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GLENN FREY, singer-songwriter-guitarist, the Eagles: My very first day in California, I drove up La Cienega to Sunset Boulevard, turned right, drove to Laurel Canyon, and the first person I saw standing on the porch at the Canyon Store was David Crosby. JONI MITCHELL: My dining room looked out over Frank Zappa's duck pond, and once when my mother was visiting, three naked girls were floating around on a raft in the pond. In the upper hills the Buffalo Springfield were playing, and in the afternoon there was just a cacophony of young bands rehearsing.
He was dressed exactly the way he was on the second Byrds album—that cape, and the flat wide-brimmed hat. At night it was quiet except for cats and mockingbirds.
That night we all went to Ben Frank's [a coffee shop on Sunset Boulevard], which in those days was one of the only places open around midnight. SOUTHER, singer-songwriter-guitarist, actor: It all just sort of evolved.
So I started working with Neil, and pretty soon I had Neil and Joni. There really was no “moment.”STEPHEN STILLS, singer-songwriter-guitarist, Buffalo Springfield, CSN, CSNY: It wasn't Paris in the 20s, but it was a very vibrant scene.
Neil was leaving the Springfield—he had left two times before, but this was his final leave. GLENN FREY: There was just something in the air up there. [In Laurel Canyon] there's houses built up on stilts on the hillside and there's palm trees and yuccas and eucalyptus and vegetation I'd never seen before in my life. CHRIS HILLMAN, singer-songwriter-guitarist, the Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers, Souther Hillman Furay Band, Desert Rose Band: Before rock and roll, Laurel Canyon had a lot of jazz guys and a bohemian Beatnik-type thing.
RICHIE FURAY: Stephen [Stills] was quite a stylized musician.
He's certainly proved to be an icon in rock and roll, but Stephen was the heart and soul of Buffalo Springfield.
DAVID CROSBY, singer-songwriter-guitarist, the Byrds; Crosby, Stills & Nash; CSNY: After I got tossed out of the Byrds [in 1967], I went to Florida.
What is undeniably true is that from the mid-1960s to the early 1970s some of the most melodic, atmospheric, and subtly political American popular music was written by residents of, or those associated with, Laurel Canyon—including Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash, Chris Hillman, Roger Mc Guinn, J. Souther, Judee Sill, the Mamas and the Papas, Carole King, the Eagles, Richie Furay (in Buffalo Springfield and Poco), and many more.
They made music together, played songs for one another with acoustic guitars in all-night jam sessions in each other's houses. They took drugs together, formed bands together, broke up those bands, and formed other bands. The music was mislabeled “soft rock” or “folk rock,” especially in the Northeast, where critics panned it as granola-infused hippie music—too “mellow” and too white.