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|Born||September 9, 1946|
Liverpool, Nova Scotia, Canada
|Died||October 1, 2004 (aged 58)|
Belleville, Ontario, Canada
|Years active||1963–1971, 1977, 1982–1986|
|Associated acts||Buffalo Springfield, The Mynah Birds, Robbie Lane & The Disciples, The Sparrows|
Bruce Palmer (September 9, 1946 – October 1, 2004) was a Canadian musician best known as the bassist in the seminal Canadian-American folk rock band Buffalo Springfield, who were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997.
Palmer was born in Liverpool, Nova Scotia, and relocated to Toronto in the early 1960's in pursuit of a musical career. He started out playing with Robbie Lane & The Disciples, then graduated to a local, otherwise all-black group fronted by Billy Clarkson. Next came British invasion-inspired Jack London & The Sparrows (which, after Palmer left, evolved into Steppenwolf). In early 1965 he left to join The Mynah Birds where he first met Neil Young who was playing lead guitar in the band. The Mynah Birds, fronted by future funk legend Rick James, had a bright future and were signed to the prestigious Motown Records to do some demo recordings before it was discovered that James was actually in Toronto to avoid serving in Vietnam with the United States Navy, from which he had gone AWOL. A planned single, "It's My Time" b/w "Go On and Cry", was withdrawn just prior to its scheduled release by Motown. Both sides of this single were included in the 2006 box set "The Complete Motown Singles, Vol. 6: 1966", released in a limited edition of 6000 by Universal label Hip-O-Select, marking the first time any of the 1966 Motown recordings by the Mynah Birds had seen the light of day.
The group was forced to disband, and Young and Palmer drove Young's hearse to Los Angeles in the hope of meeting up with Stephen Stills, a journeyman folk musician with whom Young had played briefly in Canada two years earlier.
With Buffalo Springfield
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Young and Palmer ran into Stills while stuck in traffic in Los Angeles, Stills having recognized Young's distinctive hearse. It was not long before the trio, along with fellow-Canadian Dewey Martin on drums and Richie Furay on rhythm guitar and vocals, formed Buffalo Springfield. The band only had one major national hit, "For What It's Worth" (written and sung by Stills), but in Los Angeles their popularity was rivaled only by The Byrds and The Doors.
Palmer was arrested on numerous occasions for drug possession. These legal problems, compounded by his predilection to sit at home reading mystical texts, led to his being shunned by most of the group. Another arrest led to his deportation from the United States in early 1967. Palmer was replaced in the band by a rotating group of bassists that included Jim Fielder and Ken Koblun. Shortly thereafter, Young left the group due to tensions with Stills, and Buffalo Springfield played its most prominent concert at the hugely influential Monterey Pop Festival in June 1967 with Doug Hastings and David Crosby filling in for Young. During his time back in Toronto between January and May 1967, Palmer gigged briefly with a local band called The Heavenly Government.
In late May, Palmer returned to the United States disguised as a businessman, and rejoined the band (Young eventually returned as well). However, the group had lost trust in their original bassist and continued to rely on session players despite Palmer's return. Meanwhile, Palmer continued to rack up a lengthy arrest record, which included yet another drug possession bust and driving without a license. In January 1968, Palmer was removed from the band and officially replaced by Jim Messina. Then, after embarking on a tour opening for the Beach Boys, Buffalo Springfield disbanded on May 5, 1968, after a final hometown concert at the Long Beach Sports Arena.
Palmer resurfaced in the summer of 1969 for two weeks as the bassist for Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young but was soon replaced by Motown prodigy Greg Reeves. Back in Toronto, Palmer gigged briefly with Luke & The Apostles in early 1970.
In 1971, Palmer released his lone solo record, The Cycle Is Complete, on Verve Records. Primarily consisting of three long jams, "Alpha-Omega-Apocalypse", "Oxo", and "Calm Before The Storm" (with an "Interlude" between the first two numbers), the album featured Palmer playing with the remnants of fellow L.A. psychedelic group Kaleidoscope, Toronto keyboard player Ed Roth and Rick James contributing jazzy scat vocals. The record has been described as a jazzier version of Skip Spence's Oar or Syd Barrett's two solo records—an aural, drug-induced nervous breakdown. The album was a commercial disaster, and Palmer seemingly retired from music.
In 1977, Palmer joined former Kensington Market singer/guitarist Keith McKie and lead guitarist Stan Endersby (formerly of local bands, The Just Us, and Mapleoak) in the Toronto group, Village, for some local gigs.
In 1982–1983, Palmer resurfaced as the bassist in Neil Young's Trans Band, and playing a mixture of Young classics and electronica-infused material to audiences throughout America and Europe, as seen on Neil Young in Berlin, filmed in 1982.
Palmer was inducted with his Buffalo Springfield bandmates into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997.
- The Cycle Is Complete (1970, Verve Forecast)
- Martin, Douglas (October 16, 2004). "Bruce Palmer Dies at 58; Buffalo Springfield Bassist". The New York Times. Retrieved June 8, 2010.
- Adam Sweeting. "Bruce Palmer (obituary)". The Guardian. Retrieved May 31, 2015.