Definitions

Poco

Poco

[poh-koh; It. paw-kaw]

Poco is an American country rock band originally formed by Richie Furay and Jim Messina following the demise of Buffalo Springfield in 1968. The title of their first album, Pickin' up the Pieces, refers to the breakup of the Springfield and is the only debut album to ever receive a perfect review rating from Rolling Stone Magazine. A favorite of AOR FM stations in the early 1970s, Poco was considered to be a highly innovative and pioneering band. Although the band charted a handful of Top 20 hits, overall their Top 40 success was somewhat uneven. Throughout the years Poco has performed in various groupings, with the latest version still active today. With 24 original albums and 26 "Best of" and anthology collections, the band boasts a catalog of 50 releases.

Inception

During recording of the last Buffalo Springfield album, each of the three lead singers (Stephen Stills, Neil Young and Richie Furay) recorded songs without the other members present. One of Furay's solo songs was the country-influenced ballad "Kind Woman", which he recorded with the help of producer/engineer/bassist Jim Messina and pedal steel guitarist Rusty Young. When Buffalo Springfield then split up, Furay, Messina and Young decided to start their own group oriented toward such songs.

The original lineup was Furay (vocals and rhythm guitar), Messina (lead guitar, vocals, producer), 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 and Messina from Atlantic Records (the Springfield's label) in return for the rights to David Crosby from the Byrds and Graham Nash from the Hollies (who were moving to Atlantic as part of Crosby, Stills & Nash). Originally, the new group was named "Pogo" after the famous comic strip character, but it had to change its name when Pogo creator Walt Kelly objected to their use of the name. "Poco" is a Spanish term meaning "little" or "un", as "poco importante", which means unimportant in Spanish.

Their first album, Pickin' Up the Pieces (1969), is considered to be the best and most important album of a new musical genre that united country with rock music. However, the album was not a commercial success, falling short of the top 50 on the Billboard album charts.

Prior to its release, 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 Rick Nelson's Stone Canyon Band, he later became a founding member of The Eagles. Messina assumed the bass chores until Timothy B. Schmit came in to replace Meisner in September 1969.

The "Furay Era"

The studio album Poco (1970) and the live album Deliverin' (1971) followed. Guided by the vision of Furay and Messina, these became touchstones of country rock music making Poco the yardstick by which all country rock bands are measured. Poco's unique blending of the Bakersfield sound with energetic rock translated well to live performances, and the band developed a loyal following on the road. Each album picked up moderate airplay with songs like Messina's "You Better Think Twice" and Furay's "C'mon". Critical acclaim did not yield commercial success, however, and even though Deliverin' became Poco's first album to reach the top 30 on the Billboard album charts (peaking at #26), Messina, more accustomed to studio life, chose to leave the band in October 1970. He became a studio producer for Columbia Records, and, eventually, half of Loggins and Messina. At the suggestion of Peter Cetera of Chicago, Paul Cotton, guitarist and vocalist from The Illinois Speed Press, replaced Messina.

The realigned Poco, now working on its third lineup on just its fourth album, hired Steve Cropper as producer and released From The Inside (1971), featuring Cotton's "Bad Weather", which became a signature song for the band. The band then hired star producer Jack Richardson, who oversaw the next three albums, beginning with A Good Feelin’ To Know (1972). Although the Furay title track became the most recognizable Poco song of their early years, it completely failed to chart despite more critical acclaim. As a result, Furay became increasingly discouraged with Poco's prospects, especially since ex-bandmates Stills, Young, Meisner and Messina were so successful with their respective groups. The next album, Crazy Eyes (1973), was another strong effort that ultimately proved to be Furay's last as a member of the group. The title track was a Furay song written about fellow country-rock pioneer and close friend Gram Parsons of Flying Burrito Brothers fame, who had died of a drug overdose at the Joshua Tree Inn just prior to the recording of the album; Furay also sang Parsons' song "Brass Buttons" on the album.

At the urging of Poco Manager, and later Asylum Records president David Geffen, Furay left Poco in September 1973 and joined with J. D. Souther and Chris Hillman to create the Souther-Hillman-Furay Band on Asylum. Poco decided not to replace Furay and continued as a quartet.

Famous road crew members during the 1970s included Steven DePaul and Jimmy Collins as guitar technicians and Ronald Perfitt as the road manager. Steven DePaul would later go on to become the Associate Producer for NYPD Blue and Director of shows such as The Unit, K-Ville and C.S.I. New York. Jimmy Collins would later go on to manage the band Boston.

The "Post-Furay Era"

Furay's departure provided an opportunity for Rusty Young. Previously known largely for his multi-instrumental talents, especially on pedal steel guitar, Young stepped up to become one of the band's primary songwriters and singers on subsequent albums. Seven (1974) and Cantamos (1974), their last two albums for Epic Records, established the group as a strong quartet without Furay. After Cantamos Poco left Epic for ABC Records. Head Over Heels was their first ABC release, featuring Schmit's acoustic "Keep On Tryin'", which became an AOR favorite and the group's most successful single to date. The success of the single was a surprise for the group after leaving Epic. Around the time of the release of Head Over Heels, Epic released The Very Best of Poco, a compilation that documented the group's years with Epic. Epic's release fought with Head Over Heels for the attention of fans, arguably causing reduced sales for both albums.

Al Garth (ex-Loggins and Messina fiddle/sax player) officially joined the group in 1976 after appearing on a few tracks on Head Over Heels. The following album was Rose Of Cimarron, for which Young and Cotton wrote the lion's share of the group's songs. Though the album was generally considered one of the group's finest, featuring Cotton's Outlaw Country-inspired "Too Many Nights Too Long" and Young's classic title track, its sales were poor due to competition with another poorly-timed Epic release, the live album Live. Strong internal conflict marked this point in the band's history, and Al Garth left midway through the year. Indian Summer was released in the following spring. Despite the fact that it received little promotion in part due to the poor sales of Rose, it ended up charting higher than its predecessor, driven by Cotton's title track. The band recorded a new live album in a second attempt to break through with the Indian Summer and Rose of Cimarron songs, featuring Furay's first guest appearance with the band since his departure some four years before, but the album's release was postponed by ABC. (The album was eventually released as The Last Roundup in 2004.)

Success

In September 1977, Schmit quit to join the Eagles, coincidentally replacing former Poco member Meisner yet again, and in early 1978, Grantham followed him out. Young and Cotton toyed with dumping the "Poco" name to become the Cotton-Young Band and redoubled their efforts, selecting Britons Steve Chapman (drums) and Charlie Harrison (bass) (both of whom had played together with Leo Sayer, Al Stewart and many others) to round out their new quartet -- which then decided to continue on as Poco at ABC's request. Legend (1978), with cover art by comedy actor Phil Hartman, subsequently became the group's most commercially successful album, yielding a gold album and two Top Twenty hits, Young's "Crazy Love" (which also had a seven-week run at Number 1 on the Adult Contemporary chart in early 1979, the biggest hit on the AC chart that year) and Cotton's "Heart of the Night". Kim Bullard (keyboards) had joined the band in December 1978 just as Legend was being released. While "Crazy Love" was riding up the charts, ABC Records was sold to MCA Records. Poco was retained by MCA and the Legend album was reissued on the MCA label. With the momentum built up from Legend's success, Poco played their new hit "Heart of the Night" on the live album No Nukes in support of nuclear-free energy, which featured several other big artists such as Bruce Springsteen and Jackson Browne.

The later years

In the 80s, the group released five more albums: Under The Gun (1980), Blue And Gray (1981), Cowboys & Englishmen (1982) and (moving over to Atlantic Records) Ghost Town (1982) and Inamorata (1984). Despite creating music that often lived up to the quality of the band's earlier efforts, Poco ultimately failed to sustain the success achieved by Legend. In the wake of changing musical tastes and a fickle marketplace in the early 1980s, Poco increasingly faded from the forefront of the popular music scene as the decade went on.

Furay, Schmit and Grantham had, since their departures, each, at various times, guested with Poco. Inamorata included contributions by all three former members, but the album did not result in a lasting reunion, in part due to its lack of success.

The group lost its recording contract with Atlantic after the slow sales of Inamorata but continued to tour, mostly in small clubs. Bullard left to rejoin Crosby, Stills and 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, only to be replaced in 1985 by Jack Sundrud and the returning Grantham. But in 1986, Chapman came back to take over drums again from Grantham.

During this era, the group relocated to Nashville in hopes of a new contract. But the powers that be there only seemed interested in the group as songwriters rather than as a recording act.

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 twenty years after Poco's debut. The album featured two top forty hits, "Call it Love" and "Nothing to Hide", and earned a gold album. The group (having added a keyboardist, Dave Vanecore) toured in early 1990 opening for Marx. Then Furay had to bow out due to conflicts in his schedule (he was now a minister at a Colorado church). Poco toured as a headliner in the summer of 1990 with Sundrud returning to take over 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. 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. Sometimes the group even did shows as an acoustic duo (just Young and Cotton) and at other times during this era, Young worked in another group, Four Wheel Drive, with Patrick Simmons of the Doobie Brothers, Bill Lloyd of Foster & Lloyd and John Cowan (ex-New Grass Revival). This group reorganized under the name Sky Kings in 1995 and Young was all set to concentrate his full attention on this project. But its lack of success prevented it from continuing and Young remained with Poco.

In 2000, Grantham and Sundrud once again returned to Poco and Running Horse (2002) found the band in the studio for the first time in thirteen years. Furay (who had continued to make guest appearances at their shows over the years when they played in his native Colorado) reunited with the band again for one show in Nashville in May 2004, resulting in the spirited CD/DVD release Keeping The Legend Alive (2004). In July of the same year, Grantham tragically suffered a stroke during a live performance. His recovery has been slow and expensive and the group has created a donor fund on its official website, Poconut.com, to offset some of his considerable medical expenses. The site offers a variety of ways of donating money. George Lawrence (who had subbed for Tim Smith on drums in 1999) rejoined Poco at this point.

Every label Poco has appeared on and several independent labels have released numerous "Best of", re-releases and anthology collections, offering new and old Poco fans plentiful opportunties to enjoy new and old versions of their music.

The Present

Poco is still writing and recording a substantial volume of music, touring festivals and top rock venues in the United States, Canada and Europe, and doing solo projects. Young, Cotton, Sundrud, and veteran drummer George Lawrence form the current lineup. Bareback At Big Sky (2005) and The Wildwood Sessions (2006) are Poco's most recent original releases, capturing live acoustic versions of songs both new and familiar from their almost forty-year career. The current lineup of Poco was reunited yet again with Richie Furay for a concert at the Wildwood Lodge in Steelville, Missouri in May, 2007.

Discography

Band members

Notes

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