The Day Buffalo Springfield Played Their First Show
On April 11, 1966, a band of unknowns fronted by Stephen Stills, Neil Young and Richie Furay played an unbilled first gig, and ended up making rock ‘n’ roll history. Even if none of the members had gone 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 the band to Atlantic’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.”
But before they became the darlings of Los Angeles’ storied Sunset Strip, the 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.
When the men -- who later found fame working with Poco, Crazy Horse and Crosby, Stills & Nash -- pooled their singer-songwriter talents, they created a revolutionary blend of rock, folk and country influences. Add their luminous vocal harmonies and guitar gifts, and its easy to see why they became a sensation on the Strip. But every story has to start somewhere, and theirs began with an unbilled April 11 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 they 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 that first gig, and invited them 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 them the hottest thing in the city. But it all started in a little room, with zero hoopla, and an unprecedented amount of talent.