Buffalo Springfield







The best American folk-rock band of the 60s besides The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield mixed folk, country, and 'British Invasion' influences to produce some of the most enduring California rock of the era. Boasting sparkling harmonies and several excellent singer-songwriters, they were enormously influential for an act with a catalogue of just three albums. Besides establishing the careers of guitarists Neil Young, Stephen Stills and Richie Furay, all of whom would go on to success in other bands or as solo artists, their hybrid of styles inspired numerous folk and country-rock acts throughout the 70s.

Although the line-up constantly changed, the main members throughout their three turbulent years were Stephen Stills (guitar, vocals), Neil Young (guitar, vocals), Richie Furay ( guitar, vocals), Dewey Martin (drums), Bruce Palmer (bass) and Jim Messina (bass). Furay and Stills worked together in the Au Go-Go Singers in the mid-60s, where they met Young, who at that time was a solo singer, having previously worked with Palmer in the "Mynah Birds". Furay and Stills had moved to Los Angeles to start a band, and decided to seek out the enigmatic Young. In a traffic jam on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles in early April of 1966, the two chanced to pull up behind a battered black 1953 Pontiac hearse bearing Ontario, Canada license plates. Stalled in rush hour traffic ahead of them sat Neil Young and Bruce Palmer, tired, broke and on their way out of town following a cross country journey in search of their musical dreams. That chance meeting would ultimately change the face of rock music forever. They took their name from a brand of heavy asphalt roller and within weeks they were setting the Sunset Strip music scene on its ears and challenging all rivals.

Following a series of successful gigs at the prestigious Whisky A Go-Go, and boosted by verbal endorsements from the Byrds' Chris Hillman and David Crosby, the band were signed by Ahmet Ertegun to the Atco label of Atlantic Records. Any group containing three main songwriters who could all play lead guitar was heading for trouble, and soon their egos and fists clashed. The main antagonists were Stills and Young, but their problems were compounded by the continual immigration and drug problems of Palmer, who, like Young, was Canadian, and with their road manager Dick Davis, even having to masquerade as the bassist for a television appearance. Eventually, Young's former associate, Ken Koblun, was recruited as a replacement. He, in turn, was replaced by Jim Fielder from the Mothers Of Invention, but Fielder only lasted a couple of months.

The band's only major hit was 1967's 'For What It's Worth (Hey What's That Sound)'. The song remains one of the finest protest anthems of the 60s, and exemplified the phenomenon of the 'right song at the right time'. Stills' plaintive yet wry and lethargic plea for tolerance was written after the police used heavy-handed methods to stop a demonstration outside a club, Pandora's Box, on Sunset Strip in 1966. They were protesting about the curfew times imposed. The chorus of 'Stop children, what's that sound everybody look what's going down' became an anthem for West coast students in their protests against the government.

The band always seemed doomed throughout their brief time together. Neil Young's unpredictability also meant that he sometimes did not arrive for gigs, or quite simply left the group for long periods. His main replacement was ex- Daily Flash guitarist Doug Hastings, and as a sign of things to come, David Crosby, (then still with The Byrds) who briefly appeared with the group as Young's substitute at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival. Seemingly poised for a big breakthrough, the group was derailed in 1967 by major internal and external pressures, which found Young leaving then re-joining the band, and Palmer still under constant threat of deportation back to Canada.

Two official albums were released (a third, "Stampede", was planned but only appeared later as a compilation bootleg). "Last Time Around" was patched together by producer and latter-day bassist Jim Messina, after the band had broken up for the final time. "Buffalo Springfield Again" remains their finest work. The album demonstrated the developing talents of Stills and Young as major songwriters. The three lead guitars duelled together and the three lead vocals meshed brilliantly to produce for a brief moment of what could have been America's greatest rivals to the Beatles.

Following the band's split in 1968, Furay formed the highly respected Poco, which also contained future Eagle, Randy Meisener, and continued down the road to country rock. Messina joined with Furay and later with Kenny Loggins as Loggins and Messina. Fielder became highly respected as part of Blood Sweat And Tears, while Hastings joined Rhinoceros. Dewey Martin formed the ill-fated New Buffalo Springfield only to be forced to change the name to New Buffalo. Together with Bruce Palmer, they continued on the nostalgia circuit under the banner of Buffalo Springfield Again. Young and Stills went on to mega-stardom when they joined up with David Crosby (from The Byrds) and Graham Nash (of The Hollies) as members of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, who, after turning out many hits and then dis-banding, reformed in early 2000.

In 1997, Buffalo Springfield was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, although Neil Young did not appear at the induction ceremony. In 2001, a career-spanning, four-disc box set was assembled by Young. The first three discs feature many alternate takes, demos and alternate mixes of the band's material, with the fourth containing the group's first two albums. The third album was relegated to highlights on the third disc.

On his 2000 album "Silver & Gold", Neil Young sang of his desire to reform the group and to "see those guys again and give it a shot". A full reunion, however, is no longer possible as Bruce Palmer passed away in October 2004 and Dewey Martin died in Jauary, 2009. The remaining Buffalo Springfield members, Neil Young, Stephen Stills and Richie Furay did reunite at the annual Bridge School Benefit concerts on October 23rd and 24th, 2010 in Mountain View, California. Rolling Stone magazine called the performance "nostalgic, blissful, and moving."

Starting on June 1st, 2011, Buffalo Springfield got together for six concerts in Oakland followed by dates in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara before moving on to play the 2011 Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee. The band was made up of Richie Furay, Stephen Stills, Neil Young, Rick Rosas and Joe Vitale. According to Richie Furay, the band will do a full tour in 2012