The band was formed in 1985 in Atlanta. Kevn Kinney hooked up with Tim Nielsen, who was in a popular band called the Nightporters with drummer Paul Lenz at the time. Kinney had just moved to Georgia from Milwaukee and was working in a sewage treatment plant by day while playing folk gigs by night. The three musicians began playing together and found an instant chemistry that led them to the success they enjoy today. The band’s name, Drivin’ 'N’ Cryin’, was chosen from one of Kevn’s many songs that reflected the two directions of their music.
Various musicians accompanied the threesome in the early years. They signed with indie label 688 Records in 1986 after becoming one of Atlanta’s top club draws. Their first album, Scarred But Smarter, was an instant hit, reflective of Kevn’s working-class background and the band’s drive to make honest music that mattered. Their first album’s success landed them countless tour dates and later a contract with Island Records. In 1987, Lenz left the band and was replaced by Jeff Sullivan, who was recruited just in time to accompany them for their first major-label release. Sullivan had been the drummer for Mr. Crowes Garden, the band that later became The Black Crowes, prior to joining Drivin' 'N' Cryin'. That same year, the band held its first “Benefit For The Hopeful,” a concert to raise money for Atlanta homeless organizations, held annually on Dec. 8, the anniversary of John Lennon’s death. Other native Georgian group R.E.M’s touring rhythm guitarist Buren Fowler joined the trio at this time as well. He was officially asked to join the band in 1988, after repeated on-stage appearances with the group.
The band released its first album for Island, Whisper Tames The Lion, produced by Anton Fier, in early 1988. College radio success (and some commercial) accumulated with airplay of the songs "Can't Promise You The World" (for which the band filmed its first video) and "Powerhouse".
1989 marked the release of some of the band's most memorable songs on the Mystery Road album, such as “Honeysuckle Blue” and “Straight To Hell.” In 1991, the more hard-rocking “Fly Me Courageous” topped charts and was one of the 10 most-played albums on AOR radio in 1991. The next few years the band toured with artists such as Neil Young and Soul Asylum. In 1993, the band released another album produced by Geoff Workman, entitled Smoke, which debuted at number 92 on the Billboard’s Top 200 album chart. This album was another all-out rocker, marked with guitar assaults, but it failed to catch on with the public as had its predecessor.
In 1994, the band decided to move away from the heavy guitar sounds of the previous two records and brought in keyboardist Joey Huffman to replace Buren Fowler. That same year the band left Island Records and found a new home at Geffen Records. The band's first and only Geffen album, 1995's Wrapped In Sky, featured newly added keyboard sounds and a return to the band's original sound.
1997 brought along a self-titled album, followed two years later by a live album, The Essential Live Drivin’ 'N’ Cryin'. In 2000, the band released The Ultimate Collection, a best-of collection. In 2003, the band released a four-song EP, Detroit City Rock, which featured a cover of the Beatles "Let It Be," recorded in New York City on Sept. 13, 2001. The band released its first full studio album in 12 years, Whatever Happened To The Great American Bubble Factory? on September 29, 2009.
Kevn Kinney has also maintained a solo career over the years. He released his first solo album, the acoustic MacDougal Blues in 1990. This was followed by Down Out Law in 1994, and The Flower And The Knife in 2000. The latter featured guests such as Blues Traveler's John Popper, Edwin McCain, and members of Gov't Mule and the Allman Brothers Band. He has released three more solo albums since. In addition to his solo recordings, he has frequently performed solo live concerts, including live collaborations with Peter Buck of R.E.M.