Why Johny Barbata Chose to Drum for CSN&Y Instead of the Eagles

Categories: Interview

It was later in the same evening at the Speakeasy that Barbata was introduced to Graham Nash, who would become a longtime collaborator and champion of Barbata's drumming. After his time in The Turtles came to a close, Barbata was once again a free agent, picking up studio drumming sessions and starting the band Jerome with friends Joel Scott Hill and Chris Ethridge. Jerome made one album, the acclaimed but difficult to find LA Getaway, which featured a stellar cast of musicians including Booker T. Jones and Leon Russell. The life of this "supergroup" was cut short, though, because another "supergroup" beckoned.

David Crosby and Neil Young asked Barbata to give it a go as the drummer for their group with Stephen Stills and Graham Nash, which happened to be, at the time, the biggest group in the world. This would start a long ride and association with these four gentlemen that would end up with Barbata playing on eight different records, including CSN&Y's stellar live album, Four Way Street. Due to this connection, though, Barbata ended up passing on an offer to become the drummer for the Eagles a few years later.

"[David] Geffen walked over to me and said, 'There is a new group forming and they want you to be part of it. They are called the Eagles.' I said, 'Who the hell are the Eagles? I never heard of them.'"

History, of course, would show that this was probably not the best decision Barbata made in his music career, but he has no regrets. There was another gig coming along that made it all worthwhile. In 1972, David Crosby invited Johny over to his house in Los Angeles.

"We smoked a joint of purple sinsemilla and David asked me if I knew who Jefferson Airplane was. I said, 'Of course...' and the next thing I knew, I was meeting with them in San Francisco," according to Barbata.

During his time with the Jefferson Airplane, who would later become Jefferson Starship, Barbata played on eight releases by the bands, including several hits. He also got his first real shot at being an integral part of the writing process at this point in his career and even sang lead on "Big City" on the 1976 Jefferson Starship album, Spitfire. A couple years later, though, in 1978, the ride on the Starship was over. Barbata was in a serious car accident, which took the life of his friend, Terry "Tucker" Hill. The two men were headed home one night in Northern California and swerved to miss a deer. Barbata ended up with multiple injuries, serious enough to finish his career with Jefferson Starship.

In all, Johny Barbata has had an illustrious career. Take some time out of your Saturday on June 7 and head over to Milano's to shake his hand and hear some stories. You won't be disappointed, and you just might learn something.

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