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Joined: 2003/11/23
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 Rocker-turned-preacher pursuing pop fame again

[b]Pastor of Denver's Calvary Chapel is returning to his Rock-and-Roll roots [/b]
[i]By Keith Coffman [/i]
Fri Jul 14, 2006

BROOMFIELD, Colo. - Rocker-turned-preacher Richard Furay, a founding member of Buffalo Springfield and Poco, says he long felt overlooked for his contributions to two 1960s bands that pioneered the next decade's country-rock explosion.

It wasn't until years after Furay stopped pursuing fame to focus on his Christian ministry that the singer-songwriter got his due -- when he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with Buffalo Springfield in 1997.

"I do see the irony in that," Furay, 62, said during a recent interview at the suburban Denver church, the Calvary Chapel, where he serves as pastor. "But do I still want another hit record? Yeah, man."

Hoping to return to the pop music charts, Furay has released his first mainstream album in more than 25 years, "Heartbeat of Love," which features collaborations with Buffalo Springfield alumni Stephen Stills and Neil Young.

Despite his long absence from recording secular music, Furay kept in touch with the two rock icons, and they obliged when he asked them to contribute to the project.

One track on the album is a remake of Furay's most famous Buffalo Springfield song, "Kind Woman," featuring his distinctive country-flavored vocals, with guitar and background harmonies from Young.

"I couldn't get Neil to play on it the first time it was recorded, but this time he did," Furay joked.

Along with his new self-released CD, Furay's band is touring California this month as the opening act for another classic rock veteran, Linda Ronstadt. Furay also has published an autobiography, "Pickin' Up the Pieces," in which he chronicles his sojourn from rock stardom to the Rock of Ages and back.


Furay's musical career began in the early 1960s when he set out from his native Ohio with a guitar and little else for New York's Greenwich Village, then a hotbed of the folk music scene. It was there that he first met Stills and Young.

"Who would have thought that later on we'd be part of rock and roll heritage and history?" he said.

By 1966, the popular musical landscape was changing, and Stills had moved to Los Angeles, where he summoned Furay to join him for a new band he was assembling. Buffalo Springfield was formed after he and Stills spotted Young driving his 1953 Pontiac hearse the opposite way along Sunset Boulevard.

"We flipped an illegal U-turn and flagged Neil down, and it just so happened he was searching us out too," he recalls.

Within a matter of months, the group became the house band at the legendary Whisky A Go-Go club, the launching pad for numerous other rock acts including Jim Morrison and the Doors.

Buffalo Springfield's unique sound of close harmonies and innovative country-rock guitar licks earned them a recording contract and a gig at the Monterey International Pop Festival in 1967, where they performed alongside Janis Joplin, the Who and Jimi Hendrix.

"We thought our only competition was the Beatles," Furay said of the group's meteoric rise to stardom.

After recording just three albums, egos and creative differences led to the band's breakup. But their groundbreaking efforts were quickly recognized. A greatest-hits album, "Retrospective," released shortly after the band's 1969 split, went platinum with sales of more than 1 million copies.

Furay and Jim Messina -- a late Buffalo Springfield addition -- then formed Poco, which set the standard for the country-rock acts that followed in the early 1970s, most notably by the Eagles and Jackson Browne. Two of the Eagles' bass guitarists, Randy Meisner and Timothy B. Schmit, were originally members of Poco.

But frustrated with Poco's inability to reach the same level of popularity, Furay left the band in 1973. At the urging of music and movie mogul David Geffen, he then joined forces with songwriter J.D. Souther and ex-Byrd Chris Hillman to form the Souther-Hillman-Furay Band.


Modeled after the Crosby, Stills & Nash supergroup, the trio recorded two albums but never quite jelled, Furay said, though one of his tunes from the band's first album, "Fallin' in Love," was a modest hit.

Furay turned away from the pop music scene in the late 1970s after seeing other artists he worked with, including Stills, Young and Messina, achieve the commercial success that eluded him. But worse than a stalled career, Furay said his personal life was in turmoil.

"My marriage was falling apart," he said. "It was then that I asked the Lord what He wanted me to do."

The spiritual journey that followed led him to become a born-again Christian and ultimately a pastor. And he credits his renewed faith with salvaging his marriage to his wife of 39 years. The couple's daughter, Jesse, performs in her father's band as a background singer.

With the turbulence of the 1960s rock scene and personal struggles now behind him, Furay said he is feels at peace and primed for a pop comeback.

"After all that's happened, the timing now just seems right," he said.

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