On April 8th, 1988, Columbia Records released Rodney Crowell’s breakthrough album, Diamonds & Dirt. Having released his debut LP Ain’t Living Long Like This a full decade earlier for Warner Bros., the former guitarist in Emmylou Harris’ Hot Band had, in his estimation, finally made a record his father would enjoy. While his earlier efforts veered into rock & roll territory, Diamonds & Dirt was a sharp, focused — but never pandering — stab at widespread commercial acceptance. How widespread was that acceptance? Five consecutive Number One singles. . . a full 50% of the original album’s 10 cuts.
It’s not that Crowell didn’t know how to write and record hits. His debut disc had several that would scale the charts, including “Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight” and “Voila! An American Dream” — hits, respectively, for the Oak Ridge Boys and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. He also cut Dallas Frazier’s “Elvira” just prior to the Oaks’ career-defining cover. But with famed producer (and former Elvis Presley piano player) Tony Brown co-producing, Diamonds & Dirt would reach the Top Ten on Billboard’s Country Albums chart and earn ACM and CMA nominations for Album of the Year. Beginning with “It’s Such a Small World,” his duet with then-wife Rosanne Cash, then followed by “I Couldn’t Leave You If I Tried,” “She’s Crazy for Leavin’,” “After All This Time,” and the Buck Owens cover, “Above and Beyond,” Crowell bested the record of four chart-toppers from a single album that Earl Thomas Conley achieved with Don’t Make It Easy for Me in 1984.
Rodney Crowell first appeared on NBC’s Late Night With David Letterman in December 1986, but in October 1988, he returned to perform his album’s third single, the wild and wooly “She’s Crazy for Leavin’,” which he co-wrote with Guy Clark. A cut from Clark’s 1981 LP South Coast of Texas, which Crowell produced, the turbocharged tune tells the story of a woman who makes her escape from the song’s narrator, who remains in hot pursuit until he crashes his truck and has to be extricated from it. Unique to this particular Late Night appearance is that the entire episode was taped inside the International Arrivals building at New York’s JFK airport. Seen above in its entirety, the episode also includes a guest appearance from Wheel of Fortune host – and former Nashville weatherman, newscaster and DJ — Pat Sajak and a segment in which guests displayed giant homegrown vegetables (sadly, the show missed a golden opportunity by not paying tribute to Clark and his 1983 near-hit, “Homegrown Tomatoes”).
Joined by bandleader Paul Shaffer on keyboard, drummer Anton Fig, bassist Will Lee and guitar player Sid McGinnis, with special guest Rick Newman, founder of the famed New York comedy club Catch a Rising Star, on tambourine, this version of “She’s Crazy for Leavin’” might look laid back, with most everyone performing from a seated position, but the priceless clip spotlights a group of high-energy players who would go on to be known as the “World’s Most Dangerous Band.” After the segment, which begins around the 40-minute mark, Crowell says it’s his first time playing in an airport, but notes that he has had experience playing Holiday Inn lounges.
In 2018, a new version of “She’s Crazy for Leavin’” was included on Crowell’s Acoustic Classics, an album on which he reworked 11 of his much-loved tunes.