Stephen Stills - master of the 12 string guitar
Stephen Stills' music has spanned generations and cultural borders, entertaining millions of listeners for over 40 years. His unique guitar style and phrasing has given Stills a well deserved spot among the best players in the world. Not many twelve string guitarists can replicate some of Stills more complicated tunes - he seems to have his own rhythm that sometimes defies percussion, and sometimes creates its' own percussion in his unique strumming style.
Born in Dallas, Stills was inspired first by church music. He took piano lessons, later developing an interest in drums and guitar. By the time he reached high school his family had moved to Panama and later to Costa Rica, where Stills' musical roots were heavily influenced by Latin music.
After a short stint at the University of Florida, Stills began playing in a succession of bands in the Tampa area. One of the bands was The Continentals, featuring future Eagle Don Felder. Stills soon gravitated to New Orleans, playing the folk circuit on Royal Street, and later to Greenwich Village in New York, where the great sixties folk scare was starting. A guitarist named Fred Neil became Stills' mentor, introducing him to the full sound of the twelve string guitar.
Stills hooked up with a group called the Au Go Go Singers, featuring Richie Furay. While in Canada performing Stills shared the stage with Neil Young. The two hit it off and agreed to work together, but by the time Stephen had everything set up, Neil couldn't be found. Then one day in 1966, Stills and Richie Furay were driving around when they spotted a hearse with Ontario plates. Behind the wheel was Neil Young, next to him bass player Bruce Palmer. Buffalo Springfield was born. Stills and Young proved to be a fiery combination of two very distinct guitar styles. Their self-titled album was released that year with all tracks written by Stills or Young. But it was Still's "For What It's Worth" that became an anthem of the sixties.
After Buffalo Springfield broke up, Stills was smoking weed with Dave Crosby and Graham Nash one night and the guitars came out. The harmony was magical, and all three dropped all other projects immediately. Their first album, Crosby Stills and Nash, sold over 2 million copies the first year. Stephen got Neil Young involved for the band's second live performance, the Woodstock Music Festival in upstate New York. In 1970, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young released the Déjà Vu LP. The recording was voted album of the year by Billboard Magazine.
CSN&Y drifted apart during the seventies, as the band continued to record in different combinations. Stephen Stills' first solo album featured such superstars as Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and Ringo Starr. "Love The One Your With" sold millions of singles and the album went platinum. When Stills returned to the studio he was joined by Chris Hillman of the Flying Burrito Brothers and legendary pedal steel guitarist Al Perkins. The result of their collaboration, Manassas, is arguably some of Stills' finest work. When Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young reunited in 1974 it became one of rock music's most successful tours ever. 80% of the shows were sold out.
Stills continued to collaborate with Young even as he embarked upon a solo acoustic tour, the first of his career. His fourth solo album, Illegal Stills, was released toward the end of 1976, a month after he and Young released "Long May You Run". In 1977, Stills rejoined David Crosby and Graham Nash in a Los Angeles studio. The album CSN went multi-platinum, yielding three hit singles: "Just a Song Before I Go", "Fair Game" and "Dark Star". The band toured, with Stills finding time to return to the studio to record his fifth solo album, Thoroughfare Gap.
In 1979, Stills found himself with a rare opportunity to share his passion for Latin music with a country that had barred American citizens for years. The Cuban government invited him to perform in the first Cuban-American music festival since Fidel Castro came to power. Stills received a wildly enthusiastic reception at the Havana Jazz/Rock Festival.
After recording his sixth solo album, Right By You, in 1984 with Manassas partner Chris Hillman and Led Zeppelin's legendary Jimmy Page, Stills continued to perform live with CSN. The band's popularity culminated into two of the most successful tours of their careers.
Firmly established as a brilliant solo performer, and a vigilant supporter of the environment, free speech and human rights, Stephen Stills continued to grow both as a musician and as an activist for social and political change. In 1984, he turned his attention to film and television scoring, writing two songs for the CBS-TV series "Twilight Zone" and the theme for Tri-Star pictures film "Amazing Grace and Chuck" along with Graham Nash and David Crosby.
Through the mid-80's and into the 90's, Stills continued to lend his support to countless benefits. Along with Crosby and Nash, he performed at the Live Aid benefit in 1985, the Welcome Home concert for Vietnam Veterans at RFK Stadium and the Hunger-thon for UNICEF and Children of the Americas. The band even appeared at the dismantling of the Berlin Wall to celebrate the liberation of those living behind the Iron Curtain.
1994 was a busy year for Stills. CSN celebrated their 25th anniversary by performing over 60 dates during a summer tour, including headlining the Second Woodstock Music Festival and also released After The Storm, an album of new material, on Atlantic Records. This critically acclaimed tour found Stills playing some of the best guitar of his career.
In May of 1997, Stephen Stills joined fellow guitar player alumni, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix, in the prestigious Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The date also marked the first time that an artist was inducted into the Hall of Fame twice in one night; as a member of Buffalo Springfield and also with Crosby, Stills and Nash. Stills is the only inductee to receive such an honor. In addition to an entire summer of touring with Crosby and Nash, including a six date, sold out run at the historic Fillmore in San Francisco, Stephen completed a project for the Animal Planet.
Stills' son, Justin Stills, was badly injured at age 26 snowboarding in Lake Tahoe in 1997; an episode of The Learning Channel's documentary series Trauma: Life in the ER featured his treatment and recovery. Another son, Henry, has been diagnosed with Asperger syndrome, and is profiled in "Autism: The Musical," a documentary. His son Chris and daughter Jennifer are both recording artists. His youngest son, Oliver Ragland, was born in 2004 and named in honor of Stills close friend Neil Young, whose maternal family name is Ragland. On May 28, 2007, Stills sang the National Anthem for Game 1 of the 2007 Stanley Cup Finals in Anaheim, California.
Earlier this year, Rhino Records located and released a long-forgotten album of high quality bootleg tunes recorded with Stills former soulmate Judy Collins in 1968. She was the subject of the classic CSN hit "Suite Judy Blue Eyes". The session occurred when Stills, in NYC to visit Collins after a recording session, slipped the sound engineer a $100 bill and told him "just keep the tape rolling", and played a 90 minute set of his original tunes - some of which were later recorded, some never released. Stills purists say it is possibly his best work. But Stephen Stills is not through yet. He is reportedly currently working at his home in Nevada on a solo album that will be released sometime during 2008. Can't hardly wait. (GATOR - TXHOME.ORG)