Years: October 1971 - September 1973
Styles: Bluegrass, Country Rock, Folk Rock
Stephen Stills - Bass Guitar, Bottleneck guitar, Clavinet, Electric piano, Guitar, Keyboards, Organ, Piano, Slide guitar, Vocals (in band: 1971 - 1973)
Chris Hillman - Bass Guitar, Guitar, Mandolin, Vocals (in band: 1971 - 1973)
Joe Lala - Congas, Percussion, Timbales, Vocals (in band: 1971 - 1973)
Paul Harris - Clavinet, Electric piano, Keyboards, Organ, Piano (in band: 1971 - 1973)
Dallas Taylor - Drums (in band: 1971 - 1973)
Calvin "Fuzzy" Samuel - Bass Guitar, Vocals (in band: 1971 - 1973)
Al Perkins - Banjo, Guitar, Pedal steel guitar, Steel guitar (in band: 1971 - 1973)
Kenny Passarelli - Bass Guitar (in band: 1973)
John Barbata - Drums (in band: 1973)
Manassas was formed in the fall of 1971, following Stills' concert tour to support his album Stephen Stills 2 (1971). While Stephen Stills 2 was Stills’ second solo album, it was his first completed following the acrimonious 1970 breakup of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (CSNY), and was not critically well received. After a chance meeting with Flying Burrito Brothers singer and multi-instrumentalist Chris Hillman in Cleveland, where Stills’ tour schedule crossed paths with that of the Burritos – a band that, by late 1971, had undergone multiple personnel changes and was in financial trouble – Stills saw an opportunity to change his artistic direction. He subsequently contacted Hillman, asking him, along with Burritos’ guitarist Al Perkins and fiddler Byron Berline, to join him in Miami at Criteria Studios to jam. Stills also invited several members of his touring band – drummer Dallas Taylor, bassist Calvin “Fuzzy” Samuels, keyboardist Paul Harris and vocalist/percussionist Joe Lala – to play at the session.
The musicians quickly gelled in the studio, and within several weeks had recorded enough material at Criteria to fill a double-LP album release. The band was capable of a wide musical range, with a repertoire including blues, folk, country, Latin, and rock songs. Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman, a friend of both Hillman and Stills who visited Criteria during the sessions, was an early fan of the band, at one point expressing an interest in joining. (Wyman would contribute to the sessions by helping Stills re-write his to-date unrecorded song from 1968, “Bumblebee,” as the blues/funk tune “The Love Gangster,” with Wyman also playing bass on the track.) The band christened itself Manassas after Stills, who had an interest in American Civil War history, orchestrated a photo shoot for them in Manassas, Virginia, the site of the First and Second Battles of Bull Run (1861 and 1862, respectively).
The band’s first album Manassas, a double-LP sporting a cover photo from the shoot in Virginia, was released in April 1972. The album was well received, quickly peaking at #4 in the United States and achieving RIAA Gold Record status. For most of 1972, Manassas embarked on an international tour in support of the album, including television appearances on ABC-TV’s In Concert in the United States and Beat-Club in West Germany.
Upon returning to the U.S. from the European leg of Manassas' 1972 tour, Chris Hillman took several weeks away from the band to record a reunion album with his pre-Burritos band the Byrds, an effort that also included Stills’ ex-CSNY bandmate David Crosby. Manassas then regrouped and quickly completed their second album, Down the Road. Initial sessions for the album were convened at Criteria Studios, but the band moved the sessions in midstream to Caribou Ranch in Colorado and the Record Plant in Los Angeles after Criteria staff engineers Ron and Howard Albert expressed concern that the sessions were not producing quality results. Down the Road was completed in January 1973. The album was released in the spring of that year to middling reviews and sales, ultimately peaking at #26 in the United States and falling short of RIAA Gold status; it was the first album that Stills appeared on since 1968 that did not attain the latter certification.
Stills was greeted by several sources of turmoil upon returning from the Human Highway sessions to regroup Manassas, as, in addition to Hillman’s future commitment to work with Furay and Souther, Dallas Taylor had become severely addicted to heroin, and Calvin Samuels had left the band for personal reasons. Stills dealt with these issues by securing the services of Jefferson Airplane drummer John Barbata (who had previously replaced Taylor in CSNY during their 1970 tour and Kenny Buttrey during Young's 1973 tour) as a backup for Taylor, and bassist Kenny Passarelli of Joe Walsh’s band Barnstorm to replace Samuels. Samuels would return to the band for the last leg of its 1973 tour. Following the tour’s completion in October, Manassas’s dissolution was publicly announced.
One of Manassas’ last shows, at San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom in early October 1973, was made notable by the band’s being joined onstage by first David Crosby and Graham Nash, and, later in the show, by Neil Young. When later asked about this occurrence, Chris Hillman would comment “I could smell a CSNY reunion.” CSNY would, in fact, regroup for a world tour in early 1974. Following this tour, Stephen Stills would start a new band in 1975 with Kenny Passarelli and Joe Lala, but this was short-lived; Passarelli would soon depart to join the Elton John Band, and Lala would subsequently leave as well. Chris Hillman’s Souther-Hillman-Furay Band, which would also include Manassas members Al Perkins and Paul Harris (and eventually Joe Lala, who would later join Chicago), released its first album in early 1974.
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