Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



An early folk-rock group formed c.1965 by Richie Furay (b 9 May 1944 in Ohio) and Steven Stills. After their stint in the Au Go Go Singers, Stills went to Canada and met Neil Young, then leading the Squires; then to Los Angeles joined by Furay, Young and bass player Bruce Palmer (b 9 September 1946; d 1 October 2004 in Ontario). In Canada Palmer and Young (before the Squires) had been members of the Mynah Birds, whose lead singer was the future funk star Rick James; they were signed to Motown and made one album, but their contract was canceled when James was arrested as a draft dodger and had to return to the U.S. Navy. In Los Angeles they recruited drummer Dewey Martin (b Walter Milton Dewayne Midkiff, 30 September 1940, Chesterville, Canada, near Ottawa; d 1 February 2009, Van Nuys CA) and became the house band at the Sunset Strip's Whiskey A Go-Go, exciting interest from the Byrds and others. They found their name on a steam-roller parked near Barry Friedman's house; he wanted to take them to Elektra, but the boys wanted fame and fortune and Friedman got stiffed by ex-Sonny and Cher managers Charlie Green and Brian Stone, who signed them to Atlantic. Their eponymous LP '66 had good lead singers in Furay, Stills and Young; the last two were also good guitarists. Their first single, Young's 'Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing' lost airplay (it contained the word 'damn') but Stills's 'For What It's Worth', inspired by a police riot on Sunset Boulevard, went top ten in March of 1967, its ringing guitar harmonics and urgent chorus complementing the plaintive lead voice; the mixture of electric and acoustic guitars with vocal three-part harmony presaged Crosby Stills Nash & Young.

The chorus of 'For What It's Worth' ('Stop, children, what’s that sound? Everybody look what’s goin' down') captured a certain aspect of the social unrest of the late 1960s. It was a laid-back record if you weren't listening closely, but at a time when the country was becoming more and more prosperous and most people should have been content, why were cops beating up kids on Sunset Boulevard? The band's best-known track is still one of the most potent artifacts of the era.

Problems among the personnel through 1967 blunted the band's impact; potentially one of the greatest bands of the era had no further top 40 hits despite good material on Again '67, Last Time Around '68 (the latter recorded with individuals overdubbing parts so as not to meet in the studio); Again particularly was regarded in retrospect as a classic, with sound collage collaborations between Young and arranger Jack Nitzsche in 'Broken Arrow' paralleling the Beatles' experiments in Revolver. Young left before the band's appearance at Monterey (replaced there by David Crosby, then by Doug Hastings before returning later); Palmer was replaced by Ken Koblun, then Jim Fielder, finally Jim Messina. On the band's final disintegration in May 1968, Messina formed country-rockers Poco with Furay, Fielder joined Blood, Sweat and Tears, and Young went solo before joining the supergroup Crosby, Stills and Nash. There were too many personalities in Springfield to make a stable outfit; their best work was transitional, leading to later better-known activities of the individuals.

Martin toured with groups called Buffalo Springfield Revisited and Buffalo Springfield Again in the 1980s and ’90s.