Listen To The 1st (‘Dumb’) Song Written By David Crosby

“It was a fairly dumb song. Sincere, but dumb.”

By Andy Kahn Jan 18, 2024 2:32 pm PST

While David Crosby was responsible for writing many memorable songs as a member of The Byrds, with Crosby, Stills & Nash and as a solo artist, his initial output was less than exemplary. In his own words, Crosby’s first attempt at songwriting resulted in a finished product that was, “A fairly dumb song. Sincere, but dumb.”

Crosby wrote or co-wrote “Eight Miles High,” “Almost Cut My Hair,” “Guinnevere,” “Wooden Ships,” “Lady Friend” and the notorious “Triad,” helping propel The Byrds and CSN into the forefront of the expansion of folk rock in the 1960s and 1970s. Those songs, and others he contributed to the pair of Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame inducted bands, might not have materialized if Croz did not overcome what he deemed a poor first effort.

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“When I started out, I didn’t know about songwriters,” Crosby, who died one year ago today, told American Songwriter in 2021. “I was just doing folk music, singing songs that have been around for a hundred years. The first song I wrote was called ‘Cross The Plains,’ and it was stupid. It was a fairly dumb song. Sincere, but dumb.”

Written by Crosby around age 20, “Cross The Plains” was recorded by folk musician Travis Edmonson, who performed solo and as part of the duo Bud & Travis. Edmonson recorded a live version of “Cross The Plains” during a performance at The Troubadour in Los Angeles that appeared on the 1962 album, Travis On Cue.

“I used to sit and watch Travis. Endlessly,” Crosby told the Fretboard Journal. “There was a club in Hollywood called the Unicorn. It was just a dive and he would play there. It was a ‘coffee house.’ I would just sit there and hawk his changes and try to figure out what he was doing. He was more accessible than most of the rest of the guys. He would show you, he was friendly. And gave me my first joint. I learned a bunch from him.”

Though Croz thought it was “stupid” and “dumb,” you can judge for yourself by listening to Travis Edmonson’s recording of “Cross The Plains” below:

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