Manassas (TopPop, 1972)
|Origin||Miami, Florida, United States|
|Genres||Blues-rock, country rock|
|Associated acts||Buffalo Springfield, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Pacific Gas & Electric, Blues Image, Joe Walsh, Barnstorm, John Sebastian|
|Past members||Stephen Stills
Calvin "Fuzzy" Samuels
Dallas Taylor (deceased)
Joe Lala (deceased)
Manassas was an American rock band formed by Stephen Stills in 1971. Predominantly a vehicle for Stills’ artistic vision, the band released two albums during its active tenure, 1972’s Manassas and 1973’s Down the Road. The band dissolved in October 1973.
Formation and first album
Manassas was formed in the fall of 1971, following Stills' concert tour to support his album Stephen Stills 2 (1971). While Stephen Stills 2 was Stills’ second solo album, it was his first completed following the acrimonious 1970 breakup of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (CSNY), and was not critically well received. After a chance meeting with Flying Burrito Brothers singer/multi-instrumentalist Chris Hillman in Cleveland, where Stills’ tour schedule crossed paths with that of the Burritos – a band that, by late 1971, had undergone multiple personnel changes and was in financial trouble – Stills saw an opportunity to change his artistic direction. He subsequently contacted Hillman, asking him, along with Burritos’ guitarist Al Perkins and fiddler Byron Berline, to join him in Miami at Criteria Studios to jam. Stills also invited several members of his touring band – drummer Dallas Taylor, bassist Calvin “Fuzzy” Samuels, keyboardist Paul Harris and vocalist/percussionist Joe Lala – to play at the session.
The musicians quickly gelled in the studio, and within several weeks had recorded enough material at Criteria to fill a double-LP album release. The band was capable of a wide musical range, with a repertoire including blues, folk, country, latin, and rock songs. Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman, a friend of both Hillman and Stills who visited Criteria during the sessions, was an early fan of the band, at one point expressing an interest in joining. (Wyman would contribute to the sessions by helping Stills re-write his to-date unrecorded song from 1968, “Bumblebee,” as the blues/funk tune “The Love Gangster,” with Wyman also playing bass on the track.) The band christened itself Manassas after Stills, who had an interest in American Civil War history, orchestrated a photo shoot for them in Manassas, Virginia, the site of the First and Second Battles of Bull Run (1861 and 1862, respectively).
The band’s first album Manassas, a double-LP sporting a cover photo from the shoot in Virginia, was released in April 1972. The album was well received, quickly peaking at #4 in the United States and achieving RIAA Gold Record status. For most of 1972, Manassas embarked on an international tour in support of the album, including television appearances on ABC-TV’s In Concert in the United States and Beat-Club in West Germany.
Second album, hiatus, reformation and breakup
Upon returning to the U.S. from the European leg of Manassas' 1972 tour, Chris Hillman took several weeks away from the band to record a reunion album with his pre-Burritos band the Byrds, an effort that also included Stills’ ex-CSNY bandmate David Crosby. Manassas then regrouped and quickly completed their second album, Down the Road. Initial sessions for the album were convened at Criteria Studios, but the band moved the sessions in midstream to Caribou Ranch in Colorado and the Record Plant in Los Angeles after Criteria staff engineers Ron and Howard Albert expressed concern that the sessions were not producing quality results. Down the Road was completed in January 1973. The album was released in the spring of that year to middling reviews and sales, ultimately peaking at #26 in the United States and falling short of RIAA Gold status; it was the first album that Stills appeared on since 1968 that did not attain the latter certification.
After completing Down the Road, Manassas became dormant for several months. During the break, Stephen Stills married Véronique Sanson, whom he had met in Paris during Manassas’ 1972 European tour. As Hillman and Crosby's Byrds reunion album was readied for release in March 1973, the band considered launching a Byrds tour in support. When this did not materialize, two events occurred instead that effectively doomed Manassas. First, Hillman accepted his management’s proposal to join a project involving ex-Buffalo Springfield and Poco singer/guitarist Richie Furay and Eagles songwriter/collaborator J. D. Souther, after satisfying Manassas’ scheduled touring commitments. Shortly thereafter, Crosby and ex-CSNY mate Graham Nash joined Neil Young and The Stray Gators on tour in support of Young's Harvest (1972). When this tour ended in mid-1973, Crosby, Nash and Young – encouraged by their management, and hopeful to realize the financial benefits of a possible CSNY reunion – regrouped in Maui to discuss potential work on a new album. The three contacted Stills, who, putting aside the differences that led to CSNY's initial demise, cut short his honeymoon break with Sanson to join the new project. CSNY worked for several weeks in both Maui and Los Angeles on the project, Human Highway, but these sessions were ultimately aborted due to various disagreements within the band.
Stills was greeted by several sources of turmoil upon returning from the Human Highway sessions to regroup Manassas, as, in addition to Hillman’s future commitment to work with Furay and Souther, Dallas Taylor had become severely addicted to heroin, and Calvin Samuels had left the band for personal reasons. Stills dealt with these issues by securing the services of Jefferson Airplane drummer John Barbata (who had previously replaced Taylor in CSNY during their 1970 tour and Kenny Buttrey during Young's 1973 tour) as a backup for Taylor, and bassist Kenny Passarelli of Joe Walsh’s band Barnstorm to replace Samuels. Samuels would return to the band for the last leg of its 1973 tour. Following the tour’s completion in October, Manassas’s dissolution was publicly announced.
One of Manassas’ last shows, at San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom in early October 1973, was made notable by the band’s being joined onstage by first David Crosby and Graham Nash, and, later in the show, by Neil Young. When later asked about this occurrence, Chris Hillman would comment “I could smell a CSNY reunion.” CSNY would, in fact, regroup for a world tour in early 1974. Following this tour, Stephen Stills would start a new band in 1975 with Kenny Passarelli and Joe Lala, but this was short-lived; Passarelli would soon depart to join the Elton John Band, and Lala would subsequently leave as well. Chris Hillman’s Souther-Hillman-Furay Band, which would also include Manassas members Al Perkins and Paul Harris (and eventually Joe Lala, who would later join Chicago), released its first album in early 1974.
Manassas is best remembered for their first album. Regarding their first album Manassas, Criteria Studios engineer Howard Albert has said “Manassas was one of the greatest and the most underrated bands of the seventies. That double album, along with Eric Clapton’s Layla – which me and [Ron Albert] both worked on – stand as the most important and best albums we’ve ever been a part of.” Of the band’s prowess on stage, Stephen Stills has said “Manassas was such a terrific band. It really had some structure and reminded me of [Stills’ previous band] the Buffalo Springfield at its best. Manassas could play anything.”
Original band members
- Stephen Stills, vocals, keyboards & guitar (CSNY, ex-Buffalo Springfield)
- Chris Hillman, vocals, mandolin & guitar (ex-Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers)
- Al Perkins, steel guitar & guitar (ex-Gram Parsons and Flying Burrito Brothers)
- Calvin "Fuzzy" Samuels, bass, backing vocals (ex-CSNY and John Sebastian)
- Paul Harris, keyboards (performed sessions and toured with John Sebastian during 1968-71, and sessions for B.B. King during 1969-70)
- Dallas Taylor, drums (ex-Clear Light, CSNY and John Sebastian)
- Joe Lala, percussion, backing vocals (ex-Blues Image and Pacific Gas & Electric)
Touring members (1973 only)
- Kenny Passarelli, bass (played with Joe Walsh's band Barnstorm)
- John Barbata, drums (ex-the Turtles and CSNY)
- Bill Wyman, bass (on Manassas)
- Byron Berline, fiddle (on Manassas)
- Joe Walsh, slide guitar (on Down the Road)
- Bobby Whitlock, (ex-Delaney and Bonnie & Derek & the Dominos) keyboards & backing vocals (on Down the Road)
- P. P. Arnold, backing vocals (on Down the Road)
- Sydney George, harmonica (on Manassas) and flute (on Down the Road)
- Jerry Aiello, keyboards (on both Manassas and Down the Road)
- Charlie Grimes, guitar (on Down the Road)
- "From Bull Run to Culpepper"[sic] - 2000
From label "Five Dolar Records" [sic] #044 (subsidiary of "Good Music UK"): combining material from 1973 live performances on the BBC and Germany's "Beat Club"
- Pieces - September 2009
Previously unreleased material from original Manassas sessions
- 1972 "It Doesn't Matter" / "Rock 'n' Roll Crazies - Cuban Bluegrass - Jet Set"
- 1972 "It Doesn't Matter" / "Fallen Eagle"
- 1972 "Rock 'n' Roll Crazies" - "Cuban Bluegrass" / "Colorado"
- 1973 "Isn't It About Time" / "So Many Times"
- 1973 "Guaguancó De Veró" / "Down the Road"
- Zimmer, Dave and Henry Diltz (1984), Crosby, Stills and Nash – The Biography, Da Capo Press, ISBN 978-0-306-80974-3, p. 150.
- Mendelsohn, John Ned (August 19, 1971). "Stephen Stills Stephen Stills 2 > Album Review". Rolling Stone (89). Archived from the original on July 3, 2007. Retrieved 12 January 2007.
- Zimmer and Diltz, Crosby, Stills and Nash – The Biography, pp. 148-149.
- Zimmer and Diltz, Crosby, Stills and Nash – The Biography, pp. 149.
- Zimmer and Diltz, Crosby, Stills and Nash – The Biography, pp. 154.
- A DVD chronicling Manassas' appearance on Beat-Club was released in North America in 2000 by Encore Music/Pioneer Entertainment (ISBN 13023-0506-9).
- Hjort, Christopher (2008). So You Want To Be A Rock 'n' Roll Star: The Byrds Day-By-Day (1965-1973), Jawbone Press, ISBN 1-906002-15-0, pp. 306–308.
- Zimmer and Diltz, Crosby, Stills and Nash – The Biography, pp. 161-162.
- Zimmer and Diltz, Crosby, Stills and Nash – The Biography, pp. 135-136.
- Zimmer and Diltz, Crosby, Stills and Nash – The Biography, pp. 165-168.
- Zimmer and Diltz, Crosby, Stills and Nash – The Biography, pp. 168-169.
- Tobler, John (1992). NME Rock 'N' Roll Years (1st ed.). London: Reed International Books Ltd. p. 255. CN 5585.
- Zimmer and Diltz, Crosby, Stills and Nash – The Biography, pp. 169.
- Zimmer and Diltz, Crosby, Stills and Nash – The Biography, pp. 156.
- Liner notes to the album Manassas, Atlantic Records, catalog no. SD 2-903, 1972.
- Liner notes to the album Down the Road, Atlantic Records, catalog no. SD 7250, 1973.
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