Inducted: January 9, 2015
The brainchild of Stephen Stills, Manassas was a genre-bending amalgamation of a band that produced two albums. In the impactful 18 months that the band played together, they left a mark on music history in Colorado and the world over.
After splitting ways with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Stills retreated to the mountains near Gold Hill in Boulder County, Colorado. The morning after receiving the news of the death of his friend, Jimi Hendrix, Stills posed for the cover photo of his first solo album on September 20, 1970 with Gold Hill’s magnificence surrounding him. Stills wrote songs for his second solo album that winter in Colorado. Settling in, he named his publishing company Gold Hill Music, Inc.
Four years earlier, singer Chris Hillman had helped Stephen Stills and Buffalo Springfield land a gig at the famous Whisky a Go Go in Los Angeles. The two ran into each other again one night at Tulagi, a Boulder nightspot, when Hillman’s band, The Flying Burrito Brothers, was playing Stills suggested Hillman, guitarist Al Perkins and fiddler Byron Berline leave the band and join him in Miami to jam. The three of them agreed, and Stills booked Criteria Studios to begin his next project.
The group played together for days on end, winding from country to bluegrass, rock to folk. Excited by how well the sessions went, Stills invited everyone to form a more permanent group. Only Berline declined, though he later made guest appearances on stage with acoustic double bassist Roger Bush.
Stills visualized a group that would bring together rock, folk, Latin, country and blues. He retained several members of his touring band—Dallas Taylor on drums, bass player Calvin “Fuzzy” Samuels, keyboardist Paul Harris and percussionist Joe Lala. When the Stills-Burrito amalgam all congregated in the studio, something clicked. With his dream band established and first album recorded, they only needed a name and a photo for the album cover. Since Stills was a Civil War fanatic, and he could afford to do so, he flew everyone to Washington, D.C. and found a train station in Manassas, Virginia where the Confederates had defeated the Union in the Battle of Bull Run—the first major battle of the Civil War. The photo the band chose showed them all standing on the station platform with “MANASSAS” written on a sign above them; the band had found their name.
The 1972 debut double LP Manassas, featuring the singles “It Doesn’t Matter” and “Rock & Roll Crazies,” peaked at No. 4 on the charts. By the time the tour made it back from Europe, the album had gone gold. On stage, Manassas gained fame for their nearly three-hour shows that started with an opening rock set followed by Stills playing solo acoustic, Hillman and Perkins playing bluegrass. Finally, the band returned to country, more rock, and an acoustic finish.
After touring, Hillman left for several weeks to record a reunion album with the Byrds, his pre-Burritos band. Manassas completed their second album; Down the Road peaked at No. 26 on the Billboard charts. The single “Isn’t It About Time” reached No. 56. After the album’s release, the band went dormant. Stills’ wedding to French singer Veronique Sanson pulled him away. Meanwhile, manager David Geffen offered Hillman a spot in another supergroup alongside Richie Furay and J.D. Souther to form the creatively named Souther-Hillman-Furay Band. Hillman agreed, taking Harris and Lala with him; the band did not work out, and the trio returned to Manassas a year later. During this hiatus, Taylor and Samuels left Manassas.
When Stills finally reassembled Manassas, he hired Colorado legend and fellow Hall of Fame inductee, bassist Kenny Passarelli of Joe Walsh’s Colorado-based band Barnstorm and drummer John Barbata of Jefferson Airplane to fill the hole left in the group. Following the last shows of its late fall 1973 tour, however, Manassas announced its breakup. Yet, their legacy lives on in Colorado’s music history.
© Colorado Music Hall of Fame
© Colorado Music Hall of Fame