Years: 1968 - present
Styles: Classic Rock, Country Rock, Folk Rock, Pop Rock, Soft Rock, Southern Rock
Jim Messina - Acoustic guitar , Backing vocals, Bass Guitar, Guitar, Lead vocals, Vocals (in band: 1968 - 1970; 1988 - 1991)
Richie Furay - 12 string guitar, Acoustic guitar , Backing vocals, Guitar, Lead vocals, Rhythm guitar, Vocals (in band: 1968 - 1973; 1987 - 1990)
Rusty Young - Acoustic guitar , Banjo, Guitar, Lap Steel Guitar, Lead vocals, Mandolin, Pedal steel guitar, Piano, Resonator Guitar [Dobro], Rhythm guitar, Slide guitar, Steel guitar , Vocals (in band: 1968–present)
Randy Meisner - Acoustic guitar , Backing vocals, Bass Guitar, Guitar, Lead vocals, Vocals (in band: 1968 - 1969; 1988 - 1991)
George Grantham - Backing vocals, Drums, Lead vocals, Percussion, Vocals (in band: 1968 - 1977; 1985 - 1986; 1987 - 1990; 2000 - 2004)
Timothy B. Schmit - Bass Guitar, Harmonica, Percussion, Vocals (in band: 1969 - 1977)
Paul Cotton - Acoustic guitar , Guitar, Lead guitar, Vocals (in band: 1970 - 1988; 1992 - 2010)
Al Garth - Saxophone, Violin (in band: 1978)
Charlie Harrison - Bass Guitar, Vocals (in band: 1978 - 1984)
Steve Chapman - Drums (in band: 1978 - 1985; 1986 - 1987)
Kim Bullard - Keyboards, Vocals (in band: 1984 - 1985)
Rick Seratte - Keyboards (in band: 1984 - 1985)
Jeff Steele - Bass Guitar (in band: 1984 - 1985)
Jack Sundrud - Acoustic guitar , Bass Guitar, Guitar, Harmonica, Vocals (in band: 1985 - 1987; 1990 - 1991; 2000 - present)
Dave Vanecore - Keyboards (in band: 1989 - 1990)
Gary Mallaber - Drums (in band: 1991)
Richard Neville - Bass Guitar, Vocals (in band: 1992 - 2000)
Tim Smith - Drums, Vocals (in band: 1992 - 2000)
George Lawrence - Congas, Drums, Percussion (in band: 2004 – 2016)
Michael Webb - Accordion, Acoustic guitar , Bass Guitar, Clavinet, Guitar, Hammond organ, Mandolin, Piano, Vocals (in band: 2010 – present)
Rick Lonow - Drums, Percussion (in band: 2016 – present)
Poco is an American country rock band originally formed by Richie Furay, Jim Messina and Rusty Young. Formed following the demise of Buffalo Springfield in 1968, Poco was part of the first wave of the West Coast country rock genre. The title of their first album, Pickin' Up the Pieces, is a reference to the break-up of Buffalo Springfield. Throughout the years Poco has performed in various groupings, and is still active.
During recording of Buffalo Springfield's third and final album, Last Time Around, lead singers Stephen Stills, Neil Young and Richie Furay each recorded songs without the other members present. One of Furay's solo efforts was the country-influenced ballad "Kind Woman", which he recorded with the help of producer, engineer and bassist Jim Messina and pedal steel guitarist Rusty Young.
When Buffalo Springfield split up, Furay, Messina and Rusty Young decided to start their own group oriented toward such songs. Its original lineup was Furay (vocals and rhythm guitar), Messina (lead guitar, vocals, producer), Rusty Young (pedal steel guitar, banjo, dobro, guitar, mandolin and vocals), George Grantham (drums and vocals) and Randy Meisner (bass and vocals). The group was signed to a recording contract with Epic Records, which acquired the rights to Furay from the Springfield's Atlantic Records label in return for those to Graham Nash of The Hollies (who was moving to Atlantic as part of forming Crosby, Stills & Nash). Originally, the new group was named "Pogo", after the Pogo comic strip character, but was changed when its creator, Walt Kelly, objected and threatened to sue.
Poco dealt with a lot during the recording of their debut album -- the sudden departure of bassist Randy Meisner, the frustration of working with an engineer who didn't quite get what they were trying for, and a lot of pressure to deliver a solid collection of country-rock songs -- and came up with this startlingly great record, as accomplished as any of Buffalo Springfield's releases, and also reminiscent of the Beatlesand the Byrds. Pickin' Up the Pieces is all the more amazing when one considers that Jim Messina and George Grantham were both covering for the departed Meisner in hastily learned capacities on bass and vocals, respectively.
The title track is practically an anthem for the virtues of country-rock, with the kind of sweet harmonizing and tight interplay between the guitars that the Byrds, the Burritos, and others had to work awhile to achieve. The mix of good-time songs ("Consequently So Long," "Calico Lady"), fast-paced instrumentals ("Grand Junction"), and overall rosy feelings makes this a great introduction to the band, as well as a landmark in country-rock only slightly less important (but arguably more enjoyable than) Sweetheart of the Rodeo.
The band's lineup proved to be a problem throughout its career. During the recording of the debut album, Meisner left the group as a result of a conflict with Furay (reportedly, Meisner had objected after Furay barred all but himself and Messina from the first album's final mix playback sessions). After a stint playing with Ricky Nelson's Stone Canyon Band, Meisner later became a founding member of the Eagles. Messina briefly took over on bass until Timothy B. Schmit joined the band in September 1969.
The first two-thirds of Poco's second album is 25 minutes of some of their best music. These songs represent the group's blend of country and rock at its finest and brightest, with the happy harmonies of "Hurry Up" and "Keep on Believin'" totally irresistible. Jim Messina's "You Better Think Twice" is a perfectly constructed and arranged song, one that should have been a huge hit but mysteriously never found its place in the Top 40 pantheon. Listening to this recording, though, it's easy to see why unimaginative radio programmers and much of the record-buying public couldn't find a niche for Poco.
The knock was "too country for rock, too rock for country," but in fact, they were just ahead of their time, a tough spot to be in the world of popular entertainment. What about the last 15 minutes of this disc? It's a lengthy instrumental called "El Tonto de Nadie, Regressa." A cynic would say it's filler, but given the trend at the time toward side-long cuts, it's probably simply Poco's attempt at hipness. In retrospect, it can be seen as the forerunner to Messina's lengthy jams with Loggins & Messina a few years later; the sound is remarkably similar. While overshadowed by Pickin' Up the Pieces, which preceded it, and Deliverin', which followed, Poco is well worth owning by anyone interested in the early days of this particular band, and of country-rock in general. The trademark sweet, high harmonies belying the heartbreak expressed in Richie Furay's lyrics, Messina's distinctive lead guitar, and Rusty Young's amazing ability to get an organ sound out of his pedal steel guitar are all here in full blossom.
Messina chose to leave the band in October 1970, feeling Furay exhibited too much control over the group's sound and left the band to return to studio production. At the recommendation of Peter Cetera of Chicago, Messina selected guitarist/singer Paul Cotton, a one-time member of the Illinois Speed Press to replace him.
The realigned Poco, now on its third lineup on just its third studio album, hired Steve Cropper as producer and released From the Inside (1971). Again, poor sales were the result as the release landed at No. 52. The band and its management were dissatisfied with Cropper's production and hired Jack Richardson, who oversaw the next three albums, beginning with A Good Feelin' to Know (1972).
Good Feelin' to Know was Poco's big attempt to broaden their audience -- the title track, one of their most popular concert numbers, was the group's push for a hit single, which didn't work. The album as a whole, however, features a louder, harder-rocking sound a step or two removed from the country-rock they'd been known for, even on numbers like "Ride the Country," which has a more brittle sound than the group would have achieved on their earlier records. The guitars are all turned up really loud and the harmonies are less sweet, overall making for a very heavy sound, surprisingly similar to Buffalo Springfield (one of their old numbers, "Go and Say Goodbye," is even included, in an arguably better version), making this a curious throwback/advance. This album's relative failure made Richie Furay begin to lose faith in his own group's prospects.
The third biggest-selling album in the group's history, Crazy Eyes is also the group's liveliest and most bracing work and contains some of their most soulful music. In short, it's the fruition of everything they'd been working toward for four years. Curiously, it's also one of a handful of examples of their use of outside help, including Chris Hillman on mandolin. The resulting sound is richer than anything found on any other Poco album, and the only tragedy is that the band reportedly cut enough tracks for two whole albums -- one longs to hear the material that remained in the can. As it is, there's not a weak song, or even a wasted note anywhere on this album, and most bands would kill for a closing track as perfect as "Let's Dance Tonight."
After Furay's departure, the band released their last two albums with Epic; Seven (1974) and Cantamos (1974). The albums charted at No. 68 and No. 76 respectively. Poco left Epic after Cantamos and signed with ABC-Dunhill Records. Head Over Heels was their first ABC release, featuring Schmit's acoustic "Keep On Tryin'", which became the group's most successful single to date, charting at No. 50 on the Billboard Hot 100. Around the time of the release of Head Over Heels, The Very Best of Poco was released as a compilation album that documented the group's years with Epic. Epic's release fought with Head Over Heals for attention though neither charted very well, hitting No. 43 and No. 90, respectively.
The group's next ABC-Dunhill album was Rose Of Cimarron which also failed to generate much enthusiasm and peaked at No. 89. Another Epic release also came out in 1976, the live album Live. Indian Summer was released the following spring, peaking at No. 57, while the title track reached No. 50.
In August 1977, with the support of the rest of Poco, Schmit quit to join the Eagles, coincidentally replacing former Poco member Meisner yet again. As a result, a fully produced live album recorded at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium in Los Angeles in July 1977 was shelved by ABC. After languishing in storage for many years, the album was eventually released by John Thaler and Futuredge Music in partnership with Universal Special Projects as The Last Roundup in 2004.
After Schmit's departure, Poco decided to take a break. Grantham took some time off, while Young and Cotton decided to continue as the "Cotton-Young Band" and redoubled their efforts to succeed. They selected the Britons Steve Chapman (drums) and Charlie Harrison (bass) (former Judas Jump), both of whom had played together with Leo Sayer and Al Stewart, to round out their new quartet. However, ABC decided to pick up the Cotton-Young album — as long as they continued under the 'Poco' name. Thus, although Grantham had never quit Poco, he found himself bought out of the group. He subsequently landed a job as drummer for Ricky Skaggs.
Legend (1978), the Cotton-Young album with cover art by graphic artist (and later comedy actor) Phil Hartman, subsequently became the group's most commercially successful album, containing two Top Twenty hits, "Crazy Love" written and sung by Rusty Young (which also had a seven-week run at Number 1 on the Adult Contemporary chart in early 1979) and Cotton's "Heart of the Night". The album was certified gold, Poco's first album to achieve this distinction in original distribution.
During the first half of the 1980s, the group released five more albums: Under the Gun (1980), Blue And Gray (1981), Cowboys & Englishmen (1982) on MCA and, moving over to Atlantic Records, Ghost Town (1982) and Inamorata (1984). Poco failed to duplicate the success achieved by Legend, with each album performing more poorly than its predecessor. Furay, Schmit and Grantham had, since their departures, each guested with Poco at various times. Inamorata in 1984 included contributions by all three former members. Poco contributed the song "I'll Leave it Up to You" to the Fast Times at Ridgemont High soundtrack.
The group lost its recording contract with Atlantic due to the slow sales of Inamorata but continued to tour, mostly in small clubs. Bullard left to rejoin Crosby, Stills & Nash in 1983 and Harrison (who had not played on Inamorata) departed in mid-1984. New members Jeff Steele (bass) and Rick Seratte (keyboards, backing vocals) came in for Poco's 1984 tour dates, but they departed, along with drummer Chapman, to be replaced in 1985 by Jack Sundrud (vocals, bass, guitar) and the returning Grantham. Grantham's reunion was brief, though; In 1986 Ricky Skaggs asked him to rejoin his band. Chapman came back to take over drums again. After a few scattered dates for Poco in 1987, Paul Cotton did not perform with Poco again until 1992.
After a lengthy recording hiatus, at the urging of Richard Marx, Poco re-emerged on the RCA label with the successful Legacy (1989), reuniting original members Young, Furay, Messina, Grantham, and Meisner 20 years after Poco's debut. The album produced a Top 20 hit, "Call It Love," and another Top 40 hit, "Nothing to Hide," earning Poco its second gold album (in its 19th album). The group (having added a keyboardist, Dave Vanacore) toured in early 1990 opening for Marx. Furay bowed out early on and Poco toured as a headliner in the summer of 1990 with Sundrud returning to take over rhythm guitar from Furay. In 1991 Poco toured as an acoustic trio with Young, Messina and Meisner (drummer Gary Mallaber joined them for dates in Japan that July). But by the end of 1991, Messina and Meisner had returned to their individual careers.
By early 1992, Poco was once again without a record deal, Rusty Young was the sole owner of the Poco name and, though they had not officially disbanded, the band seemed to be quietly fading away. But despite this, Young once again teamed with Cotton, brought in new members Richard Neville (vocals, bass) and Tim Smith (drums), and toured through the end of the decade, although at a very limited schedule. Young and Cotton occasionally also appeared as Poco as an acoustic duo.
Poco again became more active as a touring unit after Grantham and Sundrud rejoined in 2000, reuniting the group's 1985 lineup. Running Horse (2002) found the band in the studio for the first time in thirteen years. The CD was released through the band's website. Furay, who had continued to make guest appearances at their shows over the years when they played in his adopted home-state of Colorado, reunited with the band again for a sold out show in Nashville in May 2004, resulting in the CD–DVD release Keeping the Legend Alive (2004).
The band's new incarnation continued to tour and record. In early 2012, a live video of a new song, "Neil Young", was released on YouTube as a teaser for a new studio album, All Fired Up, that was recorded in Nashville and released in February 2013. Selling on iTunes and the band's website, and through a distributor in Europe, Young, Sundrud and Webb penned all the songs on the self-produced album. In its 45th year, Rusty Young was the only original member in the band, and remained the leader and front man on stage. He has been the only member of Poco to have performed at every gig and played on every recording since the band's inception in 1968.
At the end of 2013, Rusty Young announced his retirement. At the age of 68, he said he had spent 45 years on the road in the same band and needed a break. A few shows were booked into 2014, including three farewell shows in Florida. One of those shows was a performance in a recording studio in front of a live audience for a DVD documentary of the band's live show. Young said there could be some one-offs in the future after that, but the band would not be actively touring as before. Young was finishing his memoirs for a book to be published. He and Sundrud write and record music for children's story videos as the "Session Cats". Lawrence, Sundrud and Webb continued to write, record and play in their own projects, and to do freelance work with other artists in Nashville, where they live. Young continues to do guest performances with former members of Poco and other country rock artists.
Poco was inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame (CMHOF) with the CMHOF induction ceremony which took place at the Paramount Theatre (Denver, Colorado) on January 9, 2015 and included a performance by the following line-up of band members: Paul Cotton, Richie Furay, Timothy B. Schmit, and Rusty Young. Also inducted into the CMHOF along with Poco was Firefall, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and Stephen Stills and Manassas.
1. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poco
2. All Music Guide to Rock. The Definitive Guide to Rock, Pop and Soul. 3rd Edition 2002. Edited by Vladimir Bogdanov, Chris Woodstra, Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Published by Backbeat Books, page 869-870, Bruce Eder
3. All Music Guide to Rock. The Definitive Guide to Rock, Pop and Soul. 3rd Edition 2002. Edited by Vladimir Bogdanov, Chris Woodstra, Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Published by Backbeat Books, page 869, Jim Newsom
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