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Tuesday, May 30, 2023

INTERVIEW: Rick Rosas on Buffalo Springfield and the East Los Angeles Music Scene

Neil Young, Chad Cromwell & Rick Rosas 
Bridge School Concert - 21 October 2006
  (Click photo to enlarge)

Here is an interview with Rick Rosas in ~2014 excerpted from UNO MUNDO (It Came From East Los Angeles) by Harvey Kubernik.

Many years before bass player Rick Rosas joined Neil Young, Rick was in the reformed Buffalo Springfield, and a tour with CSN&Y, Rosas reflects on the vibrant music birthed in East Los Angeles.

Rick Rosas: Back then, people didn’t look at a racial or geographical divide between East L.A. and West L.A. See, people didn’t look at your color back in those days. I remember being in Garfield High School, and [there were] maybe three or four black guys in the school, and you treated them like brothers. They were all very good friends of mine.

Eddie Davis and Billy Cardenas were very important. They would release stuff on their little private labels, like Rampart, and it would get picked up by a major label because it was making noise in L.A., not just East L.A. Then it became national, like Cannibal & the Headhunters’ “Land of a Thousand Dances.” Cannibal & the Headhunters and the Blendells were very good. They were mentors, also. We opened up a lot of shows for them, and they showed us the ropes. We listened to all the same radio stations. Even KHJ played our first single on GNP Crescendo.

And there was always Thee Midniters. The records did them justice. Little Willie G, oh man, he was an entertainer. I looked up to him very much. And the bass player, Jimmy Espinosa, I took lessons from him. He taught me how to read. Thee Midniters were big mentors to Mark & the Escorts at the time. Cannibal & the Headhunters and the Blendells were very good. They were mentors, also. We opened up a lot of shows for them and they showed us the ropes.

AM radio initially connected everyone together and then FM radio changed the world a lot back then. The sound was so much better. And, DJ’s like B Mitchel Reed would play the extra-long version of Buffalo Springfield’s “Bluebird.” It was like 18 minutes. Nobody would do that on the radio. “Where did Mitch get that?” That could only happen in L.A. I loved the Beach Boys. Even before Mark and I were invited into their “All Summer Long” recording session.

And when I heard the first Mothers of Invention album Freak Out! I then freaked out. Great. “Help I’m a Rock.” I had no idea until later that Zappa loved doo wop and worshipped East L.A. It didn’t dawn on me his link to East L.A. He had a song “St. Alfonzo’s Pancake Breakfast” on his solo LP Apostrophe (‘) although the spelling of the church is St Alphonsus Catholic Church. I went to with my parents. That hall had teen dances. I saw Thee Midniters and the Mixtures, another great band. Black and white. That was the first time I saw an electric bass on stage. “I gotta get a Fender bass.” I got one at Phillips Music Store in Boyle Heights on Brooklyn Avenue. I still have the bass, a ’64 Jazz bass. My mom bought it for me. I still have the receipt.

Buffalo Springfield had a big impact on me. From their first record they just caught my ear. I just loved the guitar playing and the singing. It was like the California Beatles. They were just so good. I heard “For What It’s Worth” the first time driving around in East L.A. We’d end up in Hollywood every once in a while, cruising the Sunset Strip. Past Pandora’s Box, where Stephen wrote about it.

I think at the beginning of Buffalo Springfield, Stephen Stills stuck out the most. His voice was recognizable. And then as it went on, Neil’s voice slowly slipped in. He didn’t sing much on the first album. And when he did sing, he was so unique. It wasn’t perfect but it was great. And Buffalo Springfield had Richie Furay.

And when Mark (Guerrero) and I noticed that their first album was recorded at Gold Star studios in Hollywood, we needed to record there as well. We were kids. I could not believe we were at Gold Star. It made a big impact on us. Anything they did we had to go and try and find it. Then, Buffalo Springfield Again came out and I had my mind blown. To this day, that whole album is amazing.

We went to the Springfield goodbye concert in Long Beach. It was pretty heavy. I was so young. It was really good. Some of the guitars were out of tune. Then they came out with Last Time Around. Definitely blew my mind. That thing holds up to this day. I love that album. “Pretty Girl Why.” “Uno Mundo.”

Then I heard the first Neil Young solo album. My favorite of his. I have worn out two or three copies on vinyl. Neil with Jack Nitzsche.

Then six months later, Neil and Crazy Horse, Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere. A whole other direction. Mark Guerrero and I went to The Troubadour all the time. Saw the debut of Neil and Crazy Horse. Fantastic. He started out acoustic. I think he did “Sugar Mountain.” And then they rocked for an hour. They sounded great. Of course, we went to the Greek Theater to see the first Crosby, Stills & Nash show. Neil was now in the group. We paid, but may have snuck in one other night. That first album kicked me in the ass. And Déjà Vu which was another one that blew me away. I just fell in love with it immediately. Songs like Neil’s “Country Girl.” And I was always a big fan of the Byrds.

Many years go by and I end up playing with Neil in his Blue Notes group. “This Bud’s For You.” I did play with Neil at a little Mexican restaurant nightclub in Montebello on Garfield Avenue. We went down there one night because the sax player, Steve Lawrence, used to play there. “Let’s play a little club.” “Hey let’s do it!” We were at SIR. Next thing I know. We grabbed a few amps and went down there. Set up and played. It was hilarious. Neil later did a version of “Farmer John” on a Crazy Horse album.

I subsequently played with Neil on his solo albums and tours. And then Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

Neil’s tours had Buffalo Springfield tunes but this was Buffalo Springfield. And the front line of Neil, Stephen and Ritchie. All during my tours and recording with Neil, he and I would talk about Buffalo Springfield. I never hid my excitement about Buffalo Springfield and loved to talk to him about that band, sometimes over a couple of glasses of wine. He embraced the band. He loved it. Neil would talk about it as much as he could remember. He drove around in one of his first tour buses with the Buffalo Springfield logo on the back.

I was already a graduate of Neil Young University. That gave me a tremendous amount of confidence to take on this job. Dewey Martin and Bruce Palmer were definitely part of the original sound. I did my best to try and emulate Bruce to the best of my ability. I tried to play some of the parts because they worked so well. The shows were magic. And Neil used some vintage Buffalo Springfield gear. A couple of his guitars.

© Harvey Kubernik, 2023

Also, see INTERVIEW: Rick Rosas in 2006 -  “I Just Wanted To Walk With Them”

Tom Bray, Chad Cromwell, Rick, Paul

Labels: , ,


At 5/31/2023 05:09:00 PM, Blogger Alan said...

@ Thrasher : Thanks for this! Rick has inspired me now to listen again to Neil Young’s 1st solo album, & all of the Buffalo Springfield albums, & CSN / Y albums. Rick was great and we hated to see him go, but the Great Gig in the Sky awaits music fans.

Your brother Alan in Seattle

At 6/06/2023 03:16:00 PM, Blogger Bethetrain said...

I had the pleasure of cooking for many of Neil's different bands at Broken Arrow. Rick was always mellow and would light up right after dinner, that is when the coughing would start ! Rick and Ben Keith loved them both.


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