Poco: A Seminal Influence On the Country-Rock Genre
If you were anywhere near a radio in the mid 1970s, you heard two hit songs with gorgeous harmonies reminiscent of the bands America and The Eagles: “Crazy Love” and “Heart of the Night.”
The artists were a Southern California band named Poco, and critics credit them as pioneers of the sound that came to be known as country-rock. They were created by the breakup of the band Buffalo Springfield, which had included Stephen Stills and Neil Young. The new group made their mark in a hurry. Their first album “Pickin’ Up the Pieces” was the only debut album ever to receive a five-star rating from Rolling Stone magazine.
In the years to follow, they were also to become one of the most productive bands ever, with 24 original albums and 26 “Best Of” collections. There were many personnel changes over the years–a sign of the rich base of talent Poco represented. Drummer George Grantham left to join the Byrds, Jim Messina formed Loggins and Messina, and Meisner and Timothy Schmit joined the Eagles.
(Music trivia quiz: the band was originally named Pogo, before finding that the name was copyrighted by cartoonist Walt Kelly, who threatened to sue.)
The founding members of Poco were Richie Furay, Massina, Meisner, and Rusty Young. Young is the only member who’s played in every concert since the band’s formation, and he recalls the heady atmosphere of the early days: “It was a great time to be in Los Angeles. The music scene wasn’t what it is today, of course. It was before MTV and all this other kind of stuff. It was a real local happening there in Los Angeles. Eras were changing.
“The Troubadour was the hub of it all. We were like the house band at the Troubadour once we got our band together. Everybody hung out there, from Ricky Nelson to J.D. Souther, Jackson Browne, Waylon Jennings … any night there would be interesting people there.”
Their performing has sometimes been a rocky road over the years, Young says. “The reason the band survived all this time is that we’ve always had great musicians. When we did our ‘Legacy’ album in 1989 – that, to me was an amazing record. On one album was the original Poco band – Randy Meisner, Jimmy Messina, Richie Furay, George Grantham, Rusty Young, and me. In that one band you had [members of] Loggins & Messina, the Eagles, Buffalo Springfield and Poco. Four of the most influential bands in American music that all came from this one little group of guys playing together in 1968. I think it’s amazing what we’ve done. We’ve had great talent, we still do in the band today, it’s as good as ever. That’s the reason the band survived. We’ve always had great singers, songwriters and players.”
Nowadays, concerts by Poco are fairly rare, which helps make Beartrap 2016 a historical event. “Poco has a history unmatched by any band, “Young says, “and we feel a responsibility to keep audiences captivated with each and every concert. It’s been a long ride, and it just keeps getting better.”