Among the first wave of American bands to become popular in the wake of the British invasion, the group combined rock, folk, and country music into a sound all its own. Neil Young, Stephen Stills and Richie Furay formed Buffalo Springfield in Los Angeles. Its million selling song ‘For What It’s Worth’ became a political anthem for the turbulent late 1960s.
Neil Young and Stephen Stills first crossed paths in 1965 at the Fourth Dimension in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Young was there with The Squires, a Winnipeg group he had been leading since February 1963, and Stills was on tour with The Company, a spin off from the Au Go Go Singers. Although the two did not see each other again for almost a year, the encounter left both with a strong desire to work together.
When The Company broke up at the end of that tour, Stills moved to the West Coast, where he worked as a studio musician and auditioned unsuccessfully for, among other things, The Monkees. He had been in a band called Buffalo Fish with fellow Greenwich Village transplant Peter Tork, and told him to audition.
Told by record producer Barry Friedman that there would be work available if he could assemble a band, Stills invited fellow Au Go Go Singers alumnus Richie Furay and former Squires bass player Ken Koblun to come join him in California. Both agreed, although Koblun chose to leave before very long and joined the group 3’s a Crowd.
In early 1966 in Toronto, Young met Bruce Palmer, a Canadian who was playing bass for a group called the Mynah Birds. In need of a lead guitarist, Palmer invited Young to join the group, and Young accepted. The Mynah Birds were set to record an album for Motown Records when their singer Ricky James Matthews, later known as Rick James, was tracked down and arrested by the U.S. Navy for being AWOL. With their record deal canceled, Young and Palmer decided to head for Los Angeles where they hoped to encounter Stills.
Roughly a week later, discouraged at having been unable to locate Stills and ready to depart for San Francisco, they were stuck in traffic on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles when Stills, Furay and Friedman, sitting in their white van, recognized Young’s black 1953 Pontiac hearse, which happened to be passing by in the opposite direction. After an illegal u-turn by Furay, some shouting, hand-waving, and much excitement, the four musicians realized that they were united in their determination to put together a band. Drummer Dewey Martin, who had played with garage rock group the Standells and country artists such as Patsy Cline and The Dillards, was added to the roster less than a week later after contacting the group at the suggestion of the Byrds’ manager, Jim Dickson.
Taking their name from the side of a steamroller, made by the Buffalo-Springfield Roller Company, that had been parked on the street outside Friedman’s house where Stills and Furay were staying, the new group debuted on April 11, 1966, at The Troubadour in Hollywood. A few days later, they began a short tour of California as the opening act on a bill featuring The Dillards and The Byrds.