Watching Richie Furay and his talented band plow through an accomplished set at the Canyon Club in Agoura Hills, California in late February of 2015, one walks away not only extraordinarily impressed by the enduring nature of his songwriting catalog but with his robust and expressive voice, an ageless wonder which still resonates with the same joy and passion heard on classic records by his bands, Buffalo Springfield, Poco and the Souther-Furay-Hillman Band.
His new solo record, Hand in Hand, his first in eight years, finds the artist, now approaching 71 years of age, at the top of his game, a consummate union of country and rock that in a better world would be blasting out on radios across America.
Rock Cellar Magazine: Growing up, what were the records you wore out more than any others?
Richie Furay: I actually wore out a tape recorder that my Dad have to my Mom one Christmas more than records. I’ve still got this whole stack of ‘45s.
It’s just amazing, all the different genres of music that are represented in that. The people that I like would be Eddie Cochran. Gene Vincent, Buddy Holly, the rockabilly type guys but then you get to the doo-wop singers or Marv Johnson and the harmony singers like Dion & the Belmonts. Ricky Nelson was a big idol of mine.
Rock Cellar Magazine: When did you first realize you had a good voice?
Richie Furay: Is that really fair? (Laughs) I asked my parents for a guitar when I was eight-years-old so I knew as a kid that music was gonna be a part of my life. I didn’t know to what degree or what extent.
I remember going down and looking under the tree on Christmas morning and I saw the shadow of that guitar and oh man, my heart started pumpin’.
Then I got up close and I saw that it was this cardboard guitar with gut strings and it was puke green. (laughs) I went upstairs and told my parents at eight-years-old that I want a real guitar. (laughs)
What a brazen kid, man! So we went down to Morelli’s Music Store in Springfield and actually ended up getting one. I played a little music and took some lessons. I think around about thirteen or fourteen or fifteen-years-old, I was in junior high and I got to singing with these three upper classmen and that’s how me and my girlfriend got into the senior high school dances.
I was like the Little Anthony and they were the Imperials. (laughs) So it was cool. I knew things were going like that. Went to college and folk music was the big scene at the time. I remember singing They Call the Wind Maria. I won the talent contest and got into the a capella choir and I couldn’t read a note of music. I was really lucky to get into that. That’s when I met my two buddies and they’re the ones I went to New York with back in the early ‘60s.
So that’s a Reader’s Digest trail of progression for you.
Rock Cellar Magazine: At 71 years of age, your voice is still robust and powerful.
Is music the magic elixir that keeps you young?
Richie Furay: Gosh, I’m just really blessed. I carry a little humidifier that I breathe with sometimes. I sing most all of the songs in our set and they’re not the easiest songs to sing. If you get nervous and all of a sudden you tense up it’ll mess you up for a couple of nights.
I’ve been blessed that my voice has held up as well as it has. I don’t sing right; I tried to take lessons one time when I moved back to Boulder and they tried to make me sing a certain way (laughs) and I can’t do that. So I just keep moving along as best I can.
Rock Cellar Magazine: This batch of songs that appear on your new CD Hand in Hand was initially written for a possible Buffalo Springfield reunion record?
Richie Furay: Yes, at least that’s what got them started for me. I had a bunch of guitar riffs and then I also had a lot of lyrics. For some reason I didn’t put the two together or I didn’t find lyrics for this guitar riff or I didn’t find music for these lyrics. After Stephen (Stills), Neil (Young) and I got together a few years ago, all of sudden it was just like a snowball and it just started rollin’ down the hill.
All of a sudden I’d written five songs and my buddy Scott, my lead guitar player; we wrote two and I started looking for a couple of other songs. I did a Dan Fogelberg song on the CD and I also did a song by the Cate Brothers.
Rock Cellar Magazine: Which Fogelberg song?
Richie Furay: I did Don’t Lose Heart. It’s a very obscure song. It’s a very interesting story because a friend of mine, TJ Clay, asked me to sing on his record. He was a harmonica player from Nashville. I came in and heard this song and went, “Man, this is a great song, is that a Jackson Browne song TJ?” And he said, “Nope, that’s a Dan Fogelberg song.”
I remember when John Denver was inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame about two or three years ago. Jean Fogelberg was out there and it was at that time that I’d been asked to be part of a tribute record for Dan. I went up to Jean and said, “I’ve got the perfect song,” thinking this is such an obscure song and that nobody was gonna pick this song to do. And the minute I said that her face just went, and then I thought, maybe I’m not gonna be on the album? (laughs)