|Born||September 9, 1946|
|Origin||Toronto, Ontario, Canada|
|Died||October 1, 2004 (aged 58)
Belleville, Ontario, Canada
|Years active||1966 - 1971
1982 - 1983
|Associated acts||Buffalo Springfield|
Born and raised in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Palmer started out playing in high school band, which subsequently evolved into the very successful Robbie Lane & The Disciples, and then graduated to a local, otherwise all-black, group fronted by Billy Clarkson. Next came British invasion-inspired Jack London & The Sparrows (which after Palmer left, evolved into Steppenwolf). In early 1965, he left to join The Mynah Birds and it was here where Palmer met Neil Young. The group, fronted by future funk legend Rick James, was signed to Motown Records and did some preliminary recordings. before it was discovered that James had been AWOL from the Navy for a year. A planned single, "It's My Time" b/w "Go Ahead And Cry", was withdrawn just prior to its scheduled release by Motown. Both sides of this single were included in the 2006 box set "The Complete Motown Singles, Vol. 6: 1966", released in a limited edition of 6000 by Universal vanity label Hip-O-Select, marking the first time any of the 1966 Motown recordings by the Mynah Birds had seen the light of day.
The group was forced to disband, and a fatalistic Young and Palmer drove the former's hearse out to Los Angeles in the hope of possibly reacquainting themselves with Stephen Stills, a journeyman folk musician with whom Young had played briefly in Canada two years earlier.
In one of rock history's most synchronous moments, Young and Palmer ran into Stills while stuck in Los Angeles's notorious traffic, Stills having recognized Young's distinctive mode of transportation, a 1953 Pontiac hearse. It was not long before the trio, along with Richie Furay on rhythm guitar and Dewey Martin on drums, formed Buffalo Springfield. They immediately created a rapturous local sensation because of Furay's stage presence and, perhaps more importantly, the guitar duels between co-lead guitarists Stills and Young. On stage, relatively tame numbers such as "Bluebird" and "Mr. Soul" were expanded into weaving, deeply intertwined ten minute epics. Though Palmer's bass playing was fairly understated as compared to the fretwork of Stills and Young, his propulsive, deeply pulsating work ensured that the tension-filled jams (often evocative of personal differences between the two guitarists) did not devolve into the noisy madness that characterizes most late-60s psychedelic-inspired rock jamming. The Springfield only had one major national hit, "For What It's Worth" (written and sung by Stills), but locally their popularity was rivaled only by The Byrds and The Doors.
Palmer was easily seduced by the ethos of the prevailing drug culture and was arrested on numerous occasions for drug possession. These legal problems, compounded by his predilection to sit around his home and read mystical texts, led to him being shunned and isolated by most of the group. Another arrest led to his deportation from the United States in early 1967; Palmer was promptly replaced in the band by a rotating group of bassists that included Jim Fielder and Ken Koblun. Shortly thereafter, Young left the group due to tensions with Stills, and Buffalo Springfield played its most prominent concert at the Monterey Pop Festival in June 1967 with Doug Hastings and David Crosby filling in for Young. During his time back in Toronto between January-May 1967, Palmer had gigged briefly with the Heavenly Government.
In late May, Palmer returned to the United States disguised as a businessman, and he promptly rejoined the band (Young eventually returned as well). However, his commitment to the music was quite small, and the group continued to rely on a myriad of session bassists. Meanwhile, Palmer continued to rack up a lengthy arrest record, which included yet another drug possession bust and speeding without a license. In January 1968, Palmer was removed from the band and officially replaced by Jim Messina. Then, after embarking on a tour opening for the Beach Boys, Buffalo Springfield disbanded on May 5, 1968 after a final hometown concert at the Long Beach Sports Arena.
Miraculously managing to straighten out his various legal troubles, Palmer resurfaced in the summer of 1969 for two weeks as the bassist for Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young. Though the better 3/5ths of Buffalo Springfield augmented by Crosby & Nash could have theoretically achieved the original goals of the Springfield that were soon muddled--a synthesis of folk vocal harmonies and a hard rock backing--Palmer was as drug addled as he had been in the latter Buffalo Springfield era and was promptly replaced by the pubescent Motown prodigy Greg Reeves. Back in Toronto, he gigged briefly with Luke & The Apostles in early 1970.
In 1971, Palmer released his lone solo record, The Cycle Is Complete, on Verve Records. Primarily consisting of three long jams, "Alpha-Omega-Apocalypse", "Oxo", and "Calm Before The Storm" (with an "Interlude" thrown in for good measure between the first two numbers), the album featured Palmer playing with the remnants of fellow L.A. psychedelic group Kaleidoscope, Toronto keyboard player Ed Roth and Rick James contributing jazzy scat vocals. The record has often been described as a jazzier version of Skip Spence's Oar or Syd Barrett's two solo records--an aural, drug-induced nervous breakdown. The album was a commercial disaster, and Palmer seemingly retired from music.
In 1977, Palmer joined former Kensington Market singer/guitarist Keith McKie and lead guitarist Stan Endersby (formerly of local bands, The Just Us, and Mapleoak) in the Toronto group, Village for some local gigs.
In 1982-1983, Palmer resurfaced as the bassist in Neil Young's Trans Band, playing a mixture of Young classics and electronica-infused material to audiences throughout America and Europe. Though on paper the band was a "dream team" of Young collaborators, featuring at least one member from every configuration the guitarist had played in since the mid-sixties, in practice the group turned out to be one of his most unenthralling bands. In addition to tour management problems, much of the music required precise synchronization to backing tapes--a focus that the drunken Palmer clearly lacked at this stage of his life. As is detailed in the Young biography Shakey, the only thing that kept Young from firing his old friend was the deep spiritual bond they had shared since the early sixties. With the focus upon a then-revolutionary musical form (electronica) and a band that included only the cream of the crop, the Trans record and tour had the potential to trump even Young classics such as Tonight's The Night and Rust Never Sleeps, but many fans consider the project to be an unmitigated failure.