Los Angeles —
If you can picture all the freaks and gypsies native to this city’s “hip” rock and roll scene gathered together on a Hollywood sound stage and forming squares for an old-fashioned hoedown, then perhaps you can begin to grasp a little of what’s happening in Los Angeles.
In the past few weeks, nearly half a dozen “country” groups (C&W, country-rock, rockabilly, Memphis blues, pick the label you like) have appeared here and “country” seems to be what’s au courant in the pop music scene.
Actually, it shouldn’t have surprised anyone when the sound normally associated with Nashville and other points east and south made its presence felt in L.A. A year-end listing of the top C&W record sellers for 1968 showed Glen Campbell, Merle Haggard and Buck Owens in the top three positions, and all three record in Hollywood.
Others who live or record in L.A. include Roger Miller, Jerry Wallace, Tex Williams, John Hartford, the Everly Brothers, Rex Allen, Molly Bee, Johnny Bond, Wynn Stewart and, until recently, Johnny Cash. Plus … there are two 24-hour country radio stations, RCA Victor and Capitol (two of the largest producers of C&W music on disc), several country music clubs, two country music publishers (Central Songs and Blue Book) and the influential Academy of County & Western Music all are located here, all of which may be a natural outgrowth of the Okie invasion of Southern California that started nearly forty years ago and hasn’t stopped yet.
It was perhaps logical, then, when many established pop acts (from Dylan to the Monkees) went to Nashville to record, some of the new talent would follow the musical trend, but stay in Hollywood, where country music was not as alien as most thought. Thus four of the most talked-about groups in L.A. all recognize rock’s country roots. They are, in no particular order, Pogo, Delaney and Bonnie and Friends, the Flying Burrito Brothers, and Dillard-Clark and the Expedition. Still another new group, formed by David Crosby, Steve Stills and Graham Nash, begins recording in Los Angeles February 8.
Although Crosby, Stills & Nash (that’s what they’re calling the group) couldn’t be described fairly as C&W, there definitely will be a country sound involved, and it is this new “super-group” that has attracted so much interest in recent weeks, rather than any of the newer bands.
The way was cleared for this alliance to record last week when Nash, formerly with the Hollies, was released from his Columbia contract in a trade deal with Atlantic, who released former Buffalo Springfield Richie Furay to Epic which is owned by Columbia. Stills already had been under contract to Atlantic and Crosby had been free. So … Crosby, Stills & Nash will record for Ahmet Ertegun.
According to inside sources, the agreement finally reached “an exceptional six-figure deal.”
The band goes into Wally Heider’s Studio Three in Los Angeles to record a double-LP set, two sides of acoustical material, two sides of electrical music. Those recording with them will include Harvey Brooks, formerly of the Electric Flag, on bass; Paul Harris, also ex-Flag, on keyboard; and Dallas Taylor, ex-Clear Light, on drums. Sessions are expected to run 8 weeks.
Dave Geffen is leaving the Ashley Famous Agency to manage this néw group.
Pogo was the first new band to acquire some acclaim, largely because two of the members, Richie Furay and Jim Messina, are former Buffalo Springfield, and the Springfield (not too far removed from C&W) had a large local following.
Pogo is perhaps the most commercial of the four indigenous L.A. C&W bands (with Delaney, and Bonnie running a close second), combining, as did the Springfield, much of the country-blues vocal sound with a tight rock and roll beat. But whereas the Springfield leaned more toward rock, Pogo is aimed at C&W. In part, this is because the band features Rusty Young on pedal steel guitar, which serves as the band’s lead instrument. Young also contributes a second voice, to Furay’s lead.
Others in the band are Randy Meisner, a Nebraska boy who plays bass and sings most of the songs demanding the highest range, and George Grantham, a native of Oklahoma on drums. Furay plays rhythm guitar and writes all the group’s material, most of which is exceptional. Messina is the band’s producer, plays semi-lead, rhythm guitar and provides an additional backup voice.
Pogo recently signed with Epic–following gigs at the Troubadour here and the Fillmore in San Francisco–and is currently cutting an album. Pogo’s music is exciting and fun.