The Man The Myth The Legend...
By: Gus Bernadicou
Punk Globe: Peter, could you please give the readers some background of yourself?
Peter Crowley: Earl’s DJ, Peter Crowley (aka MR. EARL - no relation) has roots in the music business. In the ‘60s, he worked at and managed small venues in Greenwich Village featuring up and coming artists such as Fred Neil, Richie Havens, Tiny Tim, Jeremy Steig, Gram Parsons, Stephen Stills, David Crosby, Dino Valente, Shawn Phillips, The Lovin’ Spoonful, The Blues Magoos, Janis Ian and many others. In the ‘70s, he was the music and art director of Max’s Kansas City (a world famous restaurant and night club located in downtown New York City) where he introduced us to The Ramones, Talking Heads, Cheap Trick, Madonna and Johnny Thunders’ Heartbreakers. Max’s also provided a home for such rockin’ stalwarts of the scene as Bo Diddley, James Cotton, Mongo Santamaria, Victoria Spivey, Howlin’ Wolf, Bob Marley & The Wailers, Bruce Springsteen, The Velvet Underground, Bonnie Raitt, The Troggs, and The New York Dolls. He’s played records at venues all over the world, including The Marquee (London) The Paradiso (Amsterdam) and The Purple Onion (Frisco).

These days, every Sunday Peter rides his 1986 Honda Shadow 500 to Earl’s Hideaway on the Indian River in Sebastian, Florida to play a wild selection of rockin’ tunes between sets of the great touring bands booked by Franni Palooza!
Punk Globe: Did you run away to New York first, or did you slowly end up there?
Peter Crowley: I moved to New York in 1959 after a season with the Clyde Beatty & Cole Brothers Circus in ‘58.
Punk Globe: Once in New York, where did you start?
Peter Crowley: In the beginning I worked at a number of corporate jobs before discovering the beatnik coffee house/folk rock scene in Greenwich Village.
Punk Globe: You then of course ended up booking gigs at Max’s Kansas City. What influenced your decision to book the bands you did?
Peter Crowley: I booked the bands I found worthy.
Punk Globe: Why wouldn’t CBGB’s book Vanilla, or Jayne?
Peter Crowley: I’m not sure why Cherry never played CBGB, but Jayne was one of the very first artists hired by Hilly and played there often, though not as frequently as she played the 82 Club, Mothers or Max’s Kansas City.
Punk Globe: How long was Max’s open? How did it change over the years?
Peter Crowley: Mickey Ruskin opened Max’s in December 1965. In ‘74, the joint closed for a short time when Micky went broke, but was soon reopened by Laura and Tommy Dean. Max’s closed at the end of 1981.
Punk Globe: Max’s put out two compilations over the years, they are perfect right?
Peter Crowley: Ha, ha. The first, compiled by me, was far from perfect, but it did introduce some really important artists to the world: Wayne County, Cherry Vanilla, Suicide, The Fast, Harry Toledo, John Collins and Pere Ubu. The second (which I had nothing to do with) had a couple of good songs on it, but was a [failed] attempt to go ‘commercial’.
Punk Globe: Wasn’t Cherry Vanilla supposed to record the same number of songs as Jayne County for the compilation?
Peter Crowley: Yes, but she used up her budget recording the one. Jayne produced three for half the money spent by Cherry. However, Suicide wins the production blue ribbon ‘cause their cut cost only $25.00 to record.
Punk Globe: Who from the scene would you say had the most success? Blondie sold the most records, but the Ramones inspired the most bands?
Peter Crowley: No doubt Blondie was the most successful of the mid ‘70s bands, but Max’s also launched the careers of Cheap Trick, The Stray Cats and Madonna, none of whom did too badly for themselves. The Ramones appear to have been the most influential band of the second half of the Twentieth Century, but they didn’t get rich (at least not before three original members passed on).
Punk Globe: Are the bands that made it the ones that should’ve made it?
Peter Crowley: Sure, but many others were equally worthy.
Punk Globe: Although Max’s is gone there appears to be a quite few devotees (hence the reunions), do the David Johansens of the world remember Max’s?
Peter Crowley: I’m sure they do... whether fondly or not, you’ll have to ask them.
Punk Globe: What’s the story behind Wayne County & The Backstreet Boy’s tracks? You went on to produce a few of Jayne’s remakes of the song, "Max’s Kansas City"?
Peter Crowley: Well, Jayne and the Backstreet Boys had recorded an album for ESP Disc, but the owner (influenced by his homophobic bride) decided to renege on the deal, so I convinced Tommy we should put out a Max’s album and he was offered free studio time by Bobby Orlando’s dad. Bobby was to produce, but Jayne took over when it became obvious that he wasn’t up to the job. The next [more punky] version of Max’s Kansas City appeared on the Electric Chairs first LP, produced (with my uncredited assistance) by Martin Birch of Deep Purple fame. The ultimate version of Max’s can be found on SO NEW YORK, Jayne’s RatCage CD.
Punk Globe: Do you miss the old days? How often to think about Max’s?
Peter Crowley: Those were different times. I miss the opportunity to create that I had then.
Punk Globe: People always talk about CB’s, but the bands at Max’s were loads apart and much more diverse, right? Was their tension between you and Hilly Kristal?
Peter Crowley: Actually, nearly every band on the scene played both venues (and any other dive that would have ‘em). Some people tried to create animosity between the two clubs, but Hilly and I refused to cooperate with them. We got along fine.
Punk Globe: When you see a CBGB’s shirt do you roll your eyes?
Peter Crowley: No... only CBGB thong underwear gives me pause.
Punk Globe: Was all your time spent at Max’s, or did you have other projects?
Peter Crowley: My primary allegiance was to Jayne, and I spent nearly all of ‘77 and half of ‘78 touring with The Electric Chairs. Deer France and Terry Ork took over the booking of Max’s while I was missing in action, and they did an excellent job.
Punk Globe: Bands like Cheap Trick got their start at Max’s, you quite possibly allowed several bands to get signed, and make it. Does Rick Nielsen thank you everyday?
Peter Crowley: Ha, ha. Of the bands who made it, only The Cramps acknowledged my contribution to their success.
Punk Globe: And then, overnight…Max’s was gone. What did you do the next day?
Peter Crowley: I started planning what to do next.
Punk Globe: Did you produce bands in the 80’s and 90’s?
Peter Crowley: Yes: The Terrorists with Roland Alphonso, VON LMO, Sea Monster and Jayne were some of my post Max’s projects.
Punk Globe: Did you get involved in other clubs?
Peter Crowley: I tried, but nobody would give me a break except Hilly once or twice a year, and Otto’s Shrunken Head (with Jayne) for a series of Saturday nights.
Punk Globe: You considered writing a book, right? Will it be coming out?
Peter Crowley: I doubt it.
Punk Globe: Is punk music still around, or did it die with the Sex Pistols? Do you listen to new bands still, when did the last, true "punk" album come out?
Peter Crowley: I have no idea what ‘true punk’ is. Rock’n’roll will never die.
Punk Globe: You were quite the playa back in the day, any honorable hook ups? The rumor is you are currently single, correct?
Peter Crowley: No comment.
Punk Globe: How involved were you in the other Max’s Kansas City's over the years?
Peter Crowley: I tried to help Tommy with his 52nd Street fiasco, but it was doomed from the get go.
Punk Globe: Are you open to producing music in 2011, any plans?
Peter Crowley: I’m always available.
Punk Globe: How can people get in touch with you?
Peter Crowley: They should contact me on Facebook.
Punk Globe: Any advice or inspirational words for our readers?
Peter Crowley: Stay Clean
Punk Globe: When is the next Max’s reunion? How did the last few go?
Peter Crowley: I’ve only done one... it lost money, but was a lot of fun. Next is the Max’s Easter Passover Festival in April 2012. Look it up on Facebook
Punk Globe: Any plans for a Max’s Kansas City convalescent home?
Peter Crowley: I hope I die before I get old.
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