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  Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young - Déjà Vu - Album Cover Location - Novato, California - 1970

  (In the backyard of David Crosby's rental house)

This is the album cover.

(credits: album cover courtesy of Atlantic Records; cover photo: (c) Thomas O'Neal (formerly: Tom Gundelfinger); art direction Gary Burden)

- Tom O'Neal's website (the rock section):
- Gary Burden's website:

Yes, this is the tree. Is still growing in sunny California, some 20 miles northeast of San Francisco in the city of Novato.

(Photo by tree owner)

And here is the album superimposed over the tree, over 45 years later.

Here's a similar view, but with an outtake from the photo session. The shot is by Tom O'Neal (who then used the name Tom Gundelfinger). Tom has designed and/or photographed over 100 album covers and still practices in the San Francisco area.

(Inset photo by Tom O'Neal)

Stephen Stills, who is a Civil War buff, wanted the cover to look like an old photo from that era, the 1860's. Here's one, from about 1870, that I found on Ebay, with a little added sepia tone.

So, to get the look, the band went to a costume store to get outfits that looked 19th century. Stephen himself got a Confederate army uniform. Crosby got a "Buffalo Bill" Cody outfit. Dallas Taylor (right, drums) got a gun-slinger outfit, and the rest of the guys (from left: Neil Young, Greg Reeves (bass), Graham Nash) rented kind of a mish-mash of cowboy outfits.

(Photo by Tom O'Neal)

With his moustasche, Crosby ended up looking a lot like the real "Bufflo Bill" Cody, a famous showman who travelled the USA with "Annie Oakley" putting on Wild West Shows in the late 1800's.

(Photo by Tom O'Neal)

He also looked uncannily like some Union general from the Civil War, also in a photo from Ebay.

In order to make the record cover look like an old-fashioned Civil War-era keepsake photographic album, Stephen Stills asked the photographer to take the photo with an old wooden box camera similar to the one used by Matthew Brady, the great Civil War photographer.

In that era, over 140 years ago, it took over 2 minutes to capture the image onto a glass plate negative, so the band posed without moving for that long. As they did, a dog wandered into frame and became immortalized.

Actually, the experiment with the box camera didn't yield a good enough photo for the cover, so they ended up using a 35-mm photo, taken during the 2.5-minute pose, instead, but printed with a "Fox Talbot" photo technique from the 1850's to give it a vintage look. (

This is a version of the old photo and the present-day tree as put together by my friend and colleague Dolf van Stijgeren who runs the CSNY fan site, 4WaySite (

(Inset photo by Tom O'Neal)

Here's a photo of a keepsake leather photo album that was typical of those found in the Civil War era from about 1865. The album cover is a pretty good likeness.

According to Stephen Stills in the video Under the Covers: A Magical Journey: Rock 'n Roll in L.A. in the 60's-70's (2002) (featuring the background stories to many Henry Diltz/Gary Burden covers), Stephen Stills pursuaded the record company use a type of leather-textured paper made by a company in Georgia, saying, in effect, "Don't worry, the record's great, you'll make all your expenses back." And it did - by going platinum two weeks after its release.

He also, for at least the first printing, got the record company to stamp the cover with gold, hymnal-like lettering (as illustrated below) and have the picture "tipped" on (glued on).

The cover was shot in 1969 in the backyard of David Crosby's rental house in Novato, California, about 30 miles north of San Francisco.


I worked on this search with Dolf van Stijgeren, who, from his hometown of Amsterdam, The Netherlands, runs the Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young fan site called 4WaySite, and a CSNY-forum member named Paul Dionne, who made a seismic (major) contribution at the end. (It took us about two month's time, working nights by email.)

With Dolf's vast knowledge of all things C, S, N, & Y, Dolf knew that the cover had been taken at David Crosby's house in the town of Novato, in Marin County, California, but he did not know the address of the house. (A Novato address mentioned in Crosby's autobiography is not the DéjàVu house. That was from a different rental.)

I had a 1980's "Where are they now" type-of book* filled with interviews of former 60's rock stars being then somewhat off the radar. In the David Crosby interview, the author stated that Crosby's house was "about 15 miles outside of Novato." (The book title is Where are you now, Bo Diddley?: The stars who made us rock and where they are now. by Edward Kiersh (Dday, 1986)

That had us on a wild goose chase for a week or two, as, ultimately, we found the house to be not 15 miles outside Novato, but within the city limits, less then 3 miles from downtown. (It's kind of rural, so perhaps he meant a 15-minute drive from downtown Novato.)

During that time, I made phone calls from New York to record stores and music studios in the Novato area where Crosby had recorded to see if they knew the Crosby house, but came up empty.

Someone even gave me the number of a former member of the Quicksiler Mesenger Service (a favorite band of mine) who lived in the area. I called him, but he could only remember going to David's house for a party and not specially where that was.

(Photo by Tom O'Neal)

I went back to the book of interviews and upon a closer reading, saw that the author also mentioned that Crosby had a horse at that time. So, I called a stable in Novato and, as luck would have it, not only did the "stablewoman" I spoke to remember taking care of Crosby's horse back in the late 1960's, but she happened TO HAVE BEEN STANDING UNDER THE "DéjàVU" TREE THAT MORNING, "TALKING TO A FRIEND NEXT TO THE POOL." Bingo! A winning phone call!

Lesson: Try all angles; persistance pays.

The horse trainer then told me the address (which I won't tell you specifically, but if you're determined enough, you can probably figure it out), and, using Bing Maps, I spotted the house, with the pool she had mentioned in the back.

Then, from there, I found the biggest tree next to the pool. Bingo! DéjàVu. It was as if I had already seen it. Kidding. (but that's what "DéjàVu" means for those of you of don't speak French or English).

To be completely honest, my circle may be off by a tree or two, but you get the idea: tree nearby the pool, with a fence close behind it.

So with that knowledge, I went to the address with Google Street Views and poked around, looking for the tree.

I could see the tree, just on the other side of the fence that you can see in the photos sent us by the owner.

I could also see it from the other side of the house.

So I wrote to Dolf, eight hours away in Amsterdam, and said: "Dolf, this is about as close as I can get."

I was pretty happy just getting that.

But Dolf wrote back, "Nice, Bob, but we can do better. We must get the tree." He added, "I have a plan. I'm working with a fellow CSNY fan named Paul Dionne that I know from a Neil Young forum called "Rust List" who lived in the vicinity, and has taken some pictures for me. He knows the owner's name and will send him a letter. And he'll just ask him: Is that the tree?"

And, long story short, Paul did just that. And the owner not only wrote Paul and Dolf a nice email back; he also sent some photos of the tree! What's the Dutch word for bingo? "Der Bingo?"

Here's one of the tree owner's photos, as we've seen before. See the fence out in back? The pool would be off to the left. An iconic tree for an iconic photo.

(Photo by tree owner)

This is from the owner's email:

"The tree has lost some limbs - yet has kept its mystical charm and impresses almost everyone who sees it..."

"My parents somehow got in with the local rock & roll network, as our house was also leased by members of The Grateful Dead, and Dave Mason's group. Steve Miller lived up the hill from us for a time during the late 70's. Neal Schon and another Journey band member also lived nearby..."

"My parents bought the property in the early 60's (c. 1962) as a second home and winter rental property... All our living room furniture was removed and placed in the open air car port during the time they were there. Needless to say the furniture did not do well in the car port...The chest used as a prop in the photo, belongs to us and is still in the house."

This is the inner gatefold of the album. The collage of shots, assembled by art director Gary Burden, were taken by the photographer Henry Diltz while the band practiced at Stephen Still's house in the Hollywood Hills (Stills had rented it from Peter Tork of the Monkees whom he had met while both were folksingers in Greenwich Village in the early 60's).

(Photos by Henry Diltz)

These were the songs on the album, to refresh your memory:

Side One

1. "Carry On"
2. "Teach Your Children"
3. "Almost Cut My Hair"
4. "Helpless"
5. "Woodstock"

Side Two

1. "DéjàVu"
2. "Our House"
3. "4 + 20"
4. "Country Girl (Whisky Boot Hill/Down Down Down/"Country Girl" (I Think You're Pretty)"
5. "Everybody I Love You"

...And that, once again, for the first time, is the story of DéjàVu.

(Photo by Tom O'Neal)


To see the location of where the first Crosby, Stills & Nash album was taken, see PopSpot #36.

(courtesy of Atlantic; photo: (c) Henry Diltz)