By PATRICK BUTLER
August 15, 2009
When Woodstock happened in 1969 it was a stop on a cultural journey
fueled by many musicians coming to revelations of their own. Kicking
off San Francisco's 1967 "Summer of Love" and the advent of the "Love
In" at The City's Gold Gate Park, was the Monterey Pop Festival. The
festival featured many of the soon-to-be standouts at Woodstock
including Jimi Hendrix and Stephen Stills (For What It's Worth) of
the Buffalo Springfield.
Many conjecture, with little objection, that Woodstock would not have
been possible without the cultural foundation that Monterey Pop and
similar events laid.
Singing "For What's It Worth" at Monterey -- a song that became a
cultural icon for a generation navigating its way through tricky
waters -- with Stills was Richie Furay. Furay, who would later form
Poco and be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Stills,
saw the confluence of spiritual influences in the Woodstock era
including the "psychedelic" drug LSD.
It was a time of searching, he told the Tyler Morning Telegraph.
"The scene was amazing and not just because of the all the music,
which was awesome," Furay said. "At Monterey I thought 'how many
times are you going to see Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, the Jefferson
Airplane and the Grateful Dead and so many others all one stage?'
David Crosby (The Byrds) joined us that night. I don't know how many
people in the audience weren't on LSD or stoned on something, pot
whatever. But it was definitely a time where people were asking
spiritual questions. Some of the answers they came up with were
pretty weird, but the questions were there."
Hendrix, Joplin, the Airplane and the Dead - and Stills and Crosby --
would reunite two years down the musical road at Woodstock.
In the meantime Buffalo Springfield had a hit with the emotive "For
What Its Worth" and ended touring with the Beach Boys who headlined
the tour in a twist of promotional fate. Spiritual ritual was
required on the tour, said Furay.
"When the Beatles came out with their Maharishi (Mahesh Yogi)
Transcendental Medit-ation teachings in 1967, people began to think
about spiritual things," he said. "It took for people to figure out
that just 'spiritual things' and things of God can be different. But,
I think now if that's what it took to make people aware of spiritual
things, so be it."
PLUGGED IN: A young Richie Furay with a Les Paul Delux guitar plugs
in during a 1960's stop at a music store. Furay, who played with
Buffalo Springfield, was inducted with the band into the Rock and
Roll Hall of Fame.
The Beach Boys, close musical competitors with the Beatles on pop
charts, also took to the Transcendental Meditation (TM) rave among youth.
"It was a crazy tour," said Furay. "Wild and hectic. Dennis (Wilson)
was still alive and he was such a character. The Beach Boys would
sometimes play three shows a night at different venues, something the
Springfield had never done."
Mike Love of the Beach Boys was especially devoted to the Maharishi,
as various forms of spirituality emerged in the music scene.
"A display of devotion was required to be on the tour," said Fury.
"We had to bring the flower and the fruit and the hanky and lay it
before a picture of the Maharishi, if we wanted to tour with the
Beach Boys, end of story. So we did."
As spiritual revelation is any form was widely sought in the two
years between Monterey and Woodstock, LSD, at first a legal drug that
brought hallucinatory experiences of a seemingly spiritual nature,
became prominent. Various types of "acid" as it was called, became
popular: Orange Wedge, blotter acid and Purple Double Dome, the
latter said to be etched into song by the Jimi Hendrix tune "Purple Haze."
Hendrix performed Purple Haze at Woodstock as he morphed into the
song without stopping from his now famous -- and then highly
controversial -- rendition of The Star Spangled Banner. It was a
transition not lost on those still searching for statements in
Hendrix's act. For some it still remains nearly impossible to
separate Woodstock from drug-induced "spiritual revelations."
Furay recalled the first time he was offered LSD.
"I was in New York City in the 60's, hanging out with Gram Parsons a
lot (The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers), because we both started
country rock music. He offered me my first hit of acid," said Furay.
"I remember looking at it and my heart was beating pretty hard and
something just told me to stay away from it, so I said "I don't think
I want to get into this." Gram laughed and said, 'OK, smoke this
then, and don't let anyone jump out of the window' and everyone in
the room took it. My job was to make sure no one hurt themselves."
But Parsons wouldn't "put down," which was hippie parlance for
stopping drug use. Years later it caught up to him, Furay said.
"The scene had definitely shifted to the West coast and we both lived
out there," Furay said. "Gram ended up dying a crazy death and
someone tried to take his body out the desert and burn it."
Reflecting on his friend's death, Furay said, "Gram was brilliant,
but he was the victim of an undisciplined life and he hung out with
some pretty tough rock and roll dudes who did a lot of drugs. He was
pulled right into the lifestyle. He wasn't able to control it and he
didn't have the people around him to help him keep it under control.
I was shocked when he died, but I wasn't surprised because of the way he lived.
Parson, who wrote "Sin City" and "Grievous Angel," died in 1973.
In 1969, the year of Woodstock, Furay wrote the hit "Pickin' Up The
Pieces" as the leader of Poco with Jim Messina -- who later found
fame with Loggins and Messina -- that formed when Buffalo Springfield broke up.
"One verse says, 'think it over, because we're all goin' home so
soon,'" said Furay. "It's a spiritual statement that reflected how
people were thinking back then. I didn't have any inclination to
think about God, but I was writing about it from my soul."
Stills was destined to sing at Woodstock with the hastily assembled
group "Crosby, Stills and Nash, with David Crosby of the Byrds and
Graham Nash of The Hollies. The nervous trio barely warbled their way
through a version of Suite: Judy Blue Eyes to the largest audience
they'd ever seen and confessed to the crowd afterwards "This is only
the second time we've every played in front of people. We're scared ____."
But the film Woodstock endeared the scared singers to America,
instantly making them, perhaps accidentally, famous. It was a fame
which eluded Furay's best efforts with Poco and later with super
songwriter J.D. Souther (Best of My Love) and Byrd-man Chris Hillman
in the Souther, Hillman and Furay band. The group had two albums and
then broke up despite being aided by legendary pedal steel guitar
player Al Perkins who'd played with Gram Parsons and equally
legendary drummer Jim Gordon, who'd played for Eric Clapton with
Derrick and Dominoes (Layla).
In this context of seemingly super-hero musicians, fame seemed
certain for Furay.
"The desire for fame drove me," said Fury. "I so wanted what Neil,
Stephen and Jim (Messina) had -- and I really believed it was just a
matter of time -- that I scarified everything for it."
But when Furay's wife, Nancy had enough of her husband's fame seeking
and walked out the door with their two children the spiritual seeds
planted in the late 1960's finally came to fruition for Richie Furay."
"Chris had brought Al to SHF to play pedal steel and Al was a born
again Christian," said Furay. "I didn't want a 'Jesus freak' in the
band because I was sure it would drag us down from the success I
wanted. But Chris knew how good Al was and insisted."
Furay's fears were confirmed.
"Sure enough, Al was talking to me about Jesus all the time. To shut
him up, really, I finally went to church with him with the attitude
sort of like I had done with the Beach Boys just to get on tour with them."
But when Nancy left, Furay fell back on what Perkins had been telling him.
"I went to Al and he prayed for me. It was like God was asking me,
"What do you want in life? Your name up in lights, playing at the
Hollywood Bowl or your family, where are your priorities?"
Furay prayed and said he'd even give up his beloved music if his
family would just come back.
"I had it backwards back then," Furay laughed, "But God is so
gracious. He had to show me that, no, he is first, family is second,
and then whatever he gives you to serve is third. But at the time, I
thought my family had to come first over my music."
Nancy did come back after a protracted -- and nerve-wracking for
Furay -- separation. Furay made good on his promise to God.
The man who helped jump start a generation at the Monterey Pop
Festival -- whose nervous friends took the stage at Woodstock and
received worldly acclaim -- quit music for good.
He eventually became a pastor in Colorado's Rock Mountains at Calvary
Chapel of Broomfield.
He's never looked back, he said.
LOVE AND PEACE
"God never takes anything away without replacing it with something
better he said. "I love being a pastor and I'm best at being one on
one with people helping them through their problems and to focus."
Best of all, music is back in his life.
"After 15-20 years, I'm singing again," he said. "I've reunited with
Poco, played with Chris Hillman, cut a few albums and have my own band again."
This time around, playing music is much better, Furay said. He
wonders about his former band mates, though, when he hears of them.
"I saw Neil on a Charlie Rose show and, man, his dad had died and
he'd a brain aneurism - a lot of tough stuff going on, and he said to
Charlie like, 'Yeah, I have faith, but I just don't know which book.'"
"It's like what a lot of people learned in the years after Woodstock
though," he said. "You just can't take in everything out there
because some of that stuff will kill you. You've got to be careful
what you hear and how you hear it."
And there is more than three days of peace and music to be had, he said.
"God wants to communicate with us, I mean prayer is a dialogue not a
monologue. I just want to tell everyone he's not a God to cower from,
but a God of love and peace. And that's what we were all looking for,
right? Love and peace."
Visit the Web at www.richiefuray.com for information.