When I started listening to that new AM-FM radio in January 1970, it was a time when bands often broke regionally first, then nationally. The group behind today’s ’70s song is one of those bands, sort of.
Known first as South 40, the band changed its name after winning a recording session from the National Ballroom Operators Association. When the group left its hometown of Minneapolis and headed to Chicago for that session with Columbia Records, it was known as Crow.
Putting down blues- and R&B-influenced rock, Crow recorded five songs during that session on Jan. 31, 1969. Columbia wasn’t interested, but a scout was there that day, liked what he heard and shopped Crow to a handful of major labels. Crow signed with Amaret Records, which tweaked its sound, mostly by adding horns, then turned out to be too small to effectively promote the band when it broke nationally.
“Evil Woman (Don’t Play Your Games With Me)” was Crow’s biggest hit, thanks in large part to Dave Wagner’s distinctive vocal style. It broke out in Seattle, not the Midwest, but it was enjoying a last few weeks in the Top 40 in late January 1970.
From late 1969 into early 1971, Crow was one of the hottest groups around. But financial and management problems set in, and the group unraveled. Crow played its last gig in Minneapolis on June 26, 1972. There’s an excellent history of the band at Crow’s Web site.
The thing is, I know that ’70s song so well — and so do you, I suspect — and yet I don’t have it.
But I do have an interesting cover. Ike and Tina Turner turned it inside out. Instead of “Evil Woman,” Tina sings it as “Evil Man.” Draw your own conclusions from that.
“Evil Man,” Ike and Tina Turner and the Ikettes, from “Come Together,” 1970. It’s out of print.
“Evil Woman” was on “Crow Music,” the album released in 1969. It’s out of print, as is almost all of the band’s original stuff. That said, Crow offers “Crow Classics: 1969-1972,” a best-of CD, at its Web site.
Crow got back together in 1983 and is still at it. Crow was inducted into the Minnesota Rock and Country Hall of Fame in 2005. On iTunes, there’s a self-titled EP of new Crow music released last year and “Before The Storm,” a 2008 CD with re-recorded versions of Crow’s older tunes.