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45 Years Ago: Crosby Stills & Nash Release Self-Titled Debut

Crosby, Stills and Nash
Atlantic Records

It was rock music’s first true supergroup, the near-perfect distillation of the vibrant Southern California folk-country-rock sound of the late-’60s and one of the rare records that lived up to the hype around it. On May 29, 1969, David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash released their first record together titled simply, ‘Crosby, Stills & Nash.’

The trio first came together through the old trick of meeting up at the right place at the right time. Byrds singer David Crosby was familiar with Buffalo Springfield guitarist Stephen Stills from bumping into each other frequently around the L.A. scene. Crosby had even sat in with Buffalo Springfield for a missing Neil Young at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. Now, Springfield was dead and over, and the Byrds had kicked Crosby to the curb.

In July 1968, the two men happened to run into each other at a party at the Mamas and the Papas singer Mama Cass’ home and began to jam on Stills’ song ‘You Don’t Have to Cry.’ Nearby, the Hollies’ singer Graham Nash heard what they were doing, sauntered over and asked the two men to play their tune again. “Stephen and I looked at each other and said, ‘OK, sure,’ and we sang it again,” Crosby recalled. “When we were done, Nash said, ‘Can you do that one more time? Just one more time.’ The third time we sang it, Nash joined in and added a top harmony line. It was amazing! It really was.”

For Nash, the chemistry was apparent immediately, “I am a harmony singer. David Crosby is a harmony singer. Stephen Stills is a harmony singer. We know what we’re doing,” he later explained. “There was something about us singing together that was magic, and we all recognized it immediately.” Stills, agreed with his bandmate’s assessment saying, “The blend was spectacular, yeah. That high English Celtic voice with David, you know, so real smooth, sort of Glenn Yarbrough kind of voice and my whatever you wanna call it. I don’t know, a gravelly little kind of style, but can carry a tune.”

Nash quit the Hollies shortly thereafter and CSN was officially born. What they needed now was a record label. After a brief period of interest with the Beatles‘ imprint Apple, the trio elected to sign with Atlantic Records. Knowing that they would need a steady hand at the wheel, they enlisted David Geffen and Elliot Roberts as managers.

Once the business end of things had been taken care of they jetted off to an apartment on Moscow Road in London and set about the task of writing new songs. Each member brought in their own material and worked it out among each other. Stills was responsible for ‘Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,’ that he wrote about singer Judy Collins, while Crosby brought in ‘Long Time Gone’ and Nash offered up ‘Marrakesh Express.’

The album was recorded intermittently at Wally Heider Studios in Hollywood from June 1968 through April 1969. Noted session drummer Dallas Taylor was brought in to fill in on the percussive end of the equation. “We knew who each other were,” Taylor noted. “We ended up jamming out at John Sebastian’s house and they asked me to join the band.”

When the album was finally released, it turned the band into an overnight sensation, or as Stills later said, “All of a sudden, we’re at Woodstock and I know what 400 acres of people looks like from a helicopter.” The record ultimately reached No. 6 on the Billboard Pop Album chart on its way to platinum certification and recognition as one of the greatest records in rock history.

In 2006, ‘Crosby, Stills & Nash’ received the requisite modern-day remastering treatment during which four new, never-before-heard recordings were added for inclusion.

Next: Top 10 Crosby, Stills and Nash

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