This Day in 1966: Buffalo Springfield Debut

Tuesday, April 11, 2017
This Day in 1966: Buffalo Springfield Debut

51 years ago today, Buffalo Springfield performed their first show in front of a proper audience.

It was at the famed Hollywood club The Troubadour, and the players involved – just in case you don’t know them by name – were Richie Furay, Stephen Stills, Neil Young, Dewey Martin, and Bruce Palmer. Their name was one that they swiped from off the side of a steamroller, but how they came together in the first place isn’t quite as simple a story.

Stills and Young had their first encounter in Thunder Bay, Ontario, when Stills was a member of a New York folk group named The Company and Young was fronting The Squires, a band out of Winnipeg. They got along swimmingly, discovering virtually from the get-go that they had a remarkable musical chemistry, but they didn’t do anything about it right away. After returning to New York, Stills decamped for California, with his buddy Furay in tow. Young, meanwhile, left The Squires, was invited by Palmer to join The Mynah Birds, and then the two of them soon found themselves in a predicament when their lead singer, Rick James (yes, that one), was arrested for having gone AWOL from the US Navy. Young’s solution to their stuation? To head to L.A. and go looking for Stills.

Dragging Palmer with him, Young and his traveling companion made it to L.A., but since he didn’t actually know how to get in touch with Stills or even where to start looking for him, the duo spent a week searching for him and came up empty. With the delightful spontaneity of Young’s plan having backfired, he and Palmer were on their way out of town, heading to San Francisco, when – and hand to heart, this is true – they drove past Stills and Furay, who recognized Young’s hard-to-miss 1953 Pontiac hearse and chased him until they caught up with him.

The next thing you know, Buffalo Springfield was born. Oh, right, we forgot to mention how Dewey Martin entered the picture: he joined the band on the suggestion of Jim Dickson, the Byrds’ manager, because every band needs a drummer, right?

When they played the Troubadour, they weren’t even on the bill – they played the Folk Den, the front room of the club, and may well have been the first band ever to play an electric show in that room – but they still managed to make an impression on at least one of the attendees. Chris Hillman, bassist for the Byrds, dug Buffalo Springfield enough to invite the band to open for his band on a series of shows in Southern California, which really got the Buffalo buzz going in earnest.