Origin: Los Angeles, CA.
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Buffalo Springfield were a Canadian-American rock band active from 1966 to 1968 whose most prominent members were Neil Young, Stephen Stills and Richie Furay. Combining elements of folk and country music with British invasion and psychedelic-rock influences, Buffalo Springfield along with the Byrds were early purveyors in the development of folk rock. Buffalo Springfield was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997.
With a name taken from a brand of steamroller, Buffalo Springfield formed in Los Angeles in 1966 with Young (guitar, harmonica, piano, vocals), Stills (guitar, keyboards, vocals), Furay (guitar, vocals), Bruce Palmer (electric bass) and Dewey Martin (drums, vocals). The band’s debut single the Neil Young-penned “Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing,” became a regional southern California hit. In January 1967, they released the protest song “For What It’s Worth,” the song for which they are best known for. Their second album, Buffalo Springfield Again marked their progression to psychedelia and hard rock.
After various drug-related arrests and line-up changes the group disbanded in 1968. Stephen Stills went on to form Crosby, Stills & Nash with David Crosby of the Byrds and Graham Nash of the Hollies. Neil Young launched a solo career and later joined Crosby, Stills & Nash. Richie Furay along with late era Springfield member Jim Messina went on to form the country-rock band Poco. Jim Messina later enjoyed success with Kenny Loggins in Loggins & Messina.
Neil Young and Stephen Stills met in 1965 in Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada. Young was there with the Squires, a Winnipeg group he had been leading since 1963. Stills was on tour with The Company. When Stills’ group disbanded at the end of the tour he relocated to the West Coast where he worked as a session musician and auditioned unsuccessfully for, among other bands, the Monkees. Stills eventually invited former bandmate Richie Furay to join him in California.
While in Toronto in 1966, Young met bassist Bruce Palmer of the Mynah Birds. In need of a lead guitarist Palmer invited Young to join. The band was about to record when their singer Ricky James Matthews, later known as Rick James was tracked down and arrested for being AWOL from the U.S.Navy.
With their record deal canceled Young and Palmer bought a 1953 Pontiac hearse and drove to Los Angeles. The pair hoped to reconnect with Stills. After a week of fruitless searching Young and Palmer were stuck in Sunset Boulevard traffic and were spotted by Stills and Furay who were heading the opposite way. Stills and Furay managed to switch lanes and follow Young’s iconic hearse and reunite.
Drummer Dewey Martin of the garage rock group the Standells was the last member to join the band. On April 11, 1966 the new group debuted at The Troubadour in Hollywood, a mere days after their Sunset Boulevard encounter. A few days later they began short tour as the opening act for the Byrds.
On the recommendation of Chris Hillman of the Byrds Buffalo Springfield became the house band at the Whisky A Go Go during May and June of 1966. These gigs solidified the band’s reputation for live performances and attracted interest from a number of record labels.
Buffalo Springfield signed with Atlantic Records and released their first album Buffalo Springfield. The Stills-composed single “For What It’s Worth” came about in response to a protest that had turned into a riot following the closing of a nightclub on Sunset Strip. The song was performed on Thanksgiving night at the Whisky, recorded within the next few days, and on the air in Los Angeles soon afterwards. By March 1967 it was a top ten hit selling more than one million copies.
In January 1967, Palmer was deported for marijuana possession before returning to the group in June. David Crosby sat in for Young who was temporarily absent when the band played the Monterey Pop Festival, before Young’s return in October.
As 1967 ended the band toured and released their second album, Buffalo Springfield Again. The album included many of the band’s now iconic songs including “Mr. Soul,” “Rock & Roll Woman” and “Bluebird.” In early 1968 Palmer was again deported and Jim Messina who had engineered the band’s second album was hired as permanent bassist. At the same time Neil Young began to appear less frequently letting Stills handle lead guitar and vocals at concerts. On May 5 the band held a meeting to arrange their breakup. Furay and Messina then compiled various tracks recorded between 1967 and 1968 into their third and final studio album, Last Time Around (1968).
Martin formed a new version of Buffalo Springfield in September 1968, dubbed “New Buffalo Springfield.” The new band toured extensively but soon ran afoul of Stills and Young who sued to prevent Martin from using the band’s name.
In 1984, Bruce Palmer teamed with Dewey Martin and others to form “Buffalo Springfield Revisited.” The band had received Stills and Young’s blessing and toured for four or five years. In July 1986 all five original members rehearsed several times at Stills’ home for an anticipated reunion. When Young failed to show for one practice the reunion was cancelled. However, one of the two rehearsals was preserved on video and would be the last time all five original members would play together.
On Young’s 2000 album Silver & Gold he sang of his desire to reform the group in the song “Buffalo Springfield Again.” Due to the deaths of Palmer (in 2004) and Martin (in 2009) a true reunion of the original group would be impossible, but surviving members Stills and Furay reunited with Young for the annual Bridge School Benefit concerts in 2010. Buffalo Springfield reunited for six concerts starting in Oakland in 2011, followed by dates at several festivals that summer. Plans were made for a full tour in 2012, but were put on hold due to Young recording two albums with Crazy Horse. In February 2012 Furay announced that the band was on indefinite hiatus.
In 2018 a box set What’s That Sound? Complete Albums Collection was released.
Buffalo Springfield discography
Buffalo Springfield (1966)
Buffalo Springfield Again (1967)
Last Time Around (1968)
Sacramento’s K-ZAP 93.3 FM plays the Buffalo Springfield. All part of 50 years of Rock, Blues and More, 24-7 on our station’s stream at K-ZAP.ORG/LISTEN/
Check out the Buffalo Springfield performing “For What Its Worth.”