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Thursday, December 08, 2022

Buffalo Springfield Debut LP Released December 1966

Buffalo Springfield Debut LP 
Released December 1966 
 (Click photo to enlarge)

Here is a comprehensive, in-depth look back at  Buffalo Springfield's debut album, released in December 1966, by Harvey Kubernik.
Harvey Kubernik is the author of 19 books, including "Neil Young - Heart of Gold" (see TW review). We interviewed author Kubernik while Thrasher's Wheat celebrated Neil Young's 70th birthday back in 2015. 
In 1966 and ’67 Harvey Kubernik saw Buffalo Springfield in two of their Southern California concerts and attended debut Neil Young solo concerts in the region. 
Thrasher's Wheat just recently published several highly popular articles by Harvey Kubernik:
 Thanks Harvey! enjoy.

Buffalo Springfield Debut LP Released December 1966
By Harvey Kubernik, Copyright


Buffalo Springfield - Third Eye, Oct 1966

     In December 1966 I purchased a mono copy of Buffalo Springfield in Hollywood at Wallachs Music City on Sunset and Vine.  I witnessed Buffalo Springfield. Twice. In December 1966 with my brother Kenny at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, and in April 1967 inside the Hollywood Bowl.  

   It was in the spring 1966, when Neil Young and Bruce Palmer hit the road, blazing behind the wheel of a 1953 Pontiac hearse, natch. Finally, in early April ‘66 they arrived in Los Angeles, in search of Stephen Stills and musical dreams held desperately dear.

   Coincidentally, Stills had been anxious for Neil to join him as well. Richie Furay, another gypsy, was back with Stills, the promise of a band his inducement to come west.

   Where was Neil? Having given up their search for the mercurial Stills, Neil and Bruce decided to head to San Francisco and what sounded like a promising music scene.

   In one of the most fortuitous encounters in the history of pop music on that April afternoon on Sunset Boulevard which saw our two protagonists come to a traffic stop at the exact same moment—one going east and the other going west. But, good heavens, who else but Neil would be driving a hearse with Canadian license plates in Los Angeles? And thus, one of the enduring creation myths was born.

   Los Angeles, the city of noir, city of night, and city of light. For all its enticing charms—the vaguely toxic vermillion sky, the lustrous undertow of the adjacent Pacific—it could induce a palpable ambivalence. 

   By 1966, the city was undergoing a vivid reimaging, like a film set readying itself for its next call to “action.” The Watts riots of August 1965 had slapped the dreamy denizens into social/political consciousness, the smog-shrouded basin taking on an acrid, burnt-brown hue.  

 Buffalo Springfield @ Hollywood Bowl on April 29, 1967
Photo  by Henry Diltz.

   There was, indeed, something definitely happenin’ here, something best documented in melodies and words of young troubadours who found in pop music the ideal platform to address all those roiling, inchoate concerns. Los Angeles was the epicenter of this sonic youth-quake. The strum of a D minor chord, the hurt in an orphaned voice, a transformative backbeat, a pulsing bass line, the sting of a lead guitar, this was the recipe for rebellion with a bullet, turning protest into publishing.

   In my 2016 book, Neil Young: Heart of Gold, I spoke with Dickie Davis, omnipresent Buffalo Springfield advocate, road manager turned guiding force, about his essential contributions to the band.   

Stephen Stills @ Gold Star Recording Studio 1966

photo by Henry Diltz

   “I met Stephen Stills when he was in the Au Go Go Singers in Houston. In 1966 I was now working at Doug Weston’s Troubadour in Hollywood selling tickets and running the Hoot nights. Neil Young and Bruce Palmer come into town and I hear about it. Stephen and Richie connect with a drummer, Billy Mundi. They were good. I’m watching Steve, Richie, Bruce, with Billy Mundi, and at this point their manager Barry Friedman asked me to help out with the band. Sort of like a road manager thing. Dewey Martin joined as drummer replacing Billy.

   “Returning from the Troubadour, in my faded red 1963 Volvo P1800, Richie and I pulled to the curb on Fountain Avenue outside Barry Friedman’s place. I stopped immediately behind a steam roller and noticed a small metal sign hanging loosely from it.

  “How about that?” I said. ‘I’ve heard of Mercedes-Benz, and Alfa Romeo, but there’s a Buffalo Springfield. Never heard of that one before.’

     “Everyone laughed and got out of the car. We proceeded to try to get the sign off the roller. It was hanging from only one bolt but it wouldn’t come loose. As they went inside, I drove away. Later, possibly the next day, I was at Barry’s. Stephen showed me the sign and said he’d decided that it was the name of the group. I liked the idea. It had a contemporary, sort of Jefferson Airplane ring.” 
          In my 2009 book, Canyon of Dreams The Magic and the Music of Laurel Canyon, Laurel Canyon resident, the multi-instrumentalist Van Dyke Parks, who was on the scene at a 1966 Buffalo Springfield practice on Fountain Avenue, emphasized his role suggesting naming rights of the band who never became a brand.

“I said, ‘This is the name of your group. Come out here and look.’ The boys were having an argument and I was so bored I went outside to have a smoke and I saw the grader (road-building tractor) that was in front of Stephen Stills’ rented apartment on Fountain Avenue. The street was being widened, and there was a sign on the grader. It said ‘Buffalo Springfield.’ I pointed it out to them. ‘This is it.’ That was no problem. And of course, they forgot because they were blinded by their own ambitions. They had no idea I came up with that.”  

Dickie Davis

Dickie Davis: In later years I heard many times that Van Dyke Parks was crediting himself with thinking of the name. He even said as much to me recently. I was politely skeptical — and silent — until I realized that I had no idea what happened between the time Richie went inside and Stephen’s showing me the sign. He (Stephen) could well have been inside Barry’s at the time they managed to remove the sign and would have been as unaware of my presence as I was of his. It’s just conjecture, but it’s an explanation. (Stephen) never mentioned Van Dyke Parks.
   I liked the idea. It had a contemporary, sorta Jefferson Airplanish sound with strong All American/western implication. And, as they say, the rest is history — the kind that’s written.”
    Rehearsals with the Buffalo Springfield and Neil Young. My first impression. Neil seemed shy. He seemed anxious to please and he seemed like he really knew how to play guitar. He played maybe a very Chet Atkins country style rock ’n’ roll but if asked he could adapt his playing. If someone said, ‘Give a surf run, Neil,’ he would do it like the Ventures. Nothing to it.
     We’d all hang out at Canter’s Delicatessen on Fairfax Avenue after the Whisky a Go Go shows and Ollie Hammond’s on La Cienega.

    There was magic at the rehearsals. I was immediately sold. Barry Friedman had seen it grow. I helped it happen at the first gig at the Troubadour. It took so long to set the amplifiers up the audience had lost interest. And it took them a while to get the audience back. But they did. There was a good reaction.”  

Richie Furay @ Gold Star Recording Studio 1966
photo by Henry Diltz

Richie Furay: Everything happened so fast. We were young. We were new. When we did a six-week house band stint at The Whisky we thought we had no competition. It’s pretty incredible, isn’t it? Five young guys who brought five different elements together. When we put out stuff together, it was like ‘here’s what I want to contribute to your song, Stephen and Neil.’  We took elements of folk, blues, and country and we established our own sound.

   It was the Byrds’ Chris Hillman who got Buffalo Springfield their first Whisky A Go Go booking, which secured a future residency at the venue during May-June 1966.   

Buffalo Springfield @ Gold Star Recording Studio 1966 
photo by Henry Diltz 

Henry Diltz: Buffalo Springfield was great on stage. My first impression of Neil Young was that he was kind of a quiet guy. Neil played so well. And that is the thing about Buffalo Springfield. You had Stills and Young on the guitars. Both of them spurring each other on and feeding off each other. Just like a good jazz group would do. One guy plays a solo and the other guy takes off from there and tries to maybe build on that. Or do something better. The two of them with dueling guitars and then Richie Furay with that amazing voice soaring above all that. And then they had harmonies, and their drummer, Dewey Martin, had been our drummer in the MFQ at the Troubadour. And Bruce was a nice guy and a phenomenal bassist.
    Neil and Stephen were the sound of Buffalo Springfield, really. And then, of course, Richie Furay’s voice, you know. It was a dynamite combination. Stephen and Neil are both strong types. Neil is a Scorpio. And Neil knows what he likes. And he knows what he doesn’t like. And he’s gonna do what he likes. And he’s not gonna do what he doesn’t like. And Stephen is a Capricorn. And a Capricorn is very stubborn and tenacious. But they’re by God are gonna do what they are gonna do and feel it outta be.  

Chris Darrow: When I first started recording in Los Angeles in 1966 as a member of Kaleidoscope, we were part of a bigger picture that had started by the English Invasion in 1964.  Many of us were involved with folk music and bluegrass due to the lack of great music on the radio at the time.  All the greats of the fifties had either died or gone bad and there was an alternative in American Folk Music that gave us budding musicians a place to hang our hats.
    Barry Friedman, who produced our band Kaleidoscope's first album, Side Trips, was really responsible for getting the Springfield together.  There was a strong Canadian connection, as Barry was from Canada, Steve Stills had met Neil Young, a Canadian native, there and Bruce Palmer had played with Neil in Toronto.

    Palmer and Young had come to do an album in Los Angeles and the deal fell through.  They had been looking for Stills, who they knew was in LA but to no avail, so they decided to head north to San Francisco.  While on the road, Barry Friedman, Richie Furay and Steve Stills recognized Neil Young's black, Pontiac hearse diving in the other direction and did a U-turn to catch up to Neil and Bruce. The rest is history.  They brought in another transplanted Canadian, Dewey Martin, as the drummer.

    Barry Friedman, who later changed his name to Frazier Mohawk, gets little credit for being responsible for the formation of Buffalo Springfield.  He had a knack for recognizing talent and was also great at knowing who would sound good with who.  Barry should have managed and produced the band but the management team of Greene and Stone eventually came in. 
    I saw the Buffalo Springfield two times over their short existence.  Like the Byrds and other bands with great harmonies, they had three separate lead singers with three separate identities.  Richie Furay had the natural, great voice and wrote ‘Kind Woman.’ Steve Stills had a more soulful voice and also played guitar quite well.  The group's only hit single, ‘For What it's Worth,’ was a Stills original and probably the song everyone thinks of when the band's name is mentioned.  Neil Young, on the other hand, had a thin, almost whiney, voice, and a detached manner, that gave him a more mysterious vibe.  

  Buffalo Springfield Again Side acetate label-1968

(Courtesy of Jeff Gold and Record Mecca) 

    Neil Young was the most singer/songwriter type in the group.  He wrote a lot of songs that had a dark, personal feel to them and always seemed to stand apart from the rest of the band.  Like any good songwriter who plays an instrument, Neil had his own way of backing up his own material.  On the acoustic stuff he had a good feel for the hooks and liked to play on the down stroke of his strumming, giving him an ‘on the beat’ style.  The emergence of the singer/songwriter in the late sixties opened up the door for Neil to go solo and also to start his own band, Crazy Horse, where he also played a lot of electric guitar.  His electric style was generally brash in its presentation, using what we call "power chords" and a lot of distortion from his amp.  Many of his solos also feature down stokes with repetitive chordal figures.  Young also used a number of open tunings on many of his songs, the most famous of which is the D Modal Tuning.  It is the standard guitar tuning but lowers the top and bottom E strings to a D (DADGBD).
    Neil is a front man and it is always ‘his’ band with the Neil Young brand on it.  I believe he was the least likely to survive the Springfield band ethic because of this.  I saw them play early on at their fifth gig in Covina at Covina High School in 1966.  They shared a bill with the Byrds and the Dillards.  At the time, how would we have known how many bands would come out of the combination of musicians in these three bands?  The Springfield was new on the scene, good on stage and came across as a group to be reckoned with. 

Howard Kaylan: I did see Buffalo Springfield at the Whisky A Go Go. The band rehearsed in the house that Mark [Volman] and I shared in Laurel Canyon on Lookout Mountain. Richie and Stephen slept on our floor. I moved out after a failed drug bust—didn’t know if the house was being watched. Paranoid, Richie moved into my room and the group practiced and wrote there. We all knew well before they played show number one that they would be stars. In the Canyon, we were used to our friends becoming stars.

Nurit Wilde: I met Buffalo Springfield who in 1966 rehearsed at Barry’s house. There weren’t five guys at the time. Neil was like this tall, lanky, quiet moody type. I had a couple of girlfriends who had crushes on him. And I never did. Girls like to take care of Neil. Because even though he was tall there was something childish about him in his demeanor. I didn’t think Neil was terribly smart at the time. And he certainly was but I didn’t recognize it, you know. But when you look at his lyrics.
   “I did see a bunch of the first Whisky a Go Go Buffalo Springfield shows. There were a lot of girls dancing in front of the stage always flirting with the musicians, you know. Around Neil there was always an air of ‘who is this guy? What is he doing vibe?’ But he’s always kind of had that from the earliest time I knew him. He was shy.
   “Neil and I started hanging out. We would sit around. Musicians would jam. I was really good at rolling joints I just wasn’t into smoking them. None of the musicians would be discussing politics. Not at all. Even the girls around didn’t have any concept of politics. It just seemed to me that the music scene, for the most part was real onto itself. To me everyone wasn’t political, although Stephen’s song ‘For What It’s Worth’ was political.  
    “I recall a big meeting the band had at the beach house they rented on old Malibu Road. It was to be away from Hollywood. It never was a party house. Stephen had his motorcycle there and was always riding up and down. Stephen and Neil had a discussion about management. One thing I have to say about Neil that I admired was that Neil was very loyal. Stephen was pushing for the managers Charlie Greene and Brian Stone and Neil wanted Dickie to be the manager. Charlie was very generous. He was the social bug. Brian was quiet and did the books. He was the money guy. Dickie did remain as road manager but he was much more than that.  He was a very honest and caring person in a tough business to be in. But Dickie always brought a lot of the humanity. A good guy who really cared about Buffalo Springfield personally.
   “Richie Furay was always a kind and nice guy.  He wasn’t show business. He was a terrific singer. I never got close to Dewey (Martin). He was another Canadian but there was something rough about him. I went to his wedding and took pictures. I liked Bruce (Palmer).   
         “Neil and I went clothes shopping, once with Stephen Stills and Felix (Cavaliere).  I heard all the songs that were earmarked for their debut LP. I loved their music. I went to Gold Star. I remember they were not happy with Charlie (Greene) to be the producer. Charlie wanted to be the producer and Charlie wasn’t a producer, you know. I remember there was a lot of dissension there. But good tension between Stephen and Neil. I think it was the competitiveness. They continued that not only on stage with their guitar work, even though they were very different players, but they competed to hear whose song would be a single. They were both great writers and great musicians. And the music was the magic.
    I saw Buffalo Springfield at the Hollywood Bowl. Charlie got us tickets. I was up at the Greene & Stone office a lot. I met the Poor. Bob Lind. I’d see Buffalo Springfield all over Southern California. We hung out at a slot car race track around a gig and I saw them at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium.      
    “Neil and I hung out a bit back in Hollywood when he lived in Laurel Canyon. It was a little bachelor pad. It had one room. When you walked in it had a kitchen bar, a room with a bed and some furniture on the property of Kyo. 

Richie Furay and Stephen Stills @  
Shrine Exposition Hall Los Angeles - 1967 
photo by Heather Harris

    Dickie Davis: [Managers] Charlie Greene and Brian Stone came on the scene. I brought them. They’re hot on the charts with Sonny & Cher. I knew they could sell anything. Charlie was one of us, like it or not. Brian, not one of us but knew how to behave.

Brian Stone: Dickie said, “I have this act and they’re really great. And you gotta hear them.” Dickie, by the way, was originally a full one-sixth member of the group. Not as a manager but as the publisher. He suggested us. 

Charlie and I got blown away when we saw Buffalo Springfield at the Whisky. It was electric. They were all minors or barely out of their teens and we had to have all their parents sign and take them all to court. And we got them places to stay. Neil was quiet and shy. He was this extraordinary and co-equal talent and writer and Neil had songs. He was such a genius; Neil was writing this advanced stuff.

    Nobody in the group wanted Neil to sing any leads on songs because they didn’t like his voice. It was brought up in the studio a lot and in our office. Stephen would say, “I want to sing that song.” Originally, when we first signed them, it was written down that Richie Furay was the lead singer. But positions were still being defined in this group. Neil would say, “I want to sing this song. I wrote it. It’s my song.”

    We took Buffalo into the studio and made decisions about tunes, and what songs we would try to do. Neil Young and Stephen Stills were two sensational players. How they sung and acted together, worked together. Played off each other. I loved the bass player, Bruce Palmer.

    We had already been all over the world with Ahmet Ertegun, the founder of Atlantic Records, and we called Ahmet and got them signed [to Atco, an Atlantic subsidiary] for a big advance. Ahmet used to say to me all the time, that “next to the Beatles, Buffalo Springfield was the best rock group ever of all time.” It was very rare to have two—if you want to include Richie Furay as well, three—extraordinary singers and players in the same group. 

 Buffalo Springfield @ Hollywood Bowl on April 29, 1967
Photo  by Henry Diltz.

Dickie Davis: You gotta see that Greene and Stone’s contribution was strong. Their ability to have hits on topical subjects was known. And proven by Sonny & Cher. ‘Laugh at Me,’ an incident that Sonny wrote about when he and Cher were asked to leave Martoni’s restaurant because of their clothes.  And so, Ahmet Ertegun could understand when Brian or Charlie says, ‘we got this.’

    At the July 25th 1966 Hollywood Bowl show with the Rolling Stones Buffalo Springfield was on the bill. I thought we were better than the Stones. 

Jan Alan Henderson: Somehow, I managed to get into the July 25, 1966, Rolling Stones Hollywood Bowl gig, opening act the Buffalo Springfield. There was a trick we used to pull to get into gigs at the Hollywood Bowl. We’d hike up Outpost Drive to a street called Primrose Avenue. We’d walk to the end of Primrose, which was a dead end above the Hollywood Bowl. There were open hillsides that we would climb to the back of the Bowl, discreetly bend into the crowd, find empty seats and enjoy the show. That is, until the seat holders turned up. I don’t know if I pulled that trick, or had a ticket.
   There were three opening acts before the Springfield and the Stones: the Tradewinds, the McCoys, and the Standells. This was the one and only time I saw the Springfield live. To put it mildly, I was mesmerized. Even through the screaming chicks I heard my favorite Springfield masterpieces. Not many of the hard-core Stoneheads seemed to take much notice of the Springfield, or at least that was my perception of the audience some half a century later. I dug the Stones’ performance, but in retrospect it was the last gasp of the teenybopper scene. Within three years many bands would fade. The music would change and band members would fraternize with members of other groups and metamorphose into new and improved units.
    To put it bluntly, the Buffalo Springfield, despite their short life span, were an innovative force which were of their time.” 

    Buffalo Springfield started recording their first album at Gold Star Studios on Santa Monica Boulevard in June 1966. Engineers and owners Dave Gold and Stan Ross with staff engineer Larry Levine had welcomed recording artists from Johnny Mercer, Dimitri Tiomkin, and Eddie Cochran to Ritchie Valens, Jack Nitzsche, Phil Spector, Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, Gene Page, H.B. Barnum, Brian Wilson, Michael Lloyd, Sonny & Cher, Tina Turner, Johnny Echols, James Marshall Hendrix and Arthur Lee through to the new generation

Stan Ross: Gold Star brought a feeling, an emotional feeling. Dave Gold built the equipment and echo chamber. Gold Star was not a dead studio, but a live studio. It was all tubes. When you have tubes sound expansion doesn’t distort so easy. We didn’t use pop filters and screens around the microphones when we recorded vocals. Buffalo Springfield was a self-contained group. I was always impressed by the songwriting abilities of the Buffalos. Neil Young, especially. He had an unusual sound. Very nasal and country.”  


Buffalo Springfield

Brian Stone: My feeling about Gold Star was that it was a great studio. We did a lot of work with engineer ‘Doc’ Siegel. I adored Stan Ross. Fabulous engineer. Stan knew how to set up microphones.

Dan Kessel: I grew up at Gold Star.  My stepmom, B.J. Baker, recorded there with Eddie Cochran, singing backup vocals on his record, “Weekend.”  She also sang background on Phil Spector’s records and my dad Barney played guitar on those as well.  Years later I played guitar on Phil’s records but I performed handclaps on ‘He’s a Rebel’ when I was ten.  So, I was always welcome there as far as studio owners Dave Gold and Stan Ross were concerned.  One day I walked into the booth with Ahmet Ertegun and engineer, Doc Siegel and sat in on a recording session for the first Buffalo Springfield album.  The band didn’t seem to mind.
    I’d met Greene and Stone at a session before and respected their action. They had given my dad an inscribed 14K gold key the previous Christmas for playing on all the Sonny & Cher records.  I knew Ahmet too, who was like on a whole other level, but a cool cat.  Greene and Stone were always well dressed and had a chauffeur driven limo.  Same thing with Ahmet; expensive suits and chauffeur driven limo.  Phil was curious about the band and how the recording was going and especially about what Ahmet was saying.  I filled him in.  Buffalo Springfield, had a new voice and a new sound and would have made a good album under most any circumstances.
   The band was in good hands at Gold Star with Doc Siegel.  Stan Ross and Larry Levine were the main engineers there but Doc often subbed for Stan and Larry. 
    I vibed the creative and emotional tension among the band and between them and the producers, and the label and the engineer.  It wasn’t like horribly out of control but Doc, as engineer, had to keep everything straight technically while also having to do a diplomatic balancing act to satisfy producers, Green & Stone, label chief, Ahmet Ertegun and of course the Buffalo Springfield band members who were obviously talented, yet at that point unseasoned in their studio technique and artistically, not quite of one accord.
    Neil was using his mainstay, orange Gretsch 6120 Chet Atkins guitar, Steve had his Guild Starfire and Richie was playing what looked like an Epiphone Riviera or a Gibson ES-335, both of which have virtually the same body shape and sound.
     Neil’s voice was kind of like Roy Orbison going sideways, very compelling. Neil seemed to inhabit his own space, which is not to say he wasn’t communicative or friendly.  He and Stills were the most vocal about the arrangements and their sound and didn’t always agree on everything right away or sometimes ever but that’s not unusual with artistic collaborators.

Rodney Bingenheimer: Charlie and Brian were always at Gold Star. They always knew how to dress. They had clothes from Beau Gentry on Vine Street. I loved Buffalo Springfield. I always saw them at the Whisky A Go Go. It was a ‘jangly’ folk sound. Sort of ‘Byrdsy’ in a way. ‘Country Byrds.’ They would gig all over Hollywood: The Troubadour, Hullabaloo. I went to the recording sessions for the first album. Neil’s tunes like ‘Clancy’ and ‘Down To The Wire’ were incredible. Charlie and Brian were really good behind the board. I liked them as record producers. They were kind of mysterious and had a black Lincoln Continental limo.
   Greene and Stone were on top of it and got their people into the best studios and on all the best tours. They knew how to hustle and were really good on the telephone.
    At Gold Star everyone was wearing Levis and some buckskin things, Fairchild moccasins. Dewey Martin liked to wear velours. Always lurking was Ahmet Ertegun at all the sessions I was at from Sonny & Cher through Iron Butterfly. He was like a Turkish monk sitting in the corner. A guy with a goatee. He always had suits on. He came by limo. Some of the band would leave the studio and go back near the parking lot to smoke pot during a break when no one was looking. I think Ahmet went back there, too.
     It took me a couple of years to figure out he was the record company guy. Ahmet would never intrude and everyone was always around him and patting him on the shoulder. It took me a while to learn he had the checkbook. He grooved on the music. Ahmet did seem older than everybody. He was scouting talent. Ahmet wasn’t a snob. He was very approachable.

Henry Diltz: I went to Gold Star in June 1966 when they were doing their album. I had recorded there before with the MFQ and Phil Spector. I was in the room in July taking pictures when Buffalo Springfield cut ‘Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing.’ I met their dog Clancy in the parking lot.
Brian Stone:  When Charlie and I first heard ‘Clancy’ we loved it! That’s the first song we wanted to put out as the first single. We love it. And the other song we were fighting to put out as the first single was Stephen’s song ‘Go and Say Goodbye.’  
  And they ended up doing a lot of stuff all over town. Some places like Columbia also had 8-track.
    And let me say something about that first album, so you know the exact facts of it. Every single cut, we would mix every single cut 10,000 times. Not by ourselves but with all the guys there. We would never do those alone. Every single thing, and the whole fuckin’ band would be standing behind us. And then they would listen to it ten times. And we would re-mix. Finally, they all approved everything. Everyone signed off on everything. We would never put a fuckin’ damn thing out until those guys signed off. And we sent it off to Ahmet and he said, ‘The fuckin’ thing is beautiful.’” 
    Released the first week in December 1966, Buffalo Springfield was a decidedly mixed blessing. While it announced the arrival of a vital new musical force—a shotgun marriage of Northern folk and Southern rock, chiming Gretsch guitars and rueful harmonizing—the recording lacked the sound and fury of their live performances from managers/producers, Greene and Stone.

Dickie Davis: It was Ahmet’s choice for ‘Clancy’ as the single that August, the same day it was released Los Bravos releases ‘Black is Black’ and the Beatles ate up all the airtime available.     ‘Clancy’ sinks and drowns and the Buffalo is stunned. Greene and Stone thought we’re gonna release an album and have the next Beatles. Everybody is gonna be wealthy. ‘Clancy’ was poorly recorded. There were background vocals that never got put on because there was no room on the tracks. A poor job of recording and not a success.”
    Ertegun was even more taken with the epoch-defining Stephen Stills protest song “For What It’s Worth,” which was recorded just after the release of the first album and reached the top ten when it came out as a single in January 1967.

    “For What It’s Worth” was partially influenced or at least somewhat informed by two tunes in Moby Grape’s live repertoire. Jerry Miller and Don Stevenson’s “Murder In My Heart For The Judge,” (both utilizing the exact E-Major/A-major, folk-soul chord progression with a shuffle beat), and an unreleased Peter Lewis effort, “Stop.”  

Peter Lewis: Buffalo Springfield did hear us play ‘Stop’ and ‘Murder In My Heart’ at the Ark. Later after they came back to San Francisco and played the Avalon Ballroom, Stephen said to me, ‘You know, we just recorded this song (‘For What It’s Worth’) and after it was done, you know, I flashed on where it came from.’ I said, ‘who cares?’ It was cool. There was nothing to get into litigation about, man.” 

Dickie Davis:  So, Stephen comes down with a song which is vaguely reminiscent of a Moby Grape song. It was very close. This was not a song that had been taken to the stage.
    I remember, maybe after Gold Star, going to Columbia. They laid down the tracks. Stephen sang the vocals, there were some background vocals worked out, Neil’s contribution of the harmonics, were done by plugging straight into the board in the studio. The clarity of those notes has to do with there’s not an amplifier and a microphone involved. It wasn’t almost a technical decision. It was kind of like Neil’s gonna sit in the booth and do this,” you know. It might have been that simple. I loved the playback. It was a well recorded tune.
      “Neil’s contribution of the harmonics on ‘For What It’s Worth’ were done by plugging straight into the board in the studio. The clarity of those notes has to do with there’s not an amplifier and a microphone involved. It wasn’t almost a technical decision. It was kind of like, Neil’s gonna sit in the booth and do this. It was that simple.”

Stan Ross: On ‘For What It’s Worth’ it was a sound that I had worked on at Gold Star They called me late at night to go up to Columbia studio and help fix the song. I was in Gold Star with engineer Tom May working with Sonny Bono on a song, ‘Sunset Symphony.’ Charlie Greene and Brian Stone called and said Buffalo Springfield had wanted to cut that night too, but the studio wasn’t available. I then received a call at 11:30 that night. ‘We’re in trouble.  We’re sitting here and nothing is happening.’  Tom May and I went over to Columbia. The kids were on the floor, and having a good time. I have two hours and I have to get some sleep for a session tomorrow morning.
    “I left at 2:00 A.M. after telling them ‘all you got to do is put the vocals here and put some guitar fills in.’ We didn’t have 8-track when Buffalo Springfield came in, that’s why they went to Columbia ‘cause they had a 8 track machine.”
   “I heard the song and had a great idea for the drum rhythm. I thought the drummer shouldn’t use his foot, and wanted someone to use a hand mallet. We have eight tracks here, and I want to be able to put the kick drum on track boom ‘Boom boom.’ boom boom.  And I wanted to take the guitar and wrap some paper around the frets and I wanted a back beat. Not using the drum but using the back beat of the frets of the guitar. That’s a sound and technique I worked on at Gold Star many years ago. A very crispy wonderful sound. So, we put together the rhythm sound, basically. After we got the track sounding like a track at 2:00 a.m. I said, ‘look guys, all you got to do is get the vocals around here and put some fills in between the vocals.’  
     “The next morning, I got a phone call from (Atlantic Records) Ahmet Ertegun. ‘I got the record. The guy did a job in the studio, and I want you and Phil Spector to listen to two mixes. And I want you and Phil to tell me which mix you like.’ So, Phil came down to Gold Star. CBS sent over mix one and mix two. And Phil and I listened, looked at each other and agreed, and that’s the record that came out.” 
        In December, 10,000 units of Buffalo Springfield were shipped to radio stations, record reviewers, rack jobbers and retail outlets. “And then,” underlined Brian Stone, “Ahmet heard ‘For What It’s Worth,’ and said, ‘This has to be on the album!’” And by March ’67 it was inserted into subsequent pressings and “Baby Don’t Scold Me” was removed.

Dickie Davis: Now, it wasn’t a ‘Beatles-style’ dance tune. Which was what we thought we had to do to be successful. It was a protest song and Stephen, the minute that song was a success. He started complaining, ‘Everybody is gonna think we’re a two bit protest band!’ And I would say things to him like, ‘Stephen, you wrote the song,’ you know. ‘It’s a success. It’s a hit!’
    Even though in L.A. we had a descent following. The relationships with radio station KHJ and Ron Jacobs and DJ B. Mitchel Reed at KFWB helped and the KHJ DJ the Real Don Steele helped Buffalo. Nobody didn’t like the band. Barry Friedman actually sold his contract to Greene and Stone. We weren’t sold by William Morris Agency other by the name. Skip Taylor and John Hartmann. They were on the side of the band. William Morris is a good agency. The Beach Boys’ agency. Buffalo gets on The Hollywood Palace TV show. I’m on the slot with the band as I am sitting in for a departed Bruce [Palmer].”    

      It wasn't until 1969 that the Guess Who achieved global acclaim with their first million seller single, “These Eyes.”  The Randy Bachman-Burton Cummings songwriting team turned out three more million-selling tunes, “Laughing,” “No Time” and “American Women.”
    "You must understand the Winnipeg psyche," singer and songwriter Burton Cummings explained to me during 1974 in an article published in the now defunct Melody Maker.
    "It's not like growing up in London, Los Angeles, New York, or Chicago,” underscored Cummings in our interview. “Winnipeg is a small town. It's the prairies in Canada. Neil Young was in a group [the Squires in March 1965] with our [drummer] Garry Peterson’s brother Randy.”
     Just as Buffalo Springfield was initially issued, Neil played an acetate of it to guitarist Bachman and Guess Who members in Christmas 1966 when he came back to Winnipeg to visit his mom.
   Bachman suggested recording Young’s Roy Orbison-inspired “Flying On the Ground Is Wrong.”
    The Guess Who eventually cut “Flying On The Ground Is Wrong” and two other tracks in London at IBC studios, March 3, 1967. 

Randy Bachman: When Neil came back to Winnipeg with the acetate/test pressing I was absolutely blown away.  This was the kind of music that I wanted to play.  I particularly loved ‘Flying On The Ground Is Wrong,’ which to this day, continues to stand as an amazing song of lyrics, chords, middle 8, harmonies and guitar lines. When The Guess Who were in London 1967 and had a chance to record some songs there, I pushed for Neil's and we did it quite good.  It charted in Canada and was the first ‘cover’ of a Neil Young song.

    I remember playing with Alan and the Silvertones, Chad Allan and the Reflections (the Expressions), which were all the same band but with name changes, and also remember being introduced to Neil Young, who came to our shows at high school dances in Winnipeg. I had gone to see Neil and his band play The Twilight Zone many times.  Sometimes Neil would borrow our bass players Jim Kale's Fender Concert amp, which had two channels and two inputs to each channel.  All of the Squires could plug into this amp.  Neil would call and ask Jim if we had a gig on such and such a date and if we say no. we weren't booked, then Jim would loan Neil the Concert Amp for his gig.  Then we'd all go and see Neil and his band The Squires play their gig.”

    56 years later, Buffalo Springfield is still revered in several different configurations. 
    In 2022, I received an email from Marshall High School and UCLA graduate, author and novelist, Daniel Weizmann. He theorized about Buffalo Springfield’s work, impact and legacy.    
    “Earlier L.A. bands like the Byrds, Love, and the Standells exposed their secret innocence with every move--even when they were mugging blue-steel looks for the camera, Stones-style. Some of those bands contained members that looked like they'd wandered in straight from the local soda fountain. Even the Doors seem like a happy accident of youth at times, pink-cheeked college kids jamming jazz on summer break.
     “Buffalo Springfield on the other hand came out of the box seasoned, almost a pre-super group. Many members had been around the block, had flopped out at Monkees auditions and paid bar band dues. They enlisted Sonny & Cher's management team and could pull off a full-force live show.
    “Who else could play a complex jam like Bluebird--a pop-soul-folk blowout with acid rock frenzy, Gabor Szabo-style meanderings, and dense harmonies, all cascading into an Appalachian banjo denouement?
    “They were almost like the last soldiers standing on the Sunset Strip, and their composure was ahead of its time, the birth of rustic rock royalty.” 

Richie Furay: We were always comfortable singing someone else’s song early on. The first album and some of the second, you can hear the cohesiveness was a group effort, there was not the possessiveness of ‘this is my song, ‘this is my baby, ‘I’m singing it because I wrote it.’  The individual members brought their own take on what was being presented to the song. We liked the Beatles with John and Paul singing harmony. Stephen and I did a lot of that unison singing. That we picked up from the Beatles but then there was a lot of experimentation. We took elements of folk, blues, and country and we established our own sound. We were pioneers and I see that. 
    “As far as Buffalo Springfield’s catalog, why it still reaches people, I guess it has to be the songs. Buffalo Springfield was very eclectic. I mean, we reached into so many genres.   Look, the original five members of Buffalo Springfield couldn’t be replaced.  There were nine people out of the Springfield in two years. Jimmy Messina came in late in the game and did a fine job. I worked with him on Last Time Around.
    “I think we’re one of the most popular, mysterious American bands. The mystique has lasted for some reason.  Two years, a monster anthem hit of the ‘60s, but no one really knew us. Neil has gone on to become an icon, Stephen has made enormous contributions, CS&N, and look at me into Poco, which I believe opened the doors for the contemporary country rock sound. Our legacy speaks for itself.” 

Buffalo Springfield

Harvey Kubernik is the author of 20 books, including 2009’s Canyon Of Dreams: The Magic And The Music Of Laurel Canyon and 2014’s Turn Up The Radio! Rock, Pop and Roll In Los Angeles 1956-1972.   Sterling/Barnes and Noble in 2018 published Harvey and Kenneth Kubernik’s The Story Of The Band: From Big Pink To The Last Waltz. In 2021 they wrote Jimi Hendrix: Voodoo Child for Sterling/Barnes and Noble.

    Otherworld Cottage Industries in 2020 published Harvey’s Docs That Rock, Music That Matters.

Kubernik’s writings are in several book anthologies, including, The Rolling Stone Book Of The Beats and Drinking With Bukowski. Harvey wrote liner notes to the CD re-releases of Carole King’s Tapestry, The Essential Carole King, Allen Ginsberg’s Kaddish, Elvis Presley The ’68 Comeback Special, The Ramones’ End of the Century and Big Brother & the Holding Company Captured Live at The Monterey International Pop Festival.  

In 2006, Kubernik addressed audiotape preservation held by The Library of Congress).

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