Released in the fall of 1993 —smack in the middle of the alternative grunge boom —the Counting Crows’ debut album August and Everything After sounded like a blast from rock’s more organic, rootsier past. Dreadlocked frontman Adam Duritz managed to simultaneously draw comparisons to Bob Dylan and Van Morrison with his literate songwriting and soulful vocals, while the band’s music seemed tapped from the same Americana wellspring that nourished the Band. The album spawned a handful of Modern Rock hit singles —”Mr. Jones” (#2, 1993) and “Round Here” (#7, 1994) —climbed to #4, and went on to sell 7 million copies as the band seemed to connect with fans of both alternative and classic rock.
Duritz and guitarist David Bryson met in 1989 and started writing songs together; the following year they began performing under the Counting Crows banner as an acoustic duo in the San Francisco Bay Area. They expanded into a band the following year with the addition of bassist Matt Malley, drummer Steve Bowman, and multi-instrumentalist Charlie Gillingham, and recorded a demo that eventually netted the band a record deal.
After recording August and Everything After with producer T Bone Burnett (but prior to the album’s release), Counting Crows performed at the 1993 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, representing absent inductee Van Morrison. The debut album was released later that year and began its 93-week chart run at the beginning of 1994, a year that found them opening for the Rolling Stones. That same year Duritz cowrote and recorded a duet, “Going Back to Georgia,” with Texas folk-country singer Nanci Griffith for her Flyer album. Counting Crows —now featuring additional guitarist Dan Vickrey and new drummer Ben Mize —began recording its second album, Recovering the Satellites, at the end of 1995. It debuted at #1 in the fall of 1996, eventually going double platinum behind the Modern Rock hits “Angels of the Silences” (#3, 1996), “A Long December” (#5, 1996), “Daylight Fading” (#26, 1997), and “Have You Seen Me Lately?” (#34, 1997).
In 1998 Counting Crows released a double live album, Across a Wire: Live in New York (#19), with one disc spotlighting an intimate performance for VH1’s Storytellers and the second a more uptempo set recorded for MTV’s Live From the 10 Spot. Produced by Cracker frontman David Lowery, This Desert Life debuted at #8 in 1999 and spawned the #28 hit “Hanginaround.”