The Stray Gators was the name given by Neil Young to his supporting musicians from 1971-1973 and who backed him on the albums Harvest and Time Fades Away. It consisted of Jack Nitzsche (piano), Ben Keith (steel guitar), Tim Drummond (bass) and Kenny Buttrey (drums).
While in Nashville to tape an episode of The Johnny Cash Show, Young was convinced to record some of his new tracks in Elliot Mazer's Quadrafonic Sound Studios. Since it was a Saturday night, Mazer scrambled to find musicians who were not working that night and was able to bring in Drummond, Keith, and Buttrey. Over two nights they recorded four tracks that would end up on Harvest.
Young then used frequent collaborator Nitzsche to arrange and produce two tracks with an orchestra. He then brought the three Nashville musicians plus Nitzsche to his ranch in California to record the three electric-guitar songs in his barn. At some point, he dubbed this new group The Stray Gators.
After the release of Harvest they appeared on the "War Song" single, credited to Young and Graham Nash. Outtakes from the Harvest sessions later appeared on the Journey Through the Past soundtrack, Tonight's the Night, and The Archives Vol. 1 1963-1972.
In 1973 they backed Young on his Time Fades Away tour, though Buttrey was replaced mid-tour by Johnny Barbata; the latter drummer appeared on the album from the tour. They ceased to operate as a unit after that tour. Drummond and Keith continued to work individually with Young on subsequent projects.
Young reconvened The Stray Gators for his 1992 Harvest Moon album, with Spooner Oldham replacing Nitzsche on keyboards. Nitzsche, however, did arrange the strings on "Such a Woman", as he had done on Harvest.