Poco Biography

This stellar US country rock band formed as Pogo in the summer of 1968 from the ashes of the seminal Buffalo Springfield, who along with the Byrds were pivotal in the creation of country rock. The band originally comprised Richie Furay (9 May 1944, Yellow Springs, Ohio, USA; vocals/guitar), Jim Messina (b. 5 December 1947, Maywood, California, USA; vocals/guitar), Randy Meisner (b. 8 March 1946, Scottsbluff, Nebraska, USA; vocals/bass, ex-Poor), George Grantham (b. 20 November 1947, Cordell, Oklahoma, USA; drums/vocals, ex-Boenzee Cryque), and Rusty Young (b. 23 February 1946, Denver, Colorado, USA; vocals/pedal steel guitar, ex-Boenzee Cryque). Following an objection from Walt Kelly, the copyright owner of the Pogo cartoon character, they adopted the infinitely superior name, Poco, which defined as a musical term means ‘a little’ or ‘little by little’.

Poco’s 1969 debut Pickin’ Up The Pieces was arguably more country than rock, but its critical success made the band the leaders of the country rock genre. Meisner departed (later to co-found the Eagles) following a disagreement and Poco was released by the remaining quartet, again to critical applause, and like its predecessor made a respectable showing midway in the US Top 100. The album’s landmark was an entire side consisting of a Latin-styled, mainly instrumental suite, ‘El Tonto De Nadie Regresa’. On this Rusty Young pushed the capabilities of pedal steel to its limit with an outstanding performance, and justifiably became one of America’s top players. The energetic live set Deliverin’ made the US Top 30, the band having added the vocal talent of Timothy B. Schmit (b. Timothy Bruce Schmit, 30 October 1947, Oakland, California, USA; bass/vocals, ex-Glad). The departing Jim Messina then formed a successful partnership, Loggins And Messina, with Kenny Loggins, and was replaced by Paul Cotton (b. Norman Paul Cotton, 26 February 1945, Camp Rucker, Alabama, USA; vocals/guitar, ex-Illinois Speed Press). The new Poco line-up consolidated their position with From The Inside, but it was 1972’s superb A Good Feelin’ To Know that became their most critically acclaimed work. This uplifting set contained some of Furay’s finest songs and, although there were no weak moments, the title track and the sublime ‘I Can See Everything’ were of particular note. A strong collection, Crazy Eyes, included another Furay classic in the 10-minute title track, but he was tempted away by a lucrative offer to join a planned supergroup with Chris Hillman and J.D. Souther (the Souther Hillman Furay Band).

Poco persevered, still producing fine albums, but with moderate sales. Looking over their shoulder, they could see their former support band the Eagles carrying away their mantle. During the mid-70s the stable line-up of Cotton, Schmit, Grantham and Young released the studio albums Seven, Cantamos, Head Over Heels, Rose Of Cimarron and Indian Summer. Each well-produced record contained a palatable mix of styles with each member except Grantham, an accomplished writer, and as always their production standards were immaculate. Inexplicably the band was unable to broach the US Top 40, and like Furay, Schmit was tempted away to join the monstrously successful Eagles. Grantham left shortly after and the future looked decidedly bleak. The recruitment from England of two new members, Charlie Harrison (b. Tamworth, Staffordshire, England; bass/vocals) and Steve Chapman (b. 14 November 1949, London, England; drums/vocals), seemed like artistic suicide, but following the further addition of American Kim Bullard (b. 6 May 1955, Atlanta, Georgia, USA) on keyboards, they released Legend in 1978. Justice was seen to be done; the album made the US Top 20, became a million-seller and dealt them two major hit singles, ‘Heart Of The Night’ and ‘Crazy Love’. This new stable line-up made a further four albums with gradually declining success. Poco sounded particularly jaded on 1982’s Ghost Town; the magic had evaporated.

The contract-fulfilling Inamorata, released in 1984, marked the return of Furay, Grantham and Schmit to the line-up, and although it was a fine album it sold poorly. The band then disappeared, but five years later rumours circulated of a new Poco, and lo, the original line-up of Furay, Messina, Meisner, Grantham and Young returned with the exhilarating Legacy. Ironically, after all the years of frustration, this was one of their biggest albums, spawning further hit singles. Cotton and Young continued to tour as Poco throughout the 90s with the help of Richard Neville (b. 1 December 1952, Oklahoma, Texas, USA; bass/vocals) and Tim Smith (drums/vocals). In 2000, Cotton and Young teamed up with original drummer George Grantham and bass player Jack Sundrud (b. 7 September 1949, Crookston, Minnesota, USA). The resulting Running Horse in 2002 surprised yet delighted the fans, but was ignored by the wider market. Grantham suffered a stroke on stage the following July. In 2005, Bareback At Big Sky appeared with George Lawrence standing in for Grantham (who had recently suffered a stroke), along with Young, Cotton and Sundred

Poco remain, along with the Eagles, the pioneering champions of country rock and their large back catalogue is worthy of investigation. They continue to tour in their homeland, with Furay making only occasional appearances with them. The Eagles made the real money out of country rock, but Poco made the real music.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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