The Day Buffalo Springfield Played Their First Show
A band of unknowns fronted by Stephen Stills, Neil Young and Richie Furay played an unbilled first gig on April 11, 1966, making rock ‘n’ roll history. Even if none of the members went on to further fame, Buffalo Springfield would still be considered by many to be one of the greatest American rock bands, the nation's answer to the Beatles.
Atlantic Records founder Ahmet Ertegun, who signed Buffalo Springfield to the label's Atco imprint, said: “The songs they wrote didn’t resemble anything that anybody else was doing. They also had three outstanding lead singers who were also great guitar players. … They were one of the greatest rock ‘n’ roll bands I’ve ever heard in my life.”
Before they became the darlings of Los Angeles’ storied Sunset Strip, however, members of Buffalo Springfield were itinerant rockers and folkies floating around the country in search of their own personal promised land.
Stills and Furay first crossed paths playing in the Au Go Go Singers at Greenwich Village’s Café Au Go Go. Legend has it that Young and his bass-playing buddy Bruce Palmer were searching the streets of L.A. in their repurposed Hearse one day in 1966 when they came upon Stills in another car, stuck in a traffic jam. Young and Palmer were quickly recruited for the band Stills was forming with Furay, and when drummer Dewey Martin came along, Buffalo Springfield were born, taking their name from a brand of steamroller.
They later found fame working with Poco, Crazy Horse and Crosby, Stills & Nash, but only after pooling their singer-songwriter talents here, creating a revolutionary blend of rock, folk and country influences. Add their luminous vocal harmonies and guitar gifts, and its easy to see why Buffalo Springfield became a sensation on the Strip.
Every story has to start somewhere, however, and theirs began with an unbilled April 11, 1966 appearance at the Troubadour — not in the main room, but in the venue’s smaller front room, dubbed the Folk Den, generally reserved for ad hoc acoustic jams. It’s alleged that Buffalo Springfield were the first band to play an electric show in that room.
It didn’t take long for word to spread.
Byrds bassist Chris Hillman was at their first gig, and invited Buffalo Springfield along on a series of Southern California shows opening for his band. After that, a residency at L.A.’s Whisky A Go Go made Buffalo Springfield the hottest thing in the city. But it all started in a little room, with zero hoopla, and an unprecedented amount of talent.