Thursday, March 20, 2008

Poco (music)

Richie Furay (guitar, vocals), Jim Messina (guitar, bass, vocals), Rancy Meisner (bass, vocals), Rusty Young (pedal steel guitar, banjo, dobro, guitar), George Grantham (drums), Timothy B. Schmidt (bass, vocals -- replacing Meisner), Paul Cotton (guitar -- replacing Messina). Wikipedia Page

Memo to aspiring rock groups: don't make yourself hard to categorize. Otherwise I'll be writing about you some day.

That is the story of Poco. They (along with the Flying Burrito Brothers) were pioneers of country rock, so much so that when the Eagles came along, some thought they were just pale imitations of Poco. But they were too country for rock, too rock for country, and despite a bunch of fine albums, they never got the airplay they deserved.

Poco came out of the wreckage of the Buffalo Springfield. Everyone knows the group was the starting point for Steven Stills and Neal Young, but Furay also highly involved, writing songs and playing guitar. Jim Messina also joined the group for its final album as their bass player. During the final sessions, he and Furay worked together on the country tinged "Kind Woman."

Once the group broke up, Furay and Messina decided to keep moving in that direction. Gathering together steel guitarist Rusty Young and George Grantham and Randy Meisner on drums and bass (Messina moved to lead guitar), they formed Poco.*

Their first album, Picking up the Pieces, was a triumph. The combination of rock and country was seamless, and it had such great songs as "Just in Case It Happens, Yes Indeed," "Consequently So Long," the terrific instrumental "Grand Junction," and the title song. Meissner left just after the album was completed, eventually ending up with the Eagles, and was replaced by Timothy B. Schmidt (who also eventually ended up with the Eagles) Their second album, Poco, had the great tune "Hurry Up," though was not quite as good as the first -- which was a hard act to follow.

A live album, Deliverin', followed, showing how good there were live.

Yet the group was getting very little airplay and so-so sales despite a great critical reception. Only Deliverin' made it into the top 40. Tired of touring, Jim Messina quit to go into producing.** He was replaced with Paul Cotton.

Three more fine albums came out: From the Inside, A Good Feeling to Know (with another great title song), and Crazy Eyes. By this point, Richie Furay became discouraged. Despite acclaim all around, their music wasn't selling well and was rejected by mainstream rock and country audiences. It probably was also rough to see so many of the people who he had played with -- Stills, Young, Meisner (with the Eagles), and Messina -- doing much better. He left for a solo.

Young and Grantham kept the group together, and put out a few good albums -- and had some chart success, but eventually the group faded away, only to come back for some reunions.

Never more than a niche group in its time, Poco produced some nice upbeat meldings of country and rock that still sound fresh today.

*The group's name was originally was going to be Pogo, but Walt Kelly said "no," probably the only artistic mistake Kelly ever made.

** Though he's best known with Loggins and Messina, originally he was just planning to produce a Kenny Loggins solo album. However, he liked the music so much that he started playing and singing along

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