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tv   Tavis Smiley  PBS  April 6, 2013 12:00am-12:30am PDT

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tavis: good evening. from los angeles, i am tavis smiley.hey conversation tonight with legendary singer-songwriter and guitarist stephen stills. his the first and only to be inducted in the hall of fame twice on the same night for buffalo springfield and crosby, stills, nash and young. he is now out with a new cd set called "carry-on" chronicling all of those accomplishments and so more. but you are with us with stephen stills coming up right now. >> there is a saying that dr. king had that said there is always the right time to do the right thing. i just try to live my life every day by doing the right thing. we know that we are only halfway to completely eliminate hunger, and we have a lot of work to do. walmart committed $2 billion to fighting hunger in the u.s.
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as we work together, we can stamp hunger out. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. tavis: stephen stills 50-your career has taken him from a 60s band the buffaloes ring field to crosby, stills, nash and young to a fabulous solo career. is nows of music captured in a four-cd set called
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carry on." -- " here he is with the song he wrote for his friend judy collins, "sweet judy blue eyes ." am yours, you are mine, you are what you are ♪ ♪ you make it hard ♪ remember what we've said ♪ ♪ and done and felt about each other ♪ ♪ oh, babe, have mercy ♪ don't let the past remind us of what we are not now ♪ ♪ i am not dreaming ♪ i am yours, you are mine, you are what you are ♪
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♪ you make it hard take a look at this box set and see all that you have done and this is still not all you have done and you think what about these five decades >> i focus on what is coming next. i have a blues album that i did in december with kenny wayne shepherd and bill goldberg. we call ourselves the rides. we have these gold elderly rides. we play the name the band game, which i hadn't played in many years. the buffalo springfield was hard enough. [laughter] tavis: how did we land on the buffalo springfield? >> we were living with this friend we were staying with. we would go to this guy's house
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and they were working on the street, fountain avenue. at a certain part of the procedure, an enormous steamroller came through to flatten the new asphalt and it was -- the name of the steamroller was the buffalo springfield. and we thought it was pretty apt. because neil young is from manitoba, which is buffalo country. tavis: right. >> and richard was from springfield, ohio. and i'm the field. [laughter] tavis: so the steamroller was the sign from god. was it the blues brothers moment? album was finished and we were to -- and we were due to get signed any moment during we had a month or two to come up with something, but we kept putting it off. we would get hung up playing.
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we need a name for this band. what are we going to call it? i don't know. all the animals were taken. [laughter] awful of springfield it became. -- so buffalo springfield it became. when you look back on those recordings and that were, what do you think of it all of these years later? >> well, we had these producers that found us working in a club. and we made this record. and we came back the next day to listen to what they had done to it. neal and i looked at each other and said, oh, my god, we will have to learn to do this ourselves. within a year, both of us knew how to work the recording studio. that is why we used all the mono mixes from the a full of
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springfield. those are the ones that neil and i were there to supervise. was the most startling experiences, having been an indifferent student and pretty hard to keep focus, we were able to concentrate and focus and learn how to work a half million dollar studio the time, which would be 5 million -- and i could still do it. although, now they do the digital and stuff and it's typing and watching little lines on screen. tavis: why was it so important for you to learn how to operate the board? >> because it did not sound the way we sounded when we played. it did not sound anything like it should. so we learned how to replicate it. theearned how to use microphones, how to use equalization, how to tune the echo chambers, and which microphones to waste where -- we were like sponges, you know.
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we were in our early 20s. so we were fearless, a sickly. .e just -- basically we were -- tavis: i am moved that, at such a young age, you knew exactly what you wanted to sound like and exactly what you should sound like goo. i say that because so many people are produced. the maximum express level. they didn't want you in there very long. so all we did was ask questions. are right, those are the buses, right. day after day after day. there would be half an hour of neil and stealing -- stephen training exercises. then we were doing by ourselves so we could really concentrate and
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neil went with jack nietzsche .nd he had a great engineer and i had bruce. nick who taught me ck who taught me.cbotni tavis: how did you and neil hook up? route that a folk was sent across canada in a station wagon with the big bass pedal sitting down the middle. in ontario.g a set the club owner comes up on a saturday night and he says that there is a visiting guy that has been here before. we want them to do a set between your two cents. we listened -- your two sets.
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we listened to him and he was doing exactly what i wanted to do when we got back to new york city, which is picking up a electric guitar and writing some of my own songs. our own,riting some of but they weren't very good. [laughter] aboutst amazing thing this is that the first song on it was recorded in 1962 -- 1961 at the royces america radio oftion -- at the voice america radio station here i. you on, i got to get tape. i have lots of stuff here he wasn't lying. it was wall-to-wall electronic equipment. he had a nice german microphone and a philips or something really good.
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when we were in costa rica, there was nothing to do. so i played the guitar. my senior year in high school, i would have been in a rock and back in tampa. back in tampa. and playing the guitar because that's all i had. my style emerged virtually whole. i was startled when i heard it for years later. tavis: how appreciated are you all of these years later that your style emerged whole? >> somehow, through the chaos of my family and all of the moving house that we did, that it managed to survive. [laughter] that is what i'm grateful for. we were pretty chaotic. the second thing i'm grateful
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for is the records that i got to listen to. i hadn't developed a blue style yet. and ied some r&b guitar am grateful for son house and bond will mikael and elmore james. i couldn't wait to get an electrified guitar she could get that thing where you incorporate the amplifier into the music. i couldn't wait. it all comes from the same tree, all of us. and the three english boys, you know, jeff beck and jimmy page and eric clapton, the surrey boys they are called. [laughter] we were making records in the same point in life. tavis: you said that there was a time when you had written a couple of songs you were sure weren't that good. i want to ask you to set your humility
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aside and tell me when you knew for the first time that you had written a good song and what song was it. do you recall? >> i think it's for what it's worth. i had finally gotten the data we were coming up over the canyon and driving down and they were having a called for a bar pandora's box. it is where you would start walking the sunset strip. it was going to close because of his traffic i'll. it was going to be turned into a huge shopping center. it was a funeral for the bar. [laughter] having spent time in new orleans, i knew the all about that. [laughter]
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so it was a funeral for a bar. this is not a next or dairy event. but somehow, in his wisdom, the mayor of los angeles, mr. sam yorty emma he decided -- esther sam yorty, he decided to send policemen with battle array and the helmets and the shield on the nightsticks. the place was like a bungalow and probably fit at maximum about 200 people. and there were about 3000. so where did they go? they went into the street. that is an obstruction of a public thoroughfare. so they have to come and say something to you. it saying something and showing up like this, that can't be good. i said turn the car around. i went back to topanga and wrote that song in about 20 minutes. [laughter]
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the whole sequence of the meds -- of events, people being mad and the civil rights movement was still ongoing -- you have to remember that. people from back home taught me how to play music. all there in that one picture in my mind. been a riff i had been working on and it was a shout to the boys on the line. as itk as long to write took to actually write it up. this won't surprise you, but i am always fascinated by -- whenever i meet an iconic artist, an iconic runner like yourself, i am amazed that the
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time that -- i am amazed at the time that they were living through as a central character and a figure in their work. can you imagine being the artist you had become if you were living in a different era? >> that is true of art. tavis: right. >> it gets reflected in and you , the grecianeum statues all have movement. and the roman statues are all static. it is just the era that they are in. collection ofat murals at the screwball setter, at the getty. the color is preindustrial
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europe at the time. so it is more than the gray that northern europe became. art is always reflective of the times. if you're not paying attention to your surroundings, then what will inform you? tavis: let me advance this conversation and talk about one of the next iterations. ,hen you look back at crosby stills, nash and young, when you look back at those years, you think what? >> david and i had been hanging out together and driving around town and going to clubs. he was a towel and so was cass elliot. cass elliot was one of the funniest people i ever knew. he met her in new york. we would sit back and the pizza house and watch the tourists go by, it' people watch. she was very well read, and
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entertaining conversationalist. she came to me outside the troubadour one night. we had seen the hollies a few days before. i didn't really put it together and till what happened. that is how dense i am. you think youo and david would like a third voice? i said, well, is it the right guy. never did i realize that there was a war within the holly thing and he had fallen head over heels for joni mitchell. she says, when david crosby calls you were comes to my house, do it immediately. i am not telling you anymore. [laughter] tavis: when the car shows up, you come. >> right. [laughter] -- in hiss aware
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authority and nash best, saying that one that only has one verse. i looked around the house and i found on our code that had -- an alcove that had good acoustics. i said, david you play there and we played this little song. third time hethe chimed in and the fourth time he chimed in. we knew immediately that our lives had changed. tavis: you knew immediately. >> because the blend the spectacular. that hiding was celtic voice of david's, real smooth, sort of glen yarborough, and whatever you want to call it. style that can carry a tune. tavis: you can do more than
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that. you're being modest. >> the people that brought me up for me that is how you are supposed to be. . the nextt took off thing we went in and made a record fairly quickly. pretty much, they left it up to me what else would go on. was probably responsible for my career, really, because he was the social gadfly who get out there and hang out. i was the shy guy. and he made this all possible. and then he just said, yeah, go try that. he had all of the skills that he had honed with a dozen years with the hollies. they were pretty big.
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they were on the radio all the time and we could sing their songs are allowed. -- their songs out loud. [indiscernible] he walked out on me once. [laughter] are you sure? but he was just restless. i never held a grudge about it. , ofhe came aboard and that course, if that really chaotic good then we made that second album. the first of them, we were the best new artist. the second album went to the ceiling. then all of a sudden, we were at woodstock. and i know what 400 acres of people looks like.
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from a helicopter. [laughter] it was a complete accident that the organizer handled rather indirectly. tavis: and there is your solo work. >> now i'm on the good side so i can pick and choose and i need a break from this here so i -- i wanted to play some more blues. i wanted to get back to what i was after in the first place, which was more like the rolling stones. i wanted to get after that. i hook up with a country style band. i finally got my blues band in the 1970s, in the late-19 70s. you know how when you look back on your life and certain parts of your life get compressed? ,nd periods of months, you know
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on the other side of 40 is a decade? [laughter] like college, the four years of college become three weeks. [laughter] in my case, that is literally true. [laughter] tavis: but you don't regret that. >> no, i don't. i have been to the hospital in the town. but i already knew what i was going to do. tavis: you are working on a new project, a blues project. >> yes. we wrote five new songs, me and barry goldberg, who come from the chicago mike bloomfield l cooper school -- al cooper school. -- so he plays blues songs.
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then i ran across kenny wayne shepherd about 10 years ago because he is a friend of mr. say. , i really want to do a guitar slinging blues album. and we did it in a week. and it is the baddest thing i have done in a number of years. it just doesn't let up. tavis: did you choose the title for this box set, "kerrcarry on" apropos. it seemed those are the first two chapters. i think i recognize a couple more. [laughter] tavis: i recognize a couple more, too. [laughter] you got to use it, man. >> yeah. you struggle with
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everything except reading, with just getting on and over coming being shy and then you start playing the stuff and you pick a pic pair of sticks. i think don henley talks about a similar story. would you stop that? and then you find a set of drumsticks could and then your mother, to save the furniture, your father goes down to the pawn shop and comes home with a set of pearl gray slingerland radio kings and the rest is history. i was nine years old when i had my drums and i was off to the races. tavis: and he is still off to the races during i reckon with a couple more chapters left. stephen stills has a four-cd set out to covers the best of
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all of his stuff, the group stuff, the solo stuff. it is appropriately called " carry on." that is a great and should for all of us no matter what we do. >> carry on and keep on at it. kind of what we are doing right now is a country. tavis: yes. i am honored to have you on this program. i have been waiting a long time. >> thank you. it's an honor. tavis: any excuse to have become back and hang out with us. that is are sure for tonight. keep the faith. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org. tavis: hi, i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for a and asation with actress singer molly ringwald. she just recorded her first cd. it is next time. we will see you then. >> there is a saying that dr.
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king had that said there is always the right time to do the right thing. i just try to live my life every day by doing the right thing. we know that we are only halfway to completely eliminate hunger, and we have a lot of work to do. walmart committed $2 billion to fighting hunger in the u.s. as we work together, we can stamp hunger out. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> be more. pbs.
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