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Notorious Cherry Bombs sparkle once again

By Jeffrey B. Remz, July 2004

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At the time, Brown secured a job working with RCA Records in Los Angeles.

"On the weekends, I'd play with Emmy & the New Hot Band. Sometimes, I'd play with Rosanne or Rodney and the Cherry Bombs. We were basically the backup band for Rodney and Rosanne."

Brown, though, ended up back in Nashville with RCA.

Duty in the form of Crowell called however, wanting him on the road for three months. "I said, 'Rodney, I got a job'," Brown says of Crowell. "He said we're going to tour for three months. He said, 'how much are you making?' - I told him - 'Are you having fun?' - 'No because (RCA label head) Jimmy (Bowen) won't let me produce anything'."

"I signed Alabama, and the next day I resigned," he says.

For the next three years, the Cherry Bombs were in business. Lee occasionally couldn't tour because he gigged with Eric Clapton. Richard Bennett stepped into the void.

When Bennett had other obligations, Gill came forward.

But Brown eventually returned to Nashville. Cash "kept having babies. I went 'this road life is getting old'."

Brown was glad for the opportunities on the West Coast. "My influences in music came directly from Emmylou Harris and the music that the Hot Band did. That kind of music turned me back onto country music...It's just damn cool."

The Cherry Bombs eventually went their own way.

"What happened is the truth is the Cherry Bombs happened before I was having hits as a solo recording artist myself," says Crowell. "I couldn't afford to keep it together. Richard Bennett went on to be a producer, Tony, Emory produced. Vince became a superstar. Hank wrote songs and was a session musician. So everybody had plenty to do and had careers of their own, although it was a really great band at the time."

"Amazingly everybody in that band has gone to do amazingly well for themselves," says Bennett, who in a prior lifetime did 10 years with Neil Diamond.

The fate was not good for all of the Cherry Bombs. Londin died in 1992.

Crowell's career didn't go anywhere until 1988 when he had five straight number one hits on his "Diamond & Dirt" album, which Brown co-produced with Crowell.

Fast track to late 2002.

Crowell was to receive an award from ASCAP, a songwriting group, in Nashville. Somehow the idea was hatched to bring together the Cherry Bombs to play a few songs together at the event.

"We thought, hell we can handle that," Brown says, adding, "We learned three songs and got everybody back together."

That was except for Gordy, and Bayers replaced the deceased Londin. Gordy could not be reached for comment, although Crowell says he was asked numerous times and refused to participate. Hobbs also had joined the lineup along with Rhodes, who had done a Hot Band reunion tour of Europe with Harris.

"At ASCAP, Emmylou stepped in with us too," says Crowell. "We (later) told Emmy, no girls allowed on this record, just (Vince Gill's daughter) Jenny Gill."

The group did "Ashes By Now," "Stars on the Water" and "Ain't Living Long Like This." "We rocked the house," Brown says. "On the way back to the table, I was stopped by everybody, and the room is only filled with top-level song publishers (who said) 'you guys have got to cut a record.'"

Crowell felt the same. "We went and played, and after we were through, I said, 'listen, am I wrong or did we sound better now than we used to?' and I really thought we sounded better than we did when we were playing all the time. One thing led to another."

Crowell says he visited Brown at his house. "I wondered what it would sound like if we made a record," Crowell says. "We called Vince and said let's do it."

Bennett says he reunited because he was with "old friends. Generally speaking I tend not to look back and am not too interested in that kind of thing. The chance for Hank to get back together with me involved and Vince and Rodney, it (was) something I said yes to immediately without even thinking about and really everybody apart from Emory was very enthusiastic about throwing it back together again."

"The only guy who really got left off the Cherry Bombs was Albert Lee," says Crowell. "I think he was off in Europe touring."

"If Albert wants to get ticked at us, he's got a legitimate reason," he says.

Why the notorious part of the name instead of Cherry Bombs?

"Legal problems," says Crowell. "It was Rodney Crowell and the Cherry Bombs in the '80s. I never thought to register the name. There are some other entities out there in the world (including) porno sites. The legal department at the record company, to let us make the record, we had to put an adjective on there. There are no good adjectives. Notorious Cherry Bombs was as good as we can get. We wanted to say to heck with it."

As for who actually penned the "Notorious" name, Crowell says, "I'll take that one. I'll take the heat for the notorious good or bad."

Recording started in January, a lot later than first planned. Planning isn't exactly very easy considering the need to coordinate the schedules of eight people.

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