Buffalo Springfield

  • Folk rock band formed in Los Angeles California in 1966. The classic lineup was Bruce Palmer (bass guitar), Dewey Martin (drums, vocals), Neil Young (guitar, harmonica, keyboards, vocals), Richie Furay (guitars, vocals) and Stephen Stills (guitar, keyboards, vocals). Stills and Young were the primary songwriters, with some songs contributed by Furay.
  • Stills and Young met at a nightclub in Canada in 1965 – both were members of separate bands. When Stills’ band split up, he moved to Los Angeles to become a session musician. He decided to form a band, and he invited his former bandmate Furay to join him, as well as Ken Coblun, the former bass player in Young’s band. Coblun soon left to join another band. Meanwhile, in 1966 Young met Palmer, bass guitarist for a band called the Mynah Birds. Palmer invited Young to join the band as a guitarist. The band split up, and Palmer and Young sold their equipment to buy a car and drive to Los Angeles, hoping to track down Stils. After a week of searching, they got into their car to drive to San Francisco, but stuck in traffic, they saw Stills and Furay going the other direction on the same highway. They soon reunited. Looking for a drummer, Martin was recruited, and they band was ready to perform five days after the reunion. They performed at The Troubador in April 1966, choosing the name Buffalo Springfield, taken from a brand of steamroller, called the Buffalo-Springfield Roller Company.
  • After a short tour of California, opening for the Byrds and the Dillards, they performed at the Whisky a Go Go, and became the house band at the bar for seven weeks. This generated interest by several record labels, and they were signed to a record deal. Their first single, Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing was released in August 1966. It was popular in Los Angeles but nowhere else. It was included on their debut album, the self-titled Buffalo Springfield. A second single, Burned, was released without success.
  • In November 1966, Stills wrote a song titled For What It’s Worth, inspired by riots in Los Angeles by hippies who refused to follow the local curfew. Stills gave the song to his record company, stating “I have this song here, for what it’s worth, if you want it.” It was recorded in December and released later that month. It soon was embraced as a protest song against the Vietnam War and a 60s counterculture anthem. The single reached #7 on the Hot 100 chart. The record company re-released their Buffalo Springfield album, replacing the song Baby Don’t Scold Me with For What It’s Worth.
  • In January 1967, Palmer was deported to Canada for posession of marijuana, but returned in June. Meanwhile, Young was absent temporarily, and David Crosby filled in for Young at the group’s performance at the Monterey Pop Festival. Young returned in August, and the group recorded their second album, Buffalo Springfield Again. It was released in October that year, and three singles were released – none of which sold particularly well. The highest charting single, Rock ‘n’ Roll Woman, peaked at #44 on the Hot 100 chart. The first single from the album was Bluebird. While critics considered it their finest work, it only stayed on the charts for seven weeks, peaking at #58. It signified the beginning of the end of the group.
  • Young always considered Stills as a rival, and after Stills’ Bluebird was chosen as the first single to be released, with a Young-written song Mr. Soul as the B-side, Young had had enough, and he left the group. Two other songs on the album written by Young were essentially solo pieces recorded apart from the other members of the group. In January 1968, Palmer was deported again after getting busted for pot, and he was replaced by Jim Messina. With the group falling apart, they had a contractual obligation for one more album. By the end of March 1968, they managed to piece together enough songs for the Last Time Around album. Three singles were released – only On The Way Home managed to chart on the Hot 100, peaking at #82. Their final gig was in May 1968.
  • Martin formed a new version of the group in September 1968, called New Buffalo Springfield. This lasted until Stills and Young sued to prevent Martin from using the name. Martin settled with the others, and was allowed to call his band New Buffalo. In 1984, Palmer teamed up with other musicians, including Martin, to tour as Buffalo Springfield Revisited, with permission from Stills and Young. Later variations performed as White Buffalo and Buffalo Springfield Again.
  • In 2000, Young included a song titled Buffalo Springfield Again on one of his solo albums, hinting at a desire to reform the group. However, Palmer died in 2004 and Martin died in 2009, so the original group could not get back together. Instead, in 2011, six concerts were performed by Buffalo Springfield – the group consisted of Crosby, Stills, Furay, Rick Rosas and Joe Vitale. A full tour was planned for 2012 but it was subsequently scrapped.
  • Of course, Stills and Young became famous both in their solo efforts and as Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Furay and Messina formed the successful band Poco, and Messina also had success as Loggins & Messina with Kenny Loggins as his partner. Buffalo Springfield was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1997. Young didn’t bother to attend the ceremony (he did attend when he was inducted as a solo artist in 1995). Stills was inducted twice on the same night – Crosby, Stills & Nash also were inducted in 1997. Personally, I don’t understand how Buffalo Springfield got in, given their short run together and with only one successful song (albeit a classic hit). Maybe the fact that they were one of the first folk rock groups helped the cause? In any case…they are enshrined. Here they are performing For What It’s Worth on The Smothers Brothers in 1967 – with a brief comedy interruption by Tommy Smothers early in the song.

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