Back Street Crawler was a group of blues and rock musicians founded by guitarist Paul Kossoff (ex-Free), signing to Atlantic Records (courtesy of Ahmet Ertegün) in 1975. The band took the name from Kossoff's solo album, Back Street Crawler. According to popular legend, Back Street Crawler celebrated their signing to Atlantic Records by spelling out the band's name in cocaine on a glass table-top for each of the signatories to indulge in.
A headlining tour was conducted in the UK during May and June 1975 prior to finalising sessions for the album The Band Plays On. To push the album a further series of live dates were announced. However, these shows were curtailed when Kossoff was taken ill with a stomach ulcer whilst receiving treatment Kossoff's condition worsened and suffered a cardiac arrest. Once recovered, Kossoff and the band performed on BBC television's Old Grey Whistle Test in October 1975 and four live concerts, Liverpool, Glasgow, Newcastle and London, were undertaken in November. These performances clearly showed that Kossoff was struggling, the band under-rehearsed and unsure of whether or not Kossoff would endure to the end of the performance.
Mike Montgomery quit the band shortly afterwards to be replaced by John 'rabbit' Bundrick for a series of American concerts in early 1976. Again, ill-health on Kossoff's part, including the guitarist breaking his fingers, resulted in numerous shows being cancelled.
The band set to work on their second album, working with producer Glyn Johns, in a variety of studios in New York and Los Angeles. With Kossoff still obviously ailing, session musician W.G. 'Snuffy' Walden committed much of Kossoff's guitar parts to tape. Walden also performed live, in the absence of Kossoff, with the band in February 1976. With Kossoff resuming his position, the band headlined four shows at the Starwood Club, Los Angeles. During the run of shows, Bad Company, were performing at the Los Angeles Forum and they joined Back Street Crawler onstage for two nights. The final night of the engagement, 3 March, was to be Paul Kossoff's and Back Street Crawler's final performances.
A British tour was set to commence on 25 April 1976. On 19 March, Paul Kossoff died from a drug overdose on an overnight flight from Los Angeles to New York. Following Kossoff's death the band continued under the name of Crawler.