(Read all about Buffalo Springfield after the video)
Buffalo Springfield was an American-Canadian rock band, formed in Los Angeles in 1966. Their original lineup included Stephen Stills (guitar, keyboards, vocals), Dewey Martin (drums, vocals), Bruce Palmer (electric bass), Richie Furay (guitar, vocals), and Neil Young (guitar, harmonica, piano, vocals). Pioneering the folk rock genre, Buffalo Springfield, along with the Byrds, combined elements of folk and country music with British invasion influences into their early works. Their second studio album, Buffalo Springfield Again, marked their progression to psychedelia and hard rock.
With a name taken from a steamroller, the group signed to Atlantic Records in 1966 and released their debut single “Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing" - a regional hit in Los Angeles. The following January, the group released the protest song they were most prominently known for, "For What It's Worth". After various drug-related arrests and line-up changes, the group decided to break up in 1968. Stephen Stills went on to form the folk rock supergroup Crosby, Stills & Nash with David Crosby of the Byrds and Graham Nash of the Hollies. Neil Young had launched his successful solo career and reunited with Stills in Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young in 1969. The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997.
Neil Young and Stephen Stills first crossed paths in 1965, at the Fourth Dimension in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Young was there with The Squires, a Winnipeg group he had been leading since February 1963, and Stills was on tour with The Company, a spin-off from the Au Go Go Singers.
When The Company broke up at the end of that tour, Stills moved to the West Coast, where he worked as a studio musician and auditioned unsuccessfully for, among other things, The Monkees. He had been in a band called Buffalo Fish with fellow Greenwich Village transplant Peter Tork, who encouraged him to audition.
Told by record producer Barry Friedman there would be work available if he could assemble a band, Stills invited fellow Au Go Go Singers alumnus Richie Furay and former Squires bass player Ken Koblun to come join him in California. Both agreed, although Koblun chose to leave before very long and joined the group 3's a Crowd.
In early 1966 in Toronto, Young met Bruce Palmer, a Canadian who was playing bass for a group called the Mynah Birds. In need of a lead guitarist, Palmer invited Young to join the group, and Young accepted. The Mynah Birds were set to record an album for Motown Records when their singer Ricky James Matthews (later known as Rick James) was tracked down and arrested by the U.S. Navy for being AWOL. With their record deal canceled, Young and Palmer headed for Los Angeles, where they encountered Stills.
Drummer Dewey Martin, who had played with garage rock group the Standells and country artists such as Patsy Cline and The Dillards, was added to the roster less than a week later, after contacting the group at the suggestion of the Byrds' manager, Jim Dickson.
The group's name was taken from the side of a steamroller made by the Springfield, Ohio-based Buffalo-Springfield Roller Company, that had been parked on the street outside Friedman's house where Stills and Furay were staying at the time. The new group debuted on April 11, 1966, at The Troubadour in Hollywood. A few days later, they began a short tour of California as the opening act on a bill featuring The Dillards and The Byrds.
Management and first recordings
Chris Hillman persuaded the owners of the Whisky a Go Go to give the band an audition. Buffalo Springfield essentially became the house band at the Whisky for seven weeks, from May 2 to June 18, 1966. This series of concerts solidified the band's reputation for exhilarating live performances and attracted interest from a number of record labels. It also brought an invitation from Friedman to Dickie Davis, who had been lighting manager for The Byrds, to become involved in the group's management. In turn, Davis sought advice from Sonny & Cher's management team, Charlie Greene and Brian Stone; unbeknownst to Davis and Friedman, Greene and Stone then aggressively pitched themselves to the band to be their new managers. Friedman was fired, and Davis was made the group's tour manager. Greene and Stone eventually struck a deal with Ahmet Ertegün of Atlantic Records for a four album contract with a $12,000 advance, following a brief bidding war with Elektra Records and Warner Bros. Records, and arranged for the band to start recording at Gold Star Studios in Hollywood.
The first Buffalo Springfield single, "Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing", was released in August but made little impact outside of Los Angeles, where it reached the Top 25. Young and Stills have long maintained that their own mono mix was superior to the stereo mix engineered by Greene and Stone. The album, eponymously titled Buffalo Springfield, was originally released by Atlantic's subsidiary Atco in mono and in stereo in December 1966. A revamped version (see below) issued both in mono and stereo with a different track order, came in March 1967.
In November 1966, Stills composed his landmark song, "For What It's Worth", after police actions against the crowds of young people who had gathered on the Sunset Strip to protest the closing of a nightclub called Pandora's Box (contrary to later retellings by Stills, he was not present for the riot; rather, Buffalo Springfield was playing an engagement in San Francisco at the time). The song was performed on Thanksgiving night at the Whisky a Go Go, recorded within the next few days, and on the air in Los Angeles on radio station KHJ soon afterward. By March 1967, it was a Top Ten hit. Atco took advantage of this momentum by replacing the song "Baby Don't Scold Me" with "For What It's Worth" and re-releasing the album. "For What It's Worth" sold over one million copies and was awarded a gold disc.
In January 1967, the group took an advance from the record company and flew to New York to perform at Ondine's, a club where The Doors would also play. It was at this time that Palmer was first arrested for possession of marijuana and summarily deported back to Canada.
The band moved back and forth between recording sessions and live appearances on both coasts. A number of different bassists were used, such as Mike Barnes and Jim Fielder of The Mothers of Invention. In one instance – a live performance on the television show Hollywood Palace – Springfield's road manager, who couldn't play bass, held a bass with his back to the camera while the band mimed to a prerecorded track. An appearance on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour was taped on February 17, 1967, which aired on February 26.
Under these conditions work on the new album, tentatively titled Stampede, was markedly tense. Ever distrustful of Greene and Stone, Young and Stills bickered between themselves, and each insisted on producing the recording sessions for his own compositions. Furay, who had sung and played guitar on the first album but had not contributed any songs, also stepped forward and equaled Young's number for the group's second album.
Although Palmer returned to the group at the beginning of June, Young had already left and,as a result, missed the celebrated Monterey Pop Festival, at which the band performed with former Daily Flash and future Rhinoceros member Doug Hastings on guitar, and guest David Crosby. Young eventually returned on October 7 or 8th at the Third Eye in Redondo Beach, California, and after bidding adieu to Greene and Stone (Ertegün convinced the duo to release the band from production and management agreements), the band divided its time between playing concert gigs and putting the finishing touches on its second album, ultimately titled Buffalo Springfield Again, produced by Ertegün himself.
More of an amalgam of individual work than an integrated group effort, Buffalo Springfield Again was released in November 1967. It includes Mr. Soul (the version of which appears as the B side of the edited "Bluebird" has a completely different guitar lead from the stereo LP version and has yet to be issued on CD), "Rock & Roll Woman", "Bluebird", "Sad Memory", and "Broken Arrow". The group was featured playing "Bluebird" in the Mannix episode, "Warning: Live Blueberries", which aired on October 28, 1967.
Last Time Around
The band's career was plagued by infighting, drug-related arrests and line-up changes that, in part, led to its disbanding after two years.
With strong reviews appearing all over the country, not only of Buffalo Springfield Again but of the band's performance as part of The Beach Boys Fifth Annual Thanksgiving Tour, things were looking up.
However, in January 1968, Palmer's second deportation for drug possession once again threw a wrench into the works. This time, guitarist and studio engineer Jim Messina was hired as a permanent replacement on bass. With Palmer gone for good, Young also began to appear less and less frequently, and he often left Stills to handle all the lead guitar parts at concerts. Recording sessions were booked, and all the songs that appeared on their final album were recorded by the end of March, usually with Messina producing, but the group was clearly on the verge of disbanding. In April 1968, after yet another drug bust involving Young, Furay, Messina, and Eric Clapton, the group decided to break up.
The final 20th century concert appearance was at the Long Beach Arena on May 5, 1968. After the band played many of its best-known tunes, an extended 20 plus-minute version of "Bluebird" became the group's swan song. Buffalo Springfield disbanded a little more than two years after it had begun.
After the group's breakup, Furay and Messina compiled various tracks recorded between mid-1967 and early 1968 into a third and final studio album, titled Last Time Around (1968). Although it featured Furay's touching ballad "Kind Woman", Young's classic "I Am a Child", and Stills' subtle political "Four Days Gone", only a few of the songs included more than two or three members of the group at a time. Even the cover photo was a montage, with Young's image added to a group profile of the other four members. Stills and Furay appeared on more tracks than any of the others, essentially dominating the album, but it did not light up the charts.