Until recently Stephen Stills was one of the last remaining music legends from the rock era without a biography. Music writer and long-time fan, David Roberts, thought that he deserved one, so he set about documenting the Texas born musician’s career while the long wait continues for Still’s autobiography: The result was Change Partners, published by This Day in Music Books.
In a career spanning seven decades, Stills has played with all the greats. His profile sky-rocketed when Crosby, Stills & Nash played only their second gig together at Woodstock in 1969. With the addition of Neil Young, the band would go on to play the first rock stadium tour in 1974. The only person to have been inducted twice in one night into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Stills’ most recent recordings and live performances have seen a return to his roots with blues/rock trio The Rides.
Although born in Dallas, in 1945, the Stills family tree was rooted firmly in Louisiana. His early years spent traveling with a family which based themselves in Florida and Costa Rica helped develop an understanding of a wide mix of music genres that would serve him well. In his late teens his music education was further expanded by watching, learning and playing in the NYC Greenwich Village music scene.
When his travels took him to Canada, then California, it was the partnership with Neil Young in Buffalo Springfield that gave him his first major break. The Springfield were doing fine as an underground band with a loyal following on the West Coast, but it was his anthemic hit single ‘For What It’s Worth’ that broke the band nationally.
When personality clashes made it impossible for the Springfield to develop further, he teamed up with David Crosby who had been unceremoniously fired by The Byrds. When the two poached a disillusioned Graham Nash from British popstars The Hollies they soon found a sound and a vibe that would be imitated for decades afterwards. The Crosby, Stills & Nash debut was a personal triumph for Stills, who wrote and arranged most songs and played virtually every instrument on the album. By the summer of 1969 they were the darlings of the US music industry succeeding with that clever knack of being both critically acclaimed and popular at the same time. When Neil Young joined, a darker edge to the music produced Déjà vu a barnstorming release the four together would never eclipse.
Seeking to maintain control of the quartet was something beyond even the workaholic Stills so he moved to London to record solo, albeit with exciting guest contributions in the studio from Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and Ringo Starr, from whom he bought his Elizabethan manor house in the Surrey countryside. Tracks like ‘Love The One You’re With’ and ‘Change Partners’ further enhanced his reputation until Stills diverted from the big arrangements on his two eponymous solo albums and formed a band made up of some of America’s finest musicians. Manassas, featuring Chris Hillman, Paul Harris, Joe LaLa, Calvin “Fuzzy” Samuels, Al Perkins and Dallas Taylor, produced what many Stills fans reckon to be his best work. The Manassas double LP was four sides of rock, blues and what most would describe as Americana today. Creatively, Stills had reached his peak by the early 1970s.
When returning to the CSN&Y or CSN mother ship, Stills enjoyed and suffered all the pitfalls of the rock and roll lifestyle. During the mid-70s the four of them together were one of the biggest live draws on the planet. As a great songwriter Stills powers had diminished by the 80s although his guitar playing continued to improve and amaze. Famous fallouts and reunions continued until it seemed that Crosby, Stills, Nash and sometimes, Young, really had reached the end of the road in 2016. The latest fall-out this time seemed to involve everyone except Stills who by this time was enjoying himself performing and recording with a new trio. “The blues band of my dreams” was how he described The Rides. The band featured old friend Barry Goldberg and a young blues guitarist with an already big reputation, Kenny Wayne Shepherd.
Stephen’s live performances are limited these days. There is one event, however, that demands everyone’s attention. The 6th Annual Light Up the Blues benefit concert hosted by its creators and organizers Stephen Stills and his wife Kristen was unsurprisingly postponed in the Spring of 2020 and rescheduled for April 10th 2021. Kirsten and Stephen’s son Henry was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome from an early age and Kirsten became a prominent campaigner on behalf of autism science. The LA concert, to benefit and raise awareness of the non-profit organisation Autism Speaks, is due to feature, in addition to Stephen, performers including Jack Black, Neil Young, Willie Nelson and Stills family members Chris and Oliver.
Important Dates In The Life Of Stephen Stills:
10 Jul 2021
American fiddle player Byron Berline died at the age of 77 of complications of a stroke. He joined The Flying Burrito Brothers in 1971, worked with Stephen Stills's band Manassas and played on ‘Country Honk’ on the Rolling Stones' album Let It Bleed. He also worked with many other artists including: Bob Dylan, Elton John, The Byrds, Janis Ian, Willie Nelson, John Denver, Rod Stewart, The Eagles and The Band.
16 Jul 2020
Drummer Jamie Oldaker, whose career included stints alongside Eric Clapton and Peter Frampton, died of cancer at the age of 68. In 1974, Oldaker played on Clapton’s 461 Ocean Boulevard, the first of 11 Clapton albums to feature Oldaker on drums. Oldaker also played alongside Leon Russell and Bob Seger, with Ace Frehley and Peter Frampton, and appeared on recordings with artists as diverse as the Bee Gees, Stephen Stills and the Bellamy Brothers.
18 Jan 2015
American session drummer Dallas Taylor died of complications from viral pneumonia and kidney disease, aged 66. He is best known as the drummer on Crosby, Stills and Nash's debut album, Crosby, Stills & Nash (1969) and their follow-up with Neil Young, Déjà Vu (1970) as well as appearing on Stephen Stills' eponymous first solo album in 1970. Taylor was the drummer for Stills' group Manassas in 1972 and 1973. In 1970, Dallas sat in with The Doors accompanying John Densmore on drums. Jim Morrison acknowledges him on The Doors Live in New York album.
19 Sep 1979
The No Nukes concert was held at New York's Madison Square Garden. Performers included Stephen Stills, David Crosby, Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, The Doobie Brothers, Poco, Tom Petty, Carly Simon, James Taylor and Bruce Springsteen.
7 Feb 1979
Stephen Stills became the first rock performer to record on digital equipment in the Los Angeles' Record Plant Studio.
12 May 1971
Rolling Stone Mick Jagger married Bianca Macias at St Tropez Town Hall. The guest list included the other members of the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton and Stephen Stills. The couple separated in 1977.
14 Aug 1970
Stephen Stills was arrested on suspected drugs charges while staying at a San Diego Hotel after being found crawling along a corridor in an incoherent state. Still's was later freed on bail.
19 Aug 1969
Joni Mitchell, David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Jefferson Airplane all appeared on the ABC TV Dick Cavett Show from Television Center in New York City.
8 Dec 1968
Singer and guitarist Graham Nash left The Hollies and started work with David Crosby and Stephen Stills who went on to form Crosby Stills & Nash.
3 Jul 1968
At an impromptu gathering at Joni Mitchell's house in Lookout Mountain, Laurel Canyon, Los Angeles, David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash played together for the very first time. The trio went on to form Crosby, Stills and Nash.
5 May 1968
Buffalo Springfield split up. Richie Furay formed Poco and Stephen Stills teamed up with David Crosby and Graham Nash in Crosby Stills & Nash.
19 Dec 1967
Buffalo Springfield appeared at the Community Concourse, San Diego, California. The group became a springboard for the careers of Neil Young Stephen Stills, Richie Furay and Jim Messina.
11 Apr 1966
Buffalo Springfield made their live debut at The Troubadour in Hollywood, California. The folk rock band are renowned both for their music and as a springboard for the careers of Neil Young, Stephen Stills, Richie Furay and Jim Messina. Buffalo Springfield were among the first wave of North American bands to become popular in the wake of the British invasion.
3 Mar 1966
Neil Young, Stephen Stills and Richie Furay formed Buffalo Springfield in Los Angeles. 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. Its million-selling song 'For What It's Worth' became a political anthem for the turbulent late 1960s.