Poco: “After forty-five years it’s coming to a close”

30th October 2013

Interview. Rusty Young, singer and founding member of Poco, talks about the All Fired Up album released in 2013. He also relates the history of Poco and announces the end of this indispensable band of the California country rock scene.

Like many musicians, you moved from your hometown to Los Angeles in the 60s. Why didn’t you move to Nashville since you were a pedal steel player?

There were, and still are, lots of great steel players in Nashville. I left Denver for L.A. because I was hired to play on the Buffalo Springfield’s Last Time Around album.

What was the scene like when you arrived in Los Angeles? Was it an exciting time?

It was the ‘Flower Power’ era and most of what you hear about it is true. It was an exciting time to be in L.A. Initially I lived in Laurel Canyon next door to Captain Beefheart. The Canyon was the place to live. It seemed like every little shack had a rock star living there.

Sunset Strip was alive with girls in bell bottoms with flowers in their hair and guys in bell bottoms with fringed leather vests.

Poco is considered as one of the founding bands of country rock. What was special about the music? Why was it considered new? I mean, you were not the first to mix rock’n’roll and country music. It had been done before by artists such as Buddy Holly or the Everly Brothers, so what made Poco unique?

You right. It wasn’t really anything new. What we did was take Richie’s rock ‘n roll songs and ‘color’ them with country instruments. They called it California country rock.

Poco’s sound was rich and eclectic with instrumentation unusual for rock music. Would it be an overstatement to say that the end of the 1960s was a period when experimentation was more pervasive than standardization in the music business?

We experimented, but the record company executives and many at radio didn’t really understand and threw up a lot of obstacles.

What was the reaction of country music purists when they first heard Poco’s music and records by other California country rock artists?

If you mean Nashville, they weren’t supportive. Country music was a very small industry and they didn’t want to give up their hold.

In interviews, you have been very critical of the band’s managers and the heads of record companies you were signed to. What were the main reasons for the band’s financial problems?

We had very poor management in the beginning and were very naïve when it came to the music business and there were some bad moments with record label heads that didn’t help. But looking back, the real problem was we weren’t a ‘hit song’ band. Richie’s songs were great at FM radio, but not the songs they wanted at AM ‘hit’ radio.

The first best-selling album from Poco was Legend in 1978, ten years after the band started. How would you explain its success/appeal? Did you work differently?

When Legend was recorded we didn’t do anything differently. We just had our first hit song, a song that the record company knew was a hit the first time they heard it. And radio was on our side when they got the Crazy Love single. DJ’s told us they were happy to have a Poco song that they could play on top forty radio. Of course, it’s ironic that after Jimmy Messina, Richie Furay and Timothy Schmit left the band we had our first gold and platinum record and our first #1. Especially when it was written and sung by someone who wasn’t a singer-songwriter while they were in the band.

At the end of the 1980s, the original lineup of Poco reunited to record the album Legacy, and some years later, the band reunited again for a concert to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the band. What memories do you have of these reunions?

I love the Legacy album. I think it’s an historic recording. On that album you have the sound of Buffalo Springfield, Poco, the Eagles, and Loggins and Messina-four of the most successful and influential bands in American music. It was a bittersweet experience because all the tensions that resulted in people leaving the band earlier were still there. There were great days and there were not so great days.

The anniversary show at Stagecoach was more fulfilling. Everyone got along and appreciated the occasion. Too bad they put us on one of the small stages. Once again we got second class treatment.

Who are the new Poco members who played on the All Fired Up album? Where did you find them?

The new guys are Jack Sundrud, Michael Webb, and George Lawrence. Jack has been with Poco since 1985 and even toured with the reunion band in the late eighties.

Michael Webb is the new guy. He’s been with us for three years now. Michael is a much sought after session musician and producer in Nashville. We wanted to add a keyboard player to the band and when we called him to ask if he could recommend someone, he said he’s love to join. Michael was the driving force behind the All Fired Up CD.

George Lawrence was the obvious choice on drums after George Grantham had his stroke. George L. had filled in for George G. a few times and was a comfortable fit, as well as, a great drummer.

Poco has been through several lineup changes. Is it a means to regenerate your music?

The band has always prided itself on having great musicians and playing memorable concerts. We have a standard that was established by the amazing musicians who have passed through the band over the years.

But, after forty-five years it’s coming to a close. We have concerts scheduled into next Feb. and then I’m walking away to work on other projects. I have a book to finish, I’d like to record some songs on my own, and there are some other opportunities to explore.

It’s been a great ride!

Thanks to all the Poconuts.

See the other English interviews published by Yuzu Melodies.