Buffalo SpringfieldBuffalo Springfield was a North American rock band active from 1966 to 1968 whose most prominent members were Stephen Stills, Neil Young, and Richie Furay. The group released three albums and several singles, including "For What It's Worth". The band combined elements of folk and country music with British invasion and psychedelic-rock influences, and, along with the Byrds, were part of the early development of folk-rock.
With a name taken from the manufacturer's nameplate from a steamroller, Buffalo Springfield formed in Los Angeles in 1966 with Stills (guitar, keyboards, vocals), Dewey Martin (drums, vocals), Bruce Palmer (bass), Furay (guitar, vocals), and Young (guitar, harmonica, piano, vocals). The band signed to Atlantic Records in 1966 and released their debut single "Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing", which became a hit in Los Angeles. The following January, the group released the protest song "For What It's Worth", for which they are now best known. 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 broke up in 1968. Stephen Stills went on to form the supergroup Crosby, Stills & Nash with David Crosby of the Byrds and Graham Nash of the Hollies. Neil Young launched his solo career and later joined Stills in Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young in 1969. Furay, along with Jim Messina, went on to form the country-rock band Poco. Buffalo Springfield was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997.
OriginsNeil Young and Stephen Stills met 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 Stills' band broke up at the end of that tour, he moved to the West Coast, where he worked as a session musician and auditioned unsuccessfully for, among other bands, the Monkees. 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.
While in Toronto in early 1966, Young met Bruce Palmer, a Canadian who was playing bass for 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—James Ambrose Johnson, Jr., 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 pawned the Mynah Birds' musical equipment and bought a 1953 Pontiac hearse, which they drove to Los Angeles. Young and Palmer arrived in L.A. hoping to meet Stephen Stills, whom Young had previously learned was living in the city. However, after almost a week of searching clubs and coffeehouses, the pair had been unable to find Stills. Consequently, on April 6, 1966, Young and Palmer decided to leave Los Angeles and drive north to San Francisco. While the two were stuck in traffic on Sunset Boulevard, they were spotted by Stills and Richie Furay, who were heading the other direction down Sunset. Stills and Furay managed to switch lanes and maneuver behind Young's hearse, at which point the musicians pulled off the road and reunited.
Drummer Dewey Martin, who had played with garage rock group the Standells and country artists such as Patsy Cline and the Dillards, joined at the suggestion of the Byrds' manager, Jim Dickson. The group's name was taken from a brand of steamroller made by the Buffalo-Springfield Roller Company. The new group debuted on April 11, 1966, at The Troubadour in Hollywood, mere days after the chance encounter on Sunset Boulevard. A few days later, they began a short tour of California as the opening act for the Dillards and the Byrds.
Management and first recordingsChris Hillman of the Byrds persuaded the owners of the Whisky a Go Go to give Buffalo Springfield an audition, and they 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 live performances and attracted interest from a number of record labels. It also brought an invitation from Friedman to Dickie Davis (who had been the Byrds' lighting manager) 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 made a deal with Ahmet Ertegun 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 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 band's eponymous album was released by the Atlantic subsidiary Atco in mono and in stereo in December 1966. A revamped version issued both in mono and stereo with a different track order was issued in March of the following year.
In November 1966, Stills composed "For What It's Worth" in response to a protest that had turned into a riot following the closing of a nightclub called Pandora's Box on Sunset Strip. 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 afterwards. 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.
Lineup changes and breakupIn January 1967, Palmer was deported for possession of marijuana.
Palmer returned to the group at the beginning of June, while Young was temporarily absent. (Guitarist Doug Hastings filled in for Young during this period.) The band, with David Crosby sitting in for Young, played the Monterey Pop Festival. Young returned in August and the band severed ties with Greene and Stone, then divided its time between playing gigs and finalising the second album, ultimately titled Buffalo Springfield Again. Produced by Ertegun, Buffalo Springfield Again was released in November 1967. It includes "Mr. Soul", "Rock & Roll Woman", "Bluebird", "Sad Memory", and "Broken Arrow". The band toured as support for the Beach Boys during early 1968. In January of that year, after Palmer was again deported for drug possession, Jim Messina, who had worked as engineer on the band's second album, was hired as a permanent replacement on bass. During this period Young began to appear less and less frequently, and he often left Stills to handle lead-guitar parts at concerts. Recording sessions were booked, and all the songs that appeared on the final album were recorded by the end of March, usually with Messina producing. In April 1968, Young, Furay, and Messina were arrested for disturbing the peace after making too much noise during a party with Eric Clapton. Following a gig at the Long Beach Arena on May 5, 1968, the band held a meeting with Ertegun to arrange their breakup – Stills and Furay staying with Atlantic, Young going to Warner Brothers. Furay and Messina then compiled various tracks recorded between mid-1967 and early 1968 into the third and final studio album, Last Time Around (1968).
New Buffalo Springfield and reunion attempts
Martin formed a new version of Buffalo Springfield in September 1968. Dubbed New Buffalo Springfield, the lineup consisted of guitarists Dave Price (Davy Jones's stand-in with the Monkees), Gary Rowles (son of jazz pianist Jimmy Rowles) who later joined Arthur Lee's Love, bass player Bob Apperson, drummer Don Poncher (also later a member of Love), and horn player Jim Price, who later became a top session musician for Delaney Bramlett, the Rolling Stones, Joe Cocker, and others.
The new band toured extensively and appeared at the highly publicized "Holiday Rock Festival" in San Francisco on December 25–26, 1968, but soon fell afoul of Stills and Young, who took legal action to prevent Martin from using the band's name. Following an agreement to abandon future royalties from Buffalo Springfield's recordings, Martin was allowed to work as New Buffalo. He attempted to retrieve his rights in 1974 and though the matter was settled out of court, he felt that he had been mistreated.
In February 1969 Martin and Dave Price formed a second version of New Buffalo with guitarist Bob "BJ" Jones and bass player Randy Fuller, brother of the late Bobby Fuller. The band made some recordings with producer Tom Dowd overseeing, but they were scrapped. Another guitarist, Joey Newman (formerly of Don and he Goodtimes, later of the pioneering prog group Touch), was added in June 1969, but two months later Martin was fired, and the remaining members carried on as Blue Mountain Eagle. Martin then formed a new group called Medicine Ball, which released a lone album in 1970 for Uni Records. Martin also released two solo singles, one for Uni and one for RCA, which didn't appear on the album. During the 1970s, he retired from the music industry and became a car mechanic.
In 1984 Bruce Palmer teamed up with Frank Wilks (vocals, guitar), Stan Endersby (guitar) and Alan Prosser (drums) to form The Springfield Band, which became Buffalo Springfield Revisited in 1985 when Dewey Martin was brought up to Toronto, Ontario, Canada to join, and off they went on tour for the next three to four years under this band name (though Martin would drop out by 1987). Neil Young and Stephen Stills gave the BSR permission to tour with this name.
In July 1986 a full reunion of Palmer, Martin, Furay, Young and Stills all gathered together at Stills' house, with current BSR keyboardist Harlan Spector, to rehearse for an apparent reunion tour. One of the 1986 rehearsals was preserved on video and would be the last time all five original members would be seen together. The plans for a reunion tour were abandoned.
By 1990, Bruce Palmer and Frank Wilks had moved to Topanga, where Dennis Knicely joined on percussion. The following year they started White Buffalo along with Dewey Martin and others, then Martin formed the short lived Buffalo Springfield Again in 1991 with Billy Darnell (guitar), Robin Lambe (bass) and Michael Curtis (vocals, guitar). But Furay issued a cease and desist order on Martin in 1992 and he retired from music again the following year.
2011 reunion tourOn his album Silver & Gold (2000), Young sang of his desire to reform the group and to "see those guys again and give it a shot" ("Buffalo Springfield Again"). Due to the deaths of Palmer (in 2004) and Martin (in 2009), a true reunion of the original lineup is now impossible, but surviving members Young, Stills, and Furay reunited at the annual Bridge School Benefit concerts on October 23 and 24, 2010, in Mountain View, California. Rolling Stone called the performance "nostalgic, blissful, and moving."The band reunited for six concerts starting in Oakland on June 1, 2011, 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 consisted of Furay, Stills, and Young, with the lineup completed by Rick Rosas and Joe Vitale. According to Furay and a band spokesman, the group was supposed to go out on a full tour in 2012, but this was put on hold because Young was recording two new albums with Crazy Horse. On February 27, 2012, Furay announced that the band is on indefinite hiatus.
LegacyIn 1968, Stills went on to form Crosby, Stills & Nash with David Crosby of the Byrds and Graham Nash of the Hollies. Meanwhile, Furay and Messina formed Poco, and Young launched his solo career; in 1969, he reunited with Stills in Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young ("CSNY"). After CSNY, Stills joined with Hillman (after his stint with the Flying Burrito Brothers) and others to form the group Manassas (1971–1973). Furay later joined J.D. Souther and Chris Hillman to form the Souther-Hillman-Furay Band, and Messina teamed with Kenny Loggins in Loggins & Messina.
In 1997, Buffalo Springfield was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. A four-disc box set assembled by Young, Buffalo Springfield, was released in 2001. A further box set What's That Sound? Complete Albums Collection was released in 2018 by Rhino Records.
† Track added to second pressing of debut album and subsequent reissues; does not appear on original release.