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49 Years Ago: Buffalo Springfield Form

Rhino

The key for many an aspiring band in the mid-’60s was to take a few things from the Beatles playbook and mix in lessons learned from Bob Dylan. In short order, folk rock was born. The Byrds and the Turtles were among the many who took the genre to pop gold. It was from this seed that the Buffalo Springfield would also grow after joining up in in 1966.

Stephen Stills had made his way to Los Angeles and after a failed audition for the Monkees, was looking to form a band. He convinced his friend Richie Furay to join him with promises of fame and fortune. During this same time frame, Neil Young was also on the West Coast looking for rock and roll gold. Young and bassist Bruce Palmer had made the trek from Canada after their band the Mynah Birds had fallen apart. The duo were hard to miss, driving a black hearse with Ontario plates around L.A. Legend has it the two pairs of aspiring rockers met up in a traffic jam.

Young and Stills had met a year earlier in Ontario, and Stills knew drummer Dewey Martin — another displaced Canadian — and asked him to come to an audition. Martin already had more experience than his soon-to-be band mates, having played backup to the likes of Patsy Cline and Roy Orbison. In the Jimmy McDonough-penned Young biography Shakey, Young says, “It didn’t take any time before we all knew we had the right combination. These were people who had come to L.A. for the same reason, identical, all finding each other. Time meant nothing, we were ready.”

The band went from zero to 60 in no time at all, getting signed by Atco Records and releasing its debut album by year’s end. “The Springfield blew us off the stage,” recalled Byrds bassist Chris Hillman. “They were hungry and young and they just had the goods.”

And what about the unique name? “The name started as a joke,” said Young, “We saw it on the side of a steamroller. Me and Stephen and Van Dyke Parks were walkin’ along and we saw this Buffalo Springfield steamroller. ‘What the f— are we gonna call our group?’  Either me or Stephen said, ‘Buffalo Springfield!’ to which Dewey Martin replied, ‘Great man, a steamroller. Let’s go for it!’”

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