business in the area, tuning pianos. He also does his own Jazz CDs that are out on the web that you can buy. I'm a former American Airlines employee. After twenty-four years, I retired. There's a lot of ways to make a living playing music in the area.

Q - Lucky you!

A - Yeah. I've been fortunate.

Q - What did you do for American Airlines?

A - I was a crew chief on the ramp here in Minneapolis. We used to handle the airplanes when they came in and out, basically whatever they needed. I assigned different crews to work whatever it needed, if it needed towing or de-icing or loading up with cargo or bags. My job was to assign different crews to do that kind of thing. When I first got there, I was working at Baggage Service, then I progressed up the scales a little ways

Q - How does a job like that compare to being onstage?

A - Well, nothing at all like being onstage, but it was the right thing at the time. It was kind of difficult 'cause I was still a full-time musician. It was great 'cause I had just started my family at the time and needed some stability, money wise. So, it worked out really good.

Q - What was the music scene like in Minneapolis in 1967? Were there a lot of bar gigs you could play?

A - Oh, yeah. In those days also, a lot of bands did a lot of what they called "Teen" things. There was a lot of Teen gigs, clubs that didn't sell liquor or split and sold liquor to people over twenty-one and the other half of the club would be basically soda. There was a lot of that going on, plus there was a bar scene too. It wasn't quite as big as it is now, but there was just a ton of bands everywhere. There's a lot of groups you probably heard of that came out of this area in those days, The Trashmen, The Castaways, The Jesters. They all had hit records nationally and they all worked quite a bit. We all kind of grew up together. It's always been a real good area for networking and playing with different people, not in the Jazz bag, but in the Rock 'n' Roll or Rhythm And Blues bag.

Q - "Evil Woman" was a big hit for Crow. How did your life change when that song charted?

A - Well, we were based in Chicago at that time 'cause our producers were in Chicago. We had moved to Chicago and we were doing a lot of promo opening things for low money, playing with everybody in the area and also here in the upper mid-West Minneapolis area. We were real good. We had a big fan base. It did well, but the money wasn't there until that thing started hitting and then it jumped up immediately. Then we got shows. We were on the road with Janis Joplin, played with Neil Diamond. All these huge, really big shows. Toronto Pop Festival with just everybody you can think of. We had a chance to play at Woodstock or the Sky River Festival in Vancouver. We were in Laramie, Wyoming. We just came from New York and we were on our way West, so we thought we'll take the one in the Vancouver area. It's a lot closer. We didn't know what Woodstock was at the time. That kind of stuff wouldn't have happened if the record hadn't hit, obviously. A lot of things changed really fast. Instead of driving, we were flying.

Q - Who was at that Vancouver Festival?

A - We played with Chicago a lot. The Chambers Brothers, Johnny Winter. It was a three day thing, just like Woodstock.

Q - How long did you perform?

A - Back in those days, usually on hour. If you had someone like The Who, they would play longer. We'd only do probably forty five minutes to an hour.

Q - Who wrote this song, "Evil Woman"?

A - That was written by me and my brother Dick, who was the guitar player and the lead singer was Dave Waggoner. We are the writers on it.

Q - I would assume the royalties are still coming in?

A - Yeah. Ike and Tina Turner did it on their "Come Together" album and Black Sabbath covered it on their first single. So yeah, it's been a good thing. It's sort of worked for us.

Q - Was there a follow-up to "Evil Woman"?

A - Yeah. We had about seven or eight singles. None of 'em were as big as that. We do a cover of the song "Slow Down". We did a song called "Don't Try To Lay No Boogie Woogie On The King Of Rock And Roll", which charted. It was in the top 40, but it was probably number 30. Something like that. Same with "Slow Down". We had a couple other ones. They weren't as big as that song. After three or four years, it kind of played out. We all wanted to start families, so we kind of went in that direction.

Q - Had enough of the road, did you?

A - Well, you know the road really never bothered me that much. In them days we were all single. It was kind of tough on our lead singer 'cause he had just had his third kid, so it was extremely hard on him. That was one of the main reasons why we did split up after things kind of calmed down a little bit. He wanted to be with his family more. But yeah, the road was kind of tough. Since then it hasn't been. We don't pace ourselves like that. We don't drive 800 miles a night, or whatever it was. Some ridiculous number.

Q - Who was booking you back then?

A - It was called The International Famous Agency (I.F.A.). They were based in New York. We were based in Chicago and there was different people around Chicago that used to book us in that part of the country, Illinois south to maybe Tennessee. We were just all over.

Q - Had you played Woodstock, would that have been a good career move?

A - I'm sure it would have. Definitely a good move if that had worked out. I don't see how it would've hurt us any, other than sleep deprivation. (laughs)

Q - Tell me about your time with Janis Joplin.

A - We were with her for about seven days, so it was a short tour. It was a mid-West tour. We played in Minneapolis. We played in Madison at the University of Wisconsin or the City Auditorium in Madison. Then we played at the big theatre in downtown Chicago with her. It wasn't really much of a tour, but it was a short one.

Q - Did you get to talk to her at any time after the shows? At the time you would've toured with her, she was a big star.

A - Oh, she was amazing. She really was. I didn't personally get the chance other than saying hello or small talk when we were all onstage doing sound check. I didn't get a chance to sit down and say "How's life?" She had a high for one of the guys in the band. So they were kind of talking. (laughs) I don't know if anything became of it. That's kind of what was going on. The only thing I really remember about her is how good she was. She could command the stage. All three of those gigs were really big, sold out deals. Everybody in the auditorium, all eyes were on her. She had a really killer band at the time.

Q - I'm telling you Larry, that was a big deal.

A - That was a huge thing for me. My introduction to her was when we were doing our sound check before their band. We were playing and there was nobody in the room. I look over and she's like five feet from me, standing behind this P.A. column. (laughs) I got totally intimidated by her standing there, but she was listening to us. Oh great, now Janis is standing right here. We're trying to get the sound down. And she did the same thing when we were playing. She came up and stood there in front of all those people, right behind this P.A. column. She had a half empty bottle of Southern Comfort in her hand. Typical Janis story. It's like the classic Rock 'n' Roll story thing. Yeah, but she was amazing. I have to admit, I wasn't a big fan of hers before that, but after that I was.

Q - Did anybody in the audience pick up on the fact she was watching Crow?

A - Well, yeah. Everybody could see it.

Q - You played The Whiskey A Go Go and The Fillmore East and West, didn't you? Would that have meant that Jim Morrison or Jimi Hendrix came in to see the band?

A - Well, we didn't play Fillmore East. We did play a place called Unganos in New York City. As far as Fillmore West goes there was quite a few people that dropped in and I can't remember how many times we played there, three or four times. Eric Burdon would come in and sit on the stage and watch us while we were playing. Those people we knew out there were called Gypsy. They were from Minneapolis too. When we played Unganos in New York, Clapton and Jack Brown were there. That was intimidating.

Q - What kind of a place was Unganos, because I don't believe I've ever heard of it before.

A - It was one of those high profile clubs like The Whisky in L.A. that everybody would go there to play mainly to get a press release. So that's what our objective was. We didn't make much money on the thing. I think they just covered our expenses. If you played there or The Fillmore East, you would get write-ups in Cashbox and Billboard. It was like automatic. I can't remember exactly where it was. It seemed like it was on Broadway somewhere. I can't tell you exactly where. We played at the Fillmore West with Bo Diddley and Steve Miller. When we got offstage from playing, we went in our dressing room. Everybody from Santana was there. There was so much smoking going on, I couldn't see across the room, literally. There was so much heavy marijuana smoking going on, I couldn't see across the room. (laughs) They kind of made it their own room, even though they weren't playing.

Q - I take it you guys were probably clean-living guys.

A - No, we weren't. (laughs) We were 21 year old kids. We did all the stupid stuff every 21 year old does. We didn't do anything where we got addicted to anything.

Q - Did you have bad management that cheated you?

A - Yeah, we had that, but not only that, we had a record company that couldn't cover our distribution. It was a small label. There was some frustration on that side of things. Our manager was kind of not doing his job that we wanted him to do. I'm not talking about our producers. I'm talking about our own manager. He was supposed to take care of the business end and we got in trouble with the I.R.S. (Internal Revenue Service) and that's what I'm talking about. I won't go into detail about that. The records started to slack off and the label was literally giving us songs to re-record to be hits. It wasn't any of our original stuff, so that was frustrating. We could've gone with Atlantic Records, but our managers and producers decided to stick us on the small label that we would be a big fish instead of a small fish on Atlantic. We think that was a major mistake even at the time. So, that was frustrating. Later on, the guys that used to produce The Doors wanted to produce us too, but our label wouldn't let us out of our contract unless... we could go, but they would keep the name. Well, that didn't help us at all. Then, the guy wasn't interested. So, that kind of thing. There was a lot of business things going on. So, we were kind of burned out from all the traveling. Dave just decided "I'm gonna raise my family. I don't need all this." So, we had our day.



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