68-year-old Dewey Martin, the steady percussive hand behind the drums in Buffalo Springfield, one of the most legendary 1960s rock bands, died Feb. 1 at his Van Nuys, Calif., apartment. The cause of death, while not made public, appears to be natural.
Guitarist/singer/songwriters Steve Stills, Neil Young and Richie Furay, bassist Bruce Palmer and Martin made up the founding lineup. Conflicting artistic visions and ambitions — coupled with management problems — tore the band apart. Still, Buffalo Springfield introduced great songs like “Mr. Soul,” “Broken Arrow,” “Rock ‘N’ Roll Woman” and one enduring anthem — Stills’s “For What It’s Worth” — to the rock lexicon. It also established Stills, Young and Furay as top-rank rock musicians.
Buffalo Springfield set a new standard for rock musicianship, where bands had often left their instrumental tracks to studio pros. DJ and Hollywood insider Rodney Bingenheimer attended the Buffalo Springfield’s Los Angeles recording dates: “At the Sonny & Cher sessions and for other rock bands, I always saw studio players. But the Springfield played their own instruments. It was amazing.”
Rhythm guitarist and singer Richie Furay comments from his home in Boulder, Colorado: “As a drummer, Dewey could adapt to anything we might want to play: the country, the rock and the Memphis-style soul. He had great time and a great sense of what fit.”
The Canadian-born Martin had spent considerable time in Nashville, playing behind country singers like Patsy Cline. With singer Faron Young, the drummer eventually made his way West. In an oft-told story, Stills and Furay ran into Young and Palmer by accident one day in early 1966 on Sunset Blvd. and formed a band in short order. They had everything but a drummer.
“Chris Hillman of The Byrds brought Dewey to us,” relates Furay. “He had been playing with The Dillards, but they had decided to go to a more traditional lineup, without drums. Chris knew we needed a drummer and suggested Dewey.”
Martin had the ability to kick the band along on the brisk “Go And Say Goodbye,” supply moodiness to “Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing,” propel a shuffle beat to “Leave” and make the drums the lead instrument to “Everybody’s Wrong.”
“Dewey made it clear,” Furay states, “that he didn’t want to just play drums. He wanted to sing, too.” Martin’s unrestrained soul shouting on the Wilson Pickett-inspired “Good Time Boy” gave the Springfield yet another facet to its multi-dimensional profile.
Furay sees the beginning — May and June of 1966 — as the apex of the Springfield’s 11-month life: “The best time for the band was right at the beginning, when we were the house band at the Whisky a Go Go. We had the five original guys, and there was an undeniable magic. Whether we were the best musicians or not didn’t matter — we had magic, and we all knew it.”
Bingenheimer confirms Furays’s claim: “The Byrds had the same kind of magic, earlier at Ciro’s, when all the dancers followed them around from gig to gig. Then the Springfield played the Whisky and they had their own magic.”
While the band excited audiences, Buffalo Springfield’s eclecticism didn’t always induce handsprings from critics. John Gabree in Downbeat complained of Buffalo Springfield Again that the group “never emerges with a sound of their own. They are almost the Bobby Darin of groups … ultimately, the parts are greater than the whole and the album lacks focus.”
“The truth is,” Stills tol