Today’s featured guitarist will not be on a lot of folks’ radar, even if he did rank 28th on Rolling Stone’s 2003 list of “The 100 Greatest Guitarist of All Time” and then 47th on the 2011 list. Not too shabby at all.
Mr. Stills has been around a while. While known primarily for his work with Buffalo Springfield and the Crosby, Stills and Nash (with or without Young), he was part of the house band for the New York City club Café au Go Go, known as Au Go Singers. While the groups name leaves some to be desired, the 9-part harmony was spot on. At least that’s what I read; I was way to young to visit. Plus, I lived several hundred miles away.
Since Stephen was a military brat (much like my boys) he travelled quite a bit as a youngster. He spent several years in Florida and Central America. You can tell he must have picked up his Spanish on the street and not in a class room by his basically unintelligible Spanish ramblings at the end of the CS&N hit “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes”. Having grown up in Miami I had many native Spanish (Cuban) speaking friends. Not a single one could figure out what he was saying. They’d get words here and there, but nothing that really made any sense.
Stills has said that he intentionally made the final stanzas unexpected and difficult, even using a foreign language for the lyrics, “just to make sure nobody would understand it” (not even Spanish speaking people).https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suite:_Judy_Blue_Eyes
As much as CS&N or CSN&Y are a mainstay of my listening habit, Stills solo work can be just as good, and at times even better. His eponymous titled first solo album features Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix, two other guitarists on this list of guitar gods. It also had his biggest solo hit “Love The One You’re With”. That track peak at 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1970. His guitar can also be heard on Bill Withers major hit “Ain’t No Sunshine”.
I think my first remembrance of him doesn’t even feature his guitar. It would have been with the Springfield and “For What It’s Worth”. Neil Young played lead on that one. I featured that song some time ago here.
Stills is known for using the “Palmer modal tuning” when playing acoustic guitar. I think I need to learn this method as he’s using it in the video below. And this is one of his songs that I have tried to learn and could never get it even close. I know he was using a different tuning than the standard tuning I was using, but still. Palmer tuning has the guitar set to D A D F# A D (or E E E E B E according to some places), whereas standard tuning is E A D G B E.
Stills received an Honorary Doctorate in Music from the University of Florida in 2018. I had heard that he was a political science student at UF but dropped out, but have not be able to verify that.
So here is Stills, solo, with 4+20.