Poco's '60s rock pedigree
Country rock band Poco was born when Buffalo Springfield's guitarist Richie Furay and bassist Jim Messina met Rusty Young in 1968 during the band's recording sessions for "Last Time Around." Session musician Young was called to play pedal-steel guitar on Furay’s "Kind Woman." When the work was done, the three talked about starting a new group.
In 1969, drummer George Grantham, guitarist Randy Meisner and bassist Timothy B. Schmit would join Poco, and the band would be discovered while performing at rock club Troubadour in West Hollywood. When Los Angeles Times music critic Robert Hilburn wrote that Poco was “the next big thing,” the band signed with Epic Records, and its debut album, "Pickin’ Up the Pieces," was released the same year. In a rave review, Rolling Stone magazine called it “the perfect album.”
Poco will perform a benefit concert for Use Your Gift Foundation at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 27, at the Craterian Theater, 23 S. Central Ave., Medford. Singers and songwriters Hannah Sarganis, Brenna Beatty and Alex Goldman of Use Your Gift will open the show. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at the box office, 16 S. Bartlett St., online at craterian.org or by calling 541-779-3000. All proceeds benefit Use Your Gift Foundation, a nonprofit organization headed by local musician Sandy Ficca (Firefall), and its commitment to aid young musicians reach for their dreams.
Young, 70, — aside from stints as a session player in the '70s in Southern California and in the '80s in Nashville — is a 48-year veteran of Poco.
"Being in the band is a full-time job, especially in the '70s and '80s," Young says during a telephone interview from his home in the Mark Twain National Forest on the Ouza River in Missouri. "We would tour six or eight months without stopping, then spend the rest of the year in a recording studio. It's not something that leaves room for anything else."
There's a long, complicated list of musicians who've moved in and out of Poco's lineup over the years, though it remained Furay's band until '74.
"We released 'Legend,' our biggest album, in '78," Young says. "It was our biggest album, our first hit record and our first gold and platinum album. It was at that point I became more proactive in the songwriting.
"All of the musicians who played with Poco over the last 48 years are lucky," Young says. "I've always been a huge fan of Meisner. I've known him since we were 16 and played rock 'n' roll in bands in Denver, Colo. And I was a huge Buffalo Springfield fan, so I was thrilled when I was asked to play on that band's last record.
"When we did our 'Legacy' album in 1989, I thought it was overlooked," Young says. "No other rock band has the pedigree that Poco does, and on that one album there's Jim Messina from Loggins & Messina, Richie Furay from Buffalo Springfield, Randy Meisner from Eagles, and me because I had the biggest hits in Poco. Those are four of the biggest bands in the history of rock 'n' roll. It represented the amazing legacy of Poco.
"Since the mid-'70s, it's been my band to run," he says. "My two favorite Poco lineups include the original with Randy Meisner and Jimmy Messina. That lineup will always have a special place in my heart. Alongside that lineup is the band that I have now with bassist Jack Sundrud, Michael Webb and drummer Rick Lonow (The Flying Burrito Brothers).
"Webb is a session musician from Nashville and has played with everybody from John Fogerty to Chris Stapleton," Young says. "He plays keys, piano, organ, accordion, mandolin and guitar during our sets. He's brilliant. I play pedal steel, Dobro, banjo, all the country instruments. There's such a variety of sound available. All four of us sing, and that gives it a lot of nice harmonies."
A few years ago, Young announced that he would bring the band and its tours to a halt altogether as he was wanting to retire from the road.
"Then I got an exciting offer from Blue Elan Records in Los Angeles," he says. "I'm the only guy in the band that hasn't recorded solo records. I've always just done Poco records. I really want to take a shot at it, so I'm writing songs and will start recording in the fall. A new solo release will be out next year, and I'll be touring behind it.
"In the meantime, there's no one I'd rather play with than the guys in the band now," Young says. "I'm sure we'll showcase my new stuff at shows — along with everything from Buffalo Springfield's 'Kind Woman' and the title track to Poco's first album, 'Pickin' Up the Pieces,' to 'All Fired Up' from Poco's 2013 album. 'All Fired Up' relates back to Poco's first album. It illustrates the continuity of the band over the past 48 years.
"We want to play the songs that people come out to hear at our shows — 'Crazy Love,' 'Heart of the Night,' 'Good Feelin’ to Know,' 'Keep on Tryin',' and 'Call it Love' — but we also want to share what the band is all about now," he says.