by rick grant
Rusty Young’s long and strange musical journey parallels the history of rock’n’roll. Since 1968, Rusty has been the brain trust of Poco and its owner. Poco is an American country rock band originally formed by Young, Richie Furay and Jim Messina following the demise of Buffalo Springfield in 1968. During recording of the last Buffalo Springfield album, each of the three lead singers (Stephen Stills, Neil Young and Richie Furay) recorded songs without the other members present. One of Furay’s solo songs was the country-influenced ballad ‘Kind Woman’, which he recorded with the help of producer/engineer/bassist Jim Messina and pedal steel guitarist Rusty Young. When Buffalo Springfield then split up, Furay, Messina and Young decided to start their own group oriented toward such songs.
Poco’s famous first album, Pickin’ Up the Pieces (1969) was a landmark accomplishment. It set the stage and a high level of quality for the new country rock genre. Just as every rock’n’roll fan over sixty has a copy of the Beatles Sergeant Pepper, then everyone in that category has that first Poco album on vinyl. It’s a certified classic recording.
In 1971, Poco realigned the band, hiring Steve Cropper as producer and then releasing the highly successful From the Inside, featuring Paul Cotton’s ‘Bad Weather,’ which became a signature song for the band. Producer, Jack Richardson then oversaw the next three albums beginning with A Good Feelin’ To Know (1972). During this era, the band racked up single hits and platinum selling albums.
Over the years, Rusty has played with many musicians under the Poco banner. More years passed and new members came and went, with old members occasionally coming back to support the trademark. Former Poco alumni, Randy Meisner and Timothy B. Schmidt went on to play with the Eagles. When Meisner left the Eagles, they replaced him with Schmidt.
In the 1980s, Poco released five more albums and struggled with changing markets. However, the band never lost its prime directive of quality songwriting. The fact that Poco has been around 40 years in one form or another is a testament to its continuing ability to deliver great songs.
Cut to present day, the current Poco lineup includes Rusty Young, Paul Cotton, Jack Sundrud, and George Lawrence. Poco reunited in 2007 for a concert at the Wildwood Lodge in Steelville, Missouri. It subsequently became a CD titled The Wildwood Sessions. This record is for anyone who enjoys country rock played by the best musicians in the business.
To catch up on the Poco legacy, I called Rusty at his log-home in Missouri where he lives comfortably with his family. We chatted about today’s exciting Poco happenings. Rusty was cooking breakfast for his family and guests.
“The Wildwood Sessions album was recorded off the board and it turned out so well we were astonished. So, we released it as a CD and it became a landmark record overnight. We just celebrated our 40th year of Poco. We had a concert here in Missouri with Richie Furay, Jim Messina, myself and Paul. It was quite a weekend. We videoed it and recorded it for posterity.”
“When I started Poco, I was 22 years old. At that time, I never looked into the future. We were having fun and in Hollywood, California where there was camaraderie with all the early rockers. We were kicking off what we called L.A. country rock. There were the early stars like Graham Parker and others that went on to have great careers. The time has gone by in the blink of an eye. Now we are playing with a four piece band and we are having fun. Poco’s career is established and we are really comfortable with all the logistics of traveling and playing.”
“Life is good, we just completed a log-home in the Mark Twain National Forest. It’s beautiful here, and as a matter of fact, I have a friend visiting from Nashville. Of course, all the former members of the early Poco went on to successful careers and we are all friends. My son (28) is visiting and my daughter (22) visited last month.”
“Presently, I’m trying to finish my book on all my crazy experiences I’ve had in the music biz in the last 40 years, such as being backstage with Janis Joplin,” Rusty said. “For years, I’ve told friends these stories and they told me I should write a book.”
Rusty sounds like a guy who has found peace of mind and withstood the test of time holding on to his Poco band. The reason is: Quality songwriting always endures. And when you say Poco, you’re talking classic country rock songs.
Rusty Young and Poco will be performing at the Greater Jacksonville Fair on Thursday, November 6.
american country rock
by rick grant