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Lost Tuneage: Manassas

"It Doesn't Matter"

Who Dat?

The most talented member of CSN-without-the-Y, Stephen Stills was riding high on a solo career with tracks like "Love the One You're With," "Black Queen" and "Change Partners." During sessions for his third solo record, Stills recorded with an ad-hoc studio group of crack players - wandering in and out of sessions was very big in the '70s - who gelled so well together that they decided to form a real group.

In addition to Stills, Manassas included ex-Byrds singer/guitarist Chris Hillman and pedal steel player Al Perkins, both of whom had just left the Flying Burrito Brothers; CSNY bassist Calvin "Fuzzy" Samuels and drummer Dallas Taylor; percussionist Joe Lala, and session man Paul Harris. The group's name came from a picture of the band taken under a sign at the Manassas, Virginia train station, which also served as the cover for its debut album. 

"Bound to Fall"

Why Should I Care?

1972's double-album Manassas is an overlooked gem of the classic-rock era - a loose, fun effort in which all the boys in the band get a chance to show off their chops. The record is also notable for its genre-straddling material, which touches on rock ("Song of Love," "Jet Set"), R&B ("The Love Gangster"), country ("Jesus Gave Away Love for Free," "Colorado"), bluegrass ("Fallen Eagle," "Bound to Fall"), ballads ("So Begins the Task") and even hints of Latin sounds.

It spawned two minor hits in "It Doesn't Matter" and "Johnny's Garden," and a heavy touring schedule served Manassas' sonic gumbo to the masses. It's full of great songs, and a prime early example of country rock.

What Happened?

With so many distinct personalities under the often-mercurial Stills, things were bound to fray. Stills met his future wife, French singer/songwriter Veronique Sanson while the band was in Paris; their son, Chris, is now a musician as well. Manassas' 1973 follow-up, Down the Road, was a letdown from the first effort, and the record company, promoters and audiences still weren't sure whether to view Manassas as a stand-alone band or as Stills side project.

Stills would soon leave for Hawaii to join Crosby, Stills and Nash for the aborted Human Highway sessions. Chris Hillman would go more country with the sounds-good-on-paper Souther-Hillman-Furay Band. Other members went back to session/road work, and Taylor started doing a lot of heroin.

Where Are They Now?

Stephen Stills (right) continues to alternate between solo work, CSNY records and touring; most recently, the foursome made the politically-charged concert film Déjà Vu. Chris Hillman would find success on the country charts in the '80s with the Desert Rose Band and continues to actively perform.

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Joe Lala would play with artists like The Bee Gees, Eric Clapton and Barbra Streisand. When carpal tunnel ended his drumming career, he found a second one as a supporting actor in TV and movies (Havana, Miami Vice, Ali). Fuzzy Samuels toured and recorded with acts like America, Alvin Lee and Neil Young, later dabbling in world music.

Paul Harris appeared on records by Dan Fogelberg and Seals & Crofts. Al Perkins remains very much in demand, and has appeared on records by Garth Brooks, Patty Loveless and Wynonna Judd (that's also his playing on Al Stewart's "Time Passages"). Dallas Taylor continued to struggle with drug problems, appearing briefly with Neil Young and Paul Butterfield. He would eventually find sobriety, write a memoir (Prisoner of Woodstock) and go on to work as a substance abuse counselor specializing in show business personalities.

Essential Listening

Manassas (1972) - Bob Ruggiero

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