While Richie Furay’s name may not ignite instant recognition, his legacy speaks for itself. An integral member of the Buffalo Springfield, arguably the most important band to ever originate from these shores, and a founder and original prime member of Poco, the group that helped foster the country-rock crossover that led to the origins of the so-called Americana movement, he’s indelibly inscribed in the annals of modern American music.
That’s despite the fact that he put his career on hold after leaving Poco and following a brief stint with the well-intended supergroup Souther, Hillman and Furay (its other two namesake members included singer and songwriter John David Souther and Chris Hillman, a founding member of the Byrds). He chose instead to devote himself to spiritual pursuits that included ministering at the Calvary Chapel, a non-denominational Christian church in Boulder Colorado. A need to reconnect with his family also interceded, and although he recorded a series of solo albums in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s—specifically, the religion-themed In My Father’s House (1997) and I Am Sure (2005)—his public profile faded significantly.
Nevertheless, once Furay returned to the essential country rock sound he had proffered so successfully with Poco and the Springfield, his fans and followers began taking notice. With The Heartbeat of Love (2006), its long awaited studio follow-up, Hand In Hand (2015),and a live album titled Alive, containing key songs culled from the whole of his career, his comeback was clear. Ready to embrace his cumulative career, he also reunited with his Springfield colleagues Neil Young and Stephen Stills for a short-lived reunion tour in 2011.
A new album and DVD, 50th Anniversary-Return to the Troubadour, finds Furay revisiting another essential chapter of his storied legacy, one established with Poco’s third album, DelLIVErin’, a set of songs recorded in concert and which helped bring the band wider recognition. As Furay suggests, it was a bold move.
“My manager David Stone really had the idea to try something like this,” he recalls. “Some other groups had been doing re-recordings of old projects, but I don’t think anybody has ever done a re-recording of a live recording. That had to be something new. We were also looking at the fact that it had been 50 years since Poco played the troubadour. We thought that maybe we should just have some kind of little reunion or whatever. Well, the reunion didn’t turn out to be quite what we had hoped for, even though the other guys had all been asked to be a part of it. But [former Poco members] Timothy B. Schmitt and Randy Meisner showed up and that was wonderful. Then the DeLIVErin’ idea came up. Even though the original album wasn’t recorded in Los Angeles —it was recorded in Boston and New York—we said, well, since we’re coming up on the anniversary, why don’t we do that?”
Furay admits that initially he wasn’t wholly convinced that he and his band could pull it off. “On first thought, we were like, ‘Oh, boy, can we really do this?’ But I got to thinking that since there were only four songs on that album that we had not played in my sets over the last several years, good golly, we should be able to do this. And once we started rehearsing it, it started to come together. That’s when I started thinking, we could do this and we’re gonna do this. I also wanted to do a showcase of others songs that I had written or tsongs that I was connected with, so we ended up doing two sets, including some songs from Buffalo Springfield, some from Poco and some from my solo career, along with the entire DeLIVErin’ album.”
Furay was also sensitive to the fact that the original DeLIVErin’ was an iconic album, and while he was eager to revisit it, he wasn’t intent on rewriting history. “ One of the things that we thought about when we decided to do it was that I don’t want Poco fans to necessarily make any comparisons, or question why we were doing this,” he recalls. “I’m certainly not trying to offend anybody or diss anything. All I wanted to do an album that acknowledged that part of my career.”
Furay acknowledges that it was in fact a special album, noting that when it was done originally it boasted at least two songs that were never offered on their studio albums. Still, it was, in retrospect, an unusual strategy to release a live record while only three albums into their trajectory.
“We were looking to buy time,” he laughs, explaining that guitarist Jim Messina was in process of leaving the band and making way for the man who was replacing him, singer/songwriter Paul Cotton. However, Furay’s also quick to note that the songs still stand up, even 50 years on.
That said, Furay insists that he’s still looking forward towards the future and eager to remain creative. A new album that finds him covering classic country songs is due this fall, and a documentary about his career is scheduled for release next year.
“I have to be fresh,” he says. “I like playing the old songs, especially the ones that have affected me in one way or another … But I also like doing new songs that really help me keep doing what I’m doing. I may be a bit nostalgic, but I’m not nostalgic to the point where I live there.”
The Springfield reunion is mentioned and the subject turns to the prospect of a live album culled from those performances. “It’s after the fact quite a bit now. But when Neil gets bored, he’ll find some way to put something out. He is a strange, interesting fellow and I appreciate him and love him and but he marches to his own drum. The interesting thing is that Buffalo Springfield was Stevens band. He was the heart and soul before Neil ever arrived on the scene, when he and I were sitting in his little apartment on Sunset Boulevard rehearsing songs for the first album,” Furay says. “As a matter of fact, I taught Steven Neil’s song, ‘Nowadays, Clancy Can’t Even Sing,’ which Neil had taught me back in New York when he came to peddle some songs. It’s really interesting, but today, I think Neil calls the shots on those things for whatever reason.”
Despite Furay’s role in the band, one which found him providing many of the lead vocals, he admits that it wasn’t until the reunion took place that he was able to accept his relevance to the outfit overall.
“I really was glad to be able to do that reunion,” Furay reflects. “The one we tried to do in the ’80s was a complete train wreck. I just wanted to settle in my own heart that yes, my contribution to Buffalo Springfield was as valid and important as theirs. It wasn’t vindication, but I just wanted to satisfy the fact that I didn’t ride into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on their coattails. I’ve been blessed to work with so many incredibly talented people, and I hope they feel the same way about me. I feel like I’ve been given a great gift, but it wasn’t taking away from Steven or Neil. Maybe I was looking to them as more advanced at the time. I look at Stephen as a real influence on my life, maybe Neil less so. But they were prolific guys and songwriters and really, good people.”
Although he’s talking about retirement, he hasn’t put the cap on making new music in the future. It will happen, he says, “as long as the Lord keeps me upright and and keeps putting a new song in my heart.”