The Stray Gators

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The Stray Gators
Years active1971–1973; 1992
Associated actsNeil Young
Past membersBen Keith
Jack Nitzsche
Tim Drummond
Kenny Buttrey
Johnny Barbata
Spooner Oldham

The Stray Gators was the name given by Neil Young to his supporting musicians from 1971–1973 and who backed him on the albums Harvest (1972) and Time Fades Away (1973).[1] It consisted of Jack Nitzsche (piano), Ben Keith (steel guitar), Tim Drummond (bass) and Kenny Buttrey (drums) (the latter replaced during the 1973 Time Fades Away tour by Johnny Barbata).


While in Nashville to tape an episode of The Johnny Cash Show, Young was convinced to record some of his new tracks in Elliot Mazer's Quadrafonic Sound Studios.[2] Since it was a Saturday night, Mazer scrambled to find musicians who were not working that night and was able to bring in Drummond, Keith, and Buttrey. Over two nights they recorded four tracks that would end up on Harvest.

Young then used frequent collaborator Nitzsche to arrange and produce two tracks with an orchestra. He then brought the three Nashville musicians plus Nitzsche to his ranch in California to record the three electric-guitar songs in his barn. At some point, he dubbed this new group The Stray Gators.

After the release of Harvest, they appeared on the "War Song" single, credited to Young and Graham Nash. Outtakes from the Harvest sessions later appeared on the Journey Through the Past soundtrack and The Archives Vol. 1 1963-1972. Additionally, the band appears on the Tonight's the Night song "Lookout Joe" which was recorded in late 1972.

In 1973, they backed Young on his Time Fades Away tour, though Buttrey was replaced mid-tour and on the album Time Fades Away by Johnny Barbata.[3] They ceased to operate as a unit after that tour. Drummond and Keith continued to work individually with Young on subsequent projects.

Young reconvened The Stray Gators for his 1992 Harvest Moon album, with Spooner Oldham replacing Nitzsche on keyboards.[4] Nitzsche, however, did arrange the strings on "Such a Woman", as he had done on Harvest (on "A Man Needs A Maid" and "There's A World").

Past members[edit]

Former members
Alternate or additional members


  1. ^ Pinnock, Tom (January 30, 2012). "Neil Young's 'Time Fades Away': 'Harvest"s unlikely follow-up". Uncut. Retrieved October 16, 2018.
  2. ^ Perrone, Pierre (August 3, 2010). "Ben Keith: Multi-instrumentalist, producer and integral member of Neil Young's band". The Independent. Retrieved October 16, 2018.
  3. ^ Karn, Ed (September 15, 2012). "In Memory of Johnny Cash and Kenny Buttrey". No Depression. Retrieved October 16, 2018.
  4. ^ Kot, Greg (November 26, 1992). "Harvest Moon". Rolling Stone. Retrieved October 16, 2018.