5 Things You May Not Have Known About Stephen Stills

Wednesday, February 7, 2018
5 Things You May Not Have Known About Stephen Stills

You may be familiar with this Stephen Stills fellow from his work with David Crosby and Graham Nash, or perhaps you remember him for his days as a member of Buffalo Springfield, but whatever you may know about him, we expect there’s still plenty you don’t know. As such, we present you with five things which we hope will qualify for the latter category.

1. He auditioned for The Monkees.

It’s not so much that you might not have known this as it is that you might not have known if it was actually true, since there’s also a recurring rumor that Charles Manson auditioned when, in fact, he did not. In the case of Stills, however, not only did he audition, but he also spoke about it in Harold Bronson’s book Hey, Hey, We’re The Monkees:

“When I auditioned for The Monkees, I sang and hung out for a while. They called me the next day to tell me that they were interested and could I come another day. When I came in, I got the feeling that they thought I was gonna happen, and they wanted to keep contact somehow, being up and coming Hollywood moguls. They were polite, and I sensed that they were more interested in me as a person. I was real up front with them. I said, ‘Basically, I’m not that interested in the show, but mainly I want to write the songs because that’s where the moola is.’ And then I said, ‘Listen I know another guy that’s a lot like me and he’s probably a little brighter, and he might be a little bit quicker and funnier.’ I had had that beaten into me by this guy in New York, for reasons that still escape me, that I was not funny, and I should not try to be funny. That’s when I suggested Peter Tork.”

2. He played guitar on the Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine.”

Stills’ appearance can be chalked up to an elaborate case of being in the right place at the right time: Withers’ album was being produced by Booker T. Jones, so Booker T. and the M.G.’s were playing on the album, but Steve Cropper wasn’t available to participate in the sessions, so Stills stepped in. Another tie involved engineer Bill Halverson, who happened to be in the middle of working on Stills’ first record at the time, and Stills had been hanging out with Rita Coolidge, whose sister was engaged to marry Booker T. Man oh man, the music industry sure is a small world…

3. He played on a Bee Gees album, and Andy Gibb sang on one of his albums.

You’d never known it to hear the song, but Stills visited the studio while the Bee Gees were recording their 1976 album CHILDREN OF THE WORLD, and while he was there, he contributed percussion to their hit single “You Should Be Dancing” while also co-writing a song with Barry Gibb called “Walk Before You Run.” Alas, if the song was ever recorded, it’s never surfaced, but Stills did end up getting some Gibb assistance on his own album: Andy Gibb contributed backing vocals to two songs (“You Can’t Dance Alone” and “What’s The Game”) on 1978’s THOROUGHFARE GAP.

4. He collaborated with Public Enemy.

When Public Enemy performed the title track for Spike Lee’s He Got Game, they built the song around a very recognizable sample from Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth.” Given today’s litigious society, it’s no surprise that the group had to get Stills to sign off on the use of the sample, but the song actually features Stills singing the first verse and chorus of the original tune. Not only that, but Stills turns up in the video. Talk about two words colliding…

5. Tony Bennett once gave him two invaluable pieces of advice that have helped him continue his career.

In an interview with Performing Songwriter, Stills related an anecdote about how he ended up spending 45 minutes in conversation with Bennett backstage at a fund raiser for Bill Clinton when Clinton was – in Stills’ words – “late beyond rock ‘n’ roll late.” During the course of their conversation, Bennett gave Stills two pearls of wisdom: never be afraid to lower the key, and never be afraid to use a TelePrompter. “That was the secret to a long career,” laughed Stills. “I’ve found both to be true.”

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