Royal Crown Revue
In 1993, ROYAL CROWN REVUE began a two-year house gig at a fledging club in Hollywood, which would play pivotal to the band's career. Built by Cecil B. DeMille in the 1920's, The Derby had undergone a major restoration, and its art deco motif proved the perfect setting for the band's stylish looks and high-energy delivery. Within months, RCR was playing to packed houses, creating a huge buzz in LA and beyond, and drawing influential Hollywood players interested in seeing old made new again.
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One such observer was Chuck Russell, who asked the band to recreate their turbo-charged stage show for his film The Mask, which starred Jim Carrey and Cameron Diaz. RCR's cameo in this 1994 film made their song "Hey Pachuco" an instant classic. The song's infectious jungle groove and shout chorus went on to grace countless film scores, Las Vegas revues, an Acura advertising campaign, and numerous television shows such as King of the Hill. RCR also served as inspiration for the hit movie Swingers, which brought the new music, dance and fashion ground swell to a larger public. Writer and star John Favreau originally scripted the film's dance sequence around his experiences as a Derby regular at RCR's now legendary Wednesday night shows.
In 1995 producer/A&R man, Ted Templeman, witnessed the Crown's magic at the Derby and signed them to Warner Brothers Records. The resulting album, MUGZY'S MOVE, formally established the band's "hard-boiled" style, with songs of gangsters, Hollywood street life and big-top tragedies. The album was a tapestry interweaving the real life experiences of boys who grew up on the streets and the cultural imaginings of a time gone by when women were sultry, men cool, and cars and music hot. As Nichols says, "we put it through the underground route and kicked it in the ass!"
Over the ensuing years, in addition to a heavy tour schedule, RCR has made innumerable television, radio and print appearances, including Late Night with Conan O'Brien, Viva Variety, the Today Show and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In 1998 the appeared at the Playboy Jazz Festival, recorded and performed live with Bette Midler at the Billboard Music Awards and composed the original theme for the WB Network's 1998-99 television season. The following year, they graced an eclectic mixture of stages of countless renown Jazz Festivals, the Warped Tour and The Hollywood Bowl, as well as hit Japan and Australia several times by storm. The Gap and the New York Times acknowledged them as pioneers of style and CNN and BRAVO told the world that RCR recreated a style that was here to stay!
In the midst of this perpetual movement RCR released three more albums 1997's live recording CAUGHT IN THE ACT, their second studio recording for Warner Bros., THE CONTENDER (1998), formed their own record label (RCR RECORDS), and with independent LA punk label Side1/Dummy they released the stylistic jazz and be-bop of WALK ON FIRE (1999).
In terms of the "industry standard," CAUGHT IN THE ACT was a daring move as the band proved they could deliver both in and out of the studio. Years of shows in every conceivable setting captured the CROWN with blistering spontaneity at what they do best. The live material shows off RCR's immense diversity, incorporating musical references that run the gamut from Duke Ellington to Bobby "Blue" Bland to Sam Butera.
THE CONTENDER, with another solid mix of originals, covers, and refreshing arrangements, proved that there would be no sophomore slump for RCR. The album stood as the musical antidote to the kitschy, almost cartoonish output of many of the commercially oriented swing imitators who had cropped up in the wake of the "90's swing craze". RCR, while always on a mission to educate and delight the widest possible audience, persisted in its choice of sophisticated material, such as Dizzy Gillespie/Charlie Parker's perennial favorite "Salt and Peanuts". THE CONTENDER's original numbers, such as "Walkin' Like Brando" and "Port-au-Prince" showed a new maturity and incorporated an ever-widening variety of Classic American styles and influences. Such risk taking paid off, and THE CONTENDER was critically acclaimed by the likes of Rolling Stone, who had given a fairly tepid reception to the swing movement until now.
With WALK ON FIRE, RCR gave new proof of its immense creativity, depth and diversity. The record was recorded using the band's extensive collection of vintage instruments and recording gear, including original RCA "44" ribbon microphones. What results is a sound that is beautiful and thrilling, reminiscent of the best ensembles from the 40's and 50's, a perfect backdrop for Nichols' exquisite vocal talents. WALK ON FIRE kicks in with Latin flavored horns that are somehow worthy of both Gene Vincent and James Bond. The record continues with the honkin' R&B number "Watts Local", a tribute to Mando's early days in Watts playing aside the likes of Big Jay McNeely. Throughout the record Nichols' voice is sweet and easy and Steen's New Orlean's style trumpet playing is a standout.
Since WALK ON FIRE, the band continues to tour incessantly and has broken into international markets like Japan and Australia. The international fans can't seem to get enough, and RCR seems to have found a second home "down under". In tribute to their tremendous Aussie fans, 2001 brings the release of a brand new record, LIVE IN AUSTRALIA, recorded at the Hi-Fi Bar in Melbourne. This CD showcases the bands amazing live performances coupled with their infectious raw energy and Eddie's infamous stage banter. Live in Australia captures RCR at their finest moment, on stage entertaining their fans.
After twelve years and thousands of shows, today's ROYAL CROWN REVUE is a finely tuned alchemy of jazz and jump, an elegant blend of everything from be-bop to bossa nova. In addition to Nichols, Dorame, Steen, Lepisto and Glass, the current lineup includes GREG ERBA on guitar, and multi-reed wizard JIM JEDEIKIN. Here for the long haul, it should be readily apparent to anyone with an eye (and ear) for talent that ROYAL CROWN REVUE will still be integrating our country's musical past long into tomorrow's musical future.
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