“Donald Trump is president, John Mayer’s in the Grateful Dead and my brother’s in a Black Crowes tribute band,” Chris Robinson cracked this morning (May 16) on Sirius XM’s “The Howard Stern Show.” The former Black Crowes frontman is in New York City to open for Gov’t Mule with his solo band, the Chris Robinson Brotherhood, at Central Park’s SummerStage on May 17.
“The Grateful Dead has turned into this giant nipple that everyone sucks off to get money,” he continued. “I’m not a big John Mayer fan. Jerry Garcia is a hero of mine. Everything that Jerry ever talked about or stood for — John Mayer is the antithesis…. He knows all the licks, there’s nothing unusual about his playing. Jerry was one of the most unique musicians in the world. Jerry never played anyone else’s licks and now here’s John Mayer playing everyone else’s licks.”
Robinson was referring to Dead and Company, the latest post-Garcia incarnation of the Grateful Dead, which heads back on tour starting May 27 in Las Vegas through July 1 in Chicago for a total of 20 shows. In 2015, Mayer was hired to play Garcia’s guitar parts and sing a few songs. His clean-cut look is indeed antithetical to the Dead’s scruffy style and he does parrot Garcia’s licks to some extent, while adding bluesy flourishes to songs like “Sugaree.”
Robinson began following the Dead when Garcia was still alive in the early 1990s. Post-Crowes, Robinson had also performed with Phil & Friends, the side-project of Dead bassist Phil Lesh.
During the Stern interview, Robinson also said he wouldn’t attend his band’s induction if the Black Crowes were ever to be voted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. “I’m not going,” he stated emphatically. “Jerry Garcia didn’t go, I’m not going. Let’s get this straight: I don’t like my brother (Rich), I don’t get along with him, I don’t want to be in a room with him, I don’t want to play with those people in that band. I don’t hate anyone. The Rock and Rock Hall of Fame to me is like going to the mall.”
When the Dead were inducted in 1994, Garcia was a no-show. However, the band brought along a life-size cardboard cut-out of Garcia. According to Rolling Stone, the guitarist was “reportedly opposed to the whole idea of a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.”
Robinson probably doesn’t have to worry about being inducted anytime soon, even though all eight Black Crowes studio albums charted from No. 1 (“Southern Harmony and Musical Companion,” 1992) to No. 26 (“By Your Side,” 1999). Interestingly, the Crowes biggest hit was their cover of Otis Redding’s “Hard to Handle” (No. 26, 1991), which the Dead turned into a concert staple during their earlier days when Ron “Pigpen” McKernan was still alive and handled the R&B vocals.