Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Sometimes Young

Doug Christian takes a deep dive into the history of CROSBY STILLS & NASH, and sometimes NEIL YOUNG. From their performance at WOODSTOCK through their great career. Arguably one of America's greatest groups. -- TDR

The folk rock supergroup made up of David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash (CSN) were known as Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (CSNY) when joined by occasional fourth member Neil Young. They are noted for their intricate vocal harmonies, often tumultuous interpersonal relationships, political activism, and lasting influence on US music and culture. All four members of CSNY have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice, though Young's inductions were for work not involving the group.

Prior to the formation of CSN, each member of the band had belonged to another prominent group. David Crosby played guitar, sang and wrote songs with the Byrds; Stephen Stills had been a guitarist, keyboardist, vocalist and songwriter in the band Buffalo Springfield (which also featured Neil Young); and Graham Nash had been a guitarist, singer and songwriter with the Hollies.

Crosby was dismissed from the Byrds in late 1967 due to internal friction. By early 1968, Buffalo Springfield had disintegrated, and after aiding in putting together the band's final album leaving Stills unemployed. He and Crosby began meeting informally and jamming. Graham Nash had been introduced to Crosby when the Byrds had toured the United Kingdom in 1966, and when the Hollies ventured to California in 1968, Nash resumed his acquaintance with him. At a party in July 1968 at Joni Mitchell's house, Nash asked Stills and Crosby to repeat their performance of a new song by Stills, “You Don't Have To Cry”, with Nash improvising a third part harmony. The vocals jelled, and the three realized that they had a unique vocal chemistry.

Southern Cross

Achieving their Atlantic Records recording contract was an involved process. Stills was already signed to Atlantic Records through his Buffalo Springfield contract. Crosby had been released from his Byrds' deal with Columbia, as he was considered to be unimportant and too difficult to work with. Nash, however, was still signed to Epic Records through the Hollies.

Atlantic's chief, Ahmet Ertegun, worked out a deal with Epic's Clive Davis to essentially trade Nash to Atlantic in exchange for Richie Furay (who was also signed to Atlantic from having been in Buffalo Springfield) and his new band Poco. An entire sub-industry of singer-songwriters in California either had their careers boosted or came to prominence in the wake of CSNY.

Many of these musicians lived in or near Laurel Canyon in sunny southern California. Among those artists coming to prominence in the wake of CSNY include Laura Nyro, Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, plus groups like America, and the Eagles.

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