Flashback: The Stills/Young Band Plays ‘Cowgirl in the Sand’ in 1976
Stephen Stills couldn’t have been surprised when Neil Young walked away from the Stills/Young Band’s 1976 summer tour after just 18 shows, famously sending him a note that read: “Dear Stephen, funny how things that start spontaneously end that way. Eat a Peach, Neil.” Not only did he leave fans all over the country with tickets for concerts that weren’t going to happen, but promoters had signed contracts and were threatening to file lawsuits.
It was a mess, but back in the Buffalo Springfield days a decade earlier Young managed to quit the band three separate times even though the group lasted just two years. That didn’t stop Stephen Stills from inviting him to join Crosby, Stills and Nash in the summer of 1969, only to see that group grind to a halt just 12 months later amid clashing egos and growing drug consumptions. They regrouped for a reunion tour four years later, but their attempts to follow it up with a new LP fell apart when Young decided he’d rather work with Stills alone. Crosby and Nash had the last laugh when Young quit the tour to reunite with Crazy Horse, forcing Stills to return to them with his between his legs the following years and beg forgiveness.
Before the Stills/Young Band’s tour imploded they played some cool shows, backed by organist Jerry Aiello, bassist George Perry, percussionist Joe Lala and drummer Joe Vitale. Their set mixed CSNY tunes (“Ohio,” “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes”) with Buffalo Springfield songs (“On the Way Home,” “For What It’s Worth”) with tracks from their solo careers (“Love the One You’re With,” “Heart of Gold” and “Old Man.”) Here’s a smoking rendition of “Cowgirl in the Sand” from the June 27th, 1976 show in Springfield, Massachusetts.
The Stills/Young Band was the last time that Young found a way to mess up Stills’ life for quite a few years. The CSNY reunion tours of 2000, 2002 and 2006 went off without a hitch, though when Buffalo Springfield reunited in 2011, Young once again walked away from a tour, but this time actual dates hadn’t been announced yet, let alone been put on sale. “We were supposed to work for most of the summer,” Stills told Rolling Stone in 2012. “It left me in a lurch for three quarters and ruined my financial planning. Also, 150 people got laid off that were supposed to work on the tour.”
But Stills and Young can’t seem to quit each other. CSNY reunited for the Bridge School Benefit in 2013, and Stills and Young played together these past two years at the Light Up the Blues benefit in Los Angeles, happily trading licks and singing the classics. Young moved to Los Angeles full-time a couple of years ago, and earlier this year he told Rolling Stone he’s been hanging out with Stills. Young has no official plans for 2017 yet. Maybe they’ll finally get around to finishing the 1976 Stills/Young Band tour.
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