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.
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 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.
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.)
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.
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