Five Decades in the Rock n’ Roll Trenches

He worked with The Band for 16 years. He records and produces a wide range of artists at his well-appointed studio. He gigs about 150 days a year with his own band. He also drove a cab and a roofing truck; and painted houses. For roughly five decades, Aaron “Professor Louie” Hurwitz has been the very definition of a rock n’ roll survivor. His affectionate nickname comes from his good pal, the late Rick Danko, bassist of The Band. He and his current band, The Crowmatix (a bit of clever wordplay on the chromatic scale — with an aviary nod to predecessors like The Hawks) are a Woodstock, NY-based Americana/blues/roots group who have been performing together since 1997. They tour non-stop, usually to the tune of 150 gigs per year. Louie is joined by his long-time writing partner Miss Marie Spinosa, drummer Gary Burke, bassist and vocalist Frank Campbell and guitarist John Platania. They all have Grade-A sidemen pedigrees, having worked with “rock n’ roll royalty” like  Levon Helm, Van Morrison and Bob Dylan.

Louie has always been a busy man, plying his trade since the mid-1960s — paying serious dues on the road. He cut his teeth by mastering the gospel and R&B traditions with The Mighty Gospel Giants of Brooklyn. A highwater mark came as a co-producer, engineer and singer with The Band, with whom he played and toured from 1985-2002. He then immersed himself in The Crowmatix, building a loyal, multi-generational following for its bluesy, rootsy repertoire. In fact, their latest CD, Crowin’ the Blues, has been in the Top 40 Contemporary Radio Blues Charts for all of this year. We sat with Louie at his Woodstock home base, where he walked us down his long and winding road.

Like any appropriately-grizzled veteran, Louie has endured his share of setbacks. In the late 1970s and into the early 1980s, gigs dried up so he gutted out a series of odd jobs for sustenance — driving a truck, being a NYC cabbie, working at a car wash and doing construction. Losing Rick Danko in 1999 was a particularly low moment, both personally and professionally.

But you can’t have a 50-year music career without being persistent and resilient, so Louie did indeed bounce back. High points include traveling to Prague to record and perform his “Melody of Peace” and touring Siberia six times, teaching children English through singing.

It has indeed been a “long, strange trip,” but it’s not remotely over. Look for Louie and The Cromatix in a town near you. Chances are they’ll be passing through soon.

Ellen Fagan

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