Hailing from the Pacific Northwest, Crow is best known as a bassist but has been a trumpeter, saxophonist, trombonist, and drummer. He is also one of the few musicians who has bothered trying to write about his craft, beginning with a series of reviews he contributed to Jazz Review in the late '50s and eventually including two full-length books. He was also in charge of the lighting for an off-Broadway show in 1958.
Crow's first instrument was the piano, at the age of four. He started playing the trumpet in fourth grade and continued through baritone horn and valve trombone in various school and military bands. Jazz historians like to align the start of his career with the beginning of the '50s. At that time, Crow transformed himself from a drummer in dance bands to a jazz bassist, but one who was always ready to double or triple on other instruments. He was a trombonist in several Seattle orchestras, one led by Bumps Blackwell, the other by Buzzy Bridgford. Crow played drums, trombone and bass for bandleader Glen Moore in 1952, no relation to the musician of the same name from the Oregon band. In the summer of 1950, Buzzy Bridgford found a summer job in the Adirondacks, in Tupper Lake, New York. Crow explains, He got me on it as a trombonist and then talked me into learning to play the string bass. He found a kid in town who had a plywood Kay bass, and rented it for the summer. We had John Benson Brooks on piano, Marty Bell on trumpet, and Freddy Greenwell on tenor. They all encouraged me to stay with the bass. By the time the summer was over, I could play the bass well enough to take gigs in New York City, and every gig was another lesson.