Richie Furay is best known for co-founding two notable bands: Buffalo Springfield, which is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and for which Furay was one of the primary songwriters along with Neil Young and Stephen Stills, and Poco, which is regarded as one of the pioneering bands of the country-rock genre. After leaving Poco in the early 1970’s, Furay was in the short-lived supergroup Souther-Hillman-Furay, and has since released several solo records. His song credits include “Kind Woman”, “A Child’s Claim To Fame”, “Hurry Up”, “Keep On Believin'”, “You Are The One”, and “Let’s Dance Tonight”. Furay answered these questions by email on 1/5/12, and this interview formed the basis of a preview article for his 2/1/12 performance at the Maverick Saloon in Santa Ynez, California.
The photo (by L. Paul Mann, all rights reserved) is from when Furay passed through Santa Barbara last summer as part of the Buffalo Springfield reunion tour, as reviewed here.
Jeff Moehlis: What can we look forward to at your upcoming concert at the Maverick Saloon?
Richie Furay: I will be playing songs that span 40+ years of my career – something old, something new. We include songs from each phase of my career – Buffalo Springfield, Poco, Souther-Hillman-Furay and my more recent solo musical projects that include “Heartbeat Of Love” with many of my friends guest appearing (Neil Young and Stephen Stills, Timothy B. Schmit and Jeff Hanna, Rusty Young and Paul Cotton, Mark Volman and Kenny Loggins and many more); The Richie Furay Band Alive – and two devotional CD’s In My Father’s House and I Am Sure. Sometimes it’s hard to decide what to play and what not to play because we’re always writing new songs to keep us inspired as well. Also featured in my set are several songs my daughter Jesse sings.
JM: Can you tell me about the band which will be joining you for this show?
RF: I like to describe my band as a multi-generational, family band. It includes Scott Sellen (guitar, banjo, lap steel, piano and vocals), his son Aaron (bass), Alan Lemke (drums) and my daughter Jesse Lynch (vocals). I am very proud of my band, obviously the “kids” keep us “old folks” young and it so awesome to hear them play the music with such a fresh approach.
RF: It was a lot of fun for all of us. I believe the fact that there was no “agenda” made it all the more enjoyable – we just got together and played the music. Of course it came as a surprise to me that it would ever happen – but I’ve learned – “never say never”. When the phone call came to do the Bridge School benefit it was the furthest thing from my mind that we would ever perform together again. It was nowhere on my radar, not even a “blip” on the screen. It was from those two nights that prompted the seven shows last summer. It was so nice to renew our friendship after all these years.
JM: One of your songs played at the 2011 Santa Barbara concert was “My Kind Of Love”, which wasn’t on any of Buffalo Springfield’s three albums. Can you tell me about the history of this song?
RF: Obviously that song is very old – I think you will find it on Buffalo Springfield’s Box Set and on Poco’s Forgotten Trail – both unreleased on any other recording. As I look over the lyrics it’s obviously about a relationship struggling.
JM: Sorry, but I have to ask – what is the status of the Buffalo Springfield tour plans for 2012?
RF: There are no current plans.
JM: Going way back, Buffalo Springfield played many shows at the Whisky A Go Go in 1966, along with acts like The Doors and Love. What are some of your memories of that scene?
RF: It was sure a fun time to be a part of the music scene of the 60’s which had such an impact on American music and culture. If it would have been something we tried to plan – it would have never happened. We were just five young guys (well except for Dewey – just kidding) excited to have the opportunity to play music and have people pay to come hear us.
RF: A radio station in Los Angeles, KHJ had a contest – some listener would provide the lyrics and someone in Buffalo Springfield would write the music. As it turned out when the lyrics were submitted we were going through one of our more difficult times and there wasn’t a lot of time and effort put into the lyrical content (I’m not passing judgment on Micki’s lyrics). I’m only saying everyone in the band was pretty much off and into their own thing and there wasn’t a lot of interest on our part to evaluate the submitted lyrics. The decision came down to Bruce (Palmer) – he picked the song and I was elected to write the music. I think KHJ was expecting something more along the line of “For What It’s Worth” or “Rock And Roll Woman” – something geared more to the AM radio format; but that’s what I came up with.
RF: We were interested in exploring how to bridge the gap between country and pop – rock and roll. We both had country influences and along with The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers we pioneered a sound that would be significant for many years to come. Certainly the Eagles (Glenn Frey sat in my living room for many Poco rehearsals) perfected it from the R&R side and today, you can still hear the influence we had in the current country music. Poco, along with the above mentioned, was certainly the pioneer of the “country-rock” sound.
JM: At the time, Poco was sometimes called “too country for rock, too rock for country”. What is your take on that description?
RF: When you’re a pioneer, you’re breaking the ground for those who’ll follow. Because of that many times you go unnoticed and find that others are not yet ready to come along on the journey. We were doing what was natural to us – it wasn’t that we were ahead of our time as far as we were concerned, but to many we were and so we were told we were “too country for rock and too rock for country”. I guess that’s our legacy for the time.
RF: Steve Cropper is one awesome musician and a wonderful person. I’m not sure our “marriage” was the right one for us at that time, but I’m probably not the best one to evaluate our time together. My life was a mess at that time and it’s very difficult for me to reflect, objectively, upon the project we did together. If I remember right it was the record label’s decision for us to work with Steve. As far as “working” with him – there was no problem; Steve is a class act!
JM: Besides you, one of the pioneers of country rock was your friend Gram Parsons. Could you describe the Gram Parsons that you knew?
RF: Gram was a self-destructive guy. He was very talented but could not control his destructive passions and it led to his death. He introduced me to the music of George Jones for which I am forever grateful. My country influences were more of the rock-a-billy type – Carl Perkins, Buddy Holly, Gene Vincent etc. and to hear George Jones sing, well it just added another dimension to what I was doing.
JM: What advice would you give to an aspiring musician?
RF: Enjoy the gift; be serious about it but don’t take yourself too seriously.
JM: Do you want to set the record straight on anything about your music or career?
RF: I believe Poco has been slighted in regard to their contribution to popular music. Their influence goes without question yet, for whatever reason (there’s not enough dirt to dig up on ‘em; they weren’t controversial enough or they didn’t have the hit records – what ever excuse) they have not been given their proper recognition as far as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is concerned. I know there are a lot of bands worthy of this honor for their contributions (i.e. the Turtles, the Moody Blues) but Poco influenced popular music for decades through those who perfected and carried out what they pioneered – the country-rock sound.
JM: Where are you responding from?
RF: Boulder, Colorado – hope to see you up in Santa Ynez. Visit me at www.richiefuray.com