Buffalo Springfield was a 60's folk-rock group that placed only one song in the top forty, in early 1967. It was used by some as an anthem for the tumultuous late 60's. The group was one of the first North American bands to come to prominence in the wake of the British invasion.
Buffalo Springfield, both before and after it was formed in April of 1966, had many links to other prominent pop music acts of the 60's. The members of the group included Stephen Stills, Neil Young, Dewey Martin, Richie Furay and Bruce Palmer; after their first two albums, Palmer was replaced by Jim Messina.
Furay and Stills were performing with a group called the Au Go Go Singers, which spun off into a group known as The Company. On tour with The Company in 1965, Stills and his group performed at the Fourth Dimension in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Neil Young was performing there with his group The Squires, and Stillls and Young struck up a friendship, although they would not see each other again for nearly another year. The Company disbanded and Stills moved to the West Coast, where he found work as a studio musician, and among other things, auditioned without success for The Monkees. He got in touch with Furay to talk about forming a new band, and brought in Squires bass player Ken Koblun. Early in 1966 Neil Young traveled to Toronto where he became acquainted with Canadian Bruce Palmer, bass player for a group known as the Mynah Birds (whose lead singer was Rick James). Palmer invited Young to join the group and he accepted, but it broke up a short time later after a record deal fell through. Young and Palmer headed to Los Angeles intending to join Stills and his group, but had trouble locating him until a chance encounter while fighting the traffic on Sunset Boulevard put Furay and Stills together with Young and Palmer. They realized it was in their best interest to all form a band. Koblun had left by this time so Palmer took his place, but they still needed a drummer. They were contacted by Dewey Martin, who had played drums for the Standells and played with Patsy Cline, among others. The group was set, and taking their name from a steamroller made by the Buffalo Springfield Roller Company, they began performing in the clubs along Sunset Boulevard.
Buffalo Springfield was a talented group, with Furay, Stills and Young handling lead vocals, and outstanding guitar work from Stills and Young. They signed on as the house band at the Whisky a Go Go at 8901 Sunset Boulevard, and became acquainted with other acts performing along the Strip such as The Byrds, Love, The Turtles, Johnny Rivers, Alice Cooper and the Doors. In the mid-to-late 60's the Whiskey a Go Go was on the cutting edge of a number of musical trends (and that continued for the remainder of the twentieth century). Buffalo Springfield, a very talented group with the right sound for the times, was right in the middle of the action.
"The Whisky" as it was known would at times come into conflict with the County of Los Angeles, as local residents and business owners wanted less noise and to have curfews imposed on those enjoying the local nightlife. At one point the County had asked the owners of the popular nightclub to change their name, as it was county government's contention that the name was not a good influence. In 1966 the Whisky a Go Go became the center of one of the police riots that began to occur along the Strip. In November 1966 just as Buffalo Springfield started at the Whisky, a group of about 1,000 demonstators that included Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson gathered to protest the imposition of curfew laws. Police were summoned and the first of the so-called Sunset Strip riots ensued, resulting in more than 200 arrests.
Several weeks later, on December 5, 1966, Buffalo Springfield recorded For What It's Worth (Stop, Hey What's That Sound), a song composed by Stephen Stills as a comment on the confrontation. Protests were being staged about various events going on around the globe, most notably the Vietnam War. Some thought Stills' song was a general protest song and adopted it as such, although it was simply a commentary on the events along Sunset Boulevard. The song proved to be very popular, entering the charts in January of 1967, moving into the top forty the following month and eventually going top ten. Stills sings lead on the recording, and just as psychedelia was emerging it featured a pleasant blend of acoustic and electric guitars, as well as vocal three-part harmony. Years later, For What It's Worth (Stop, Hey What's That Sound) would be ranked at number 63 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
Buffalo Springfield recorded three albums, and made an appearance at the Monterey Pop Festival. There was some infighting among the group, and inevitably some personnel changes. Young left and was replaced by David Crosby (at Monterey) and then by Doug Hastings, then returned. Palmer was replaced by Jim Fielder, then by Jim Messina. Finally they disbanded in May of 1968, but many of the group members went on to play in other well-known bands. Furay and Messina formed the country rock group Poco, Fielder went on to join Blood, Sweat & Tears, and Neil Young went solo. Later Young was reunited with his old bandmate Stephen Stills when he joined Crosby, Stills, and Nash in the summer of 1969, a group that has been compared to Buffalo Springfield.
Bruce Palmer passed away in 2004 and drummer Dewey Martin in 2009. Buffalo Springfield was comprised of many different musical elements, perhaps contributing to the instability and brief run of the group. Its members represented a great degree of musical talent, and their timing was such that it served as a transitional group. They are remembered today primarily for their lone giant hit, For What It's Worth (Stop, Hey What's That Sound).
Despite existing for only a little more than two years, the supergroup Buffalo Springfield took its place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997.
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