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Friday, February 22, 2008

Friday Nite Retro

Welcome once again to that weekly excursion into obscurity that I call Friday Nite Retro! Tonight I'm featuring the work of members of Buffalo Springfield, The Eagles, Loggins & Messina, and several other obscure bands. In other words, they had alot of turnover during the tenure!

When Buffalo Springfield split up in 1968, Richie Furay and Jim Messina decided to form a new band called Pogo. Cartoonist Walt Kelly had issues with the use of that name, so they switched it to Poco. The original lineup was Furay (vocals, rhythm guitar), Messina (lead guitar, vocals, producer), Rusty Young (pedal steel guitar, banjo, dobro, guitar, and vocals), George Grantham (drums and vocals) and Randy Meisner (bass and vocals).

Their first album, Pickin' Up the Pieces (1969) is considered one of the best and most important albums 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 conflict with Messina over the group's direction. After a stint playing with Rick Nelson's Stone Canyon Band, he later became a founding member of The Eagles. Timothy B. Schmit subsequently replaced Meisner on both bass and vocals.

Guided by the vision of Furay and Messina, 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. Their next two albums each produced a moderate hit, Messina's "You Better Think Twice" and Furay's "C'mon". Critical acclaim did not yield commercial success, however, and Messina finally chose to leave the band. He went on to become half of Loggins and Messina. Paul Cotton 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.

Bad Weather

Furay became increasingly discouraged with Poco's prospects, especially since ex-bandmates Meisner and Messina were so successful with their new acts. 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 Gram Parsons of Flying Burrito Brothers fame, who had died of a drug overdose just prior to the recording of the album. Furay left Poco and joined with J. D. Souther and Chris Hillman to create the Souther-Hillman-Furay Band. Poco decided not to replace Furay and continued as a quartet.

Crazy Eyes

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. They moved to ABC Records, although Epic still had the rights to a live album (Live (1976)). Head Over Heels (1975), Rose Of Cimarron (1976), and Indian Summer (1977) found the group augmenting their country rock sound with a more mainstream approach. Head Over Heels featured Schmit's acoustic "Keep On Tryin'", which became an AOR favorite and the group's most successful single to date.

Keep on Tryin'

At that point, Schmit quit to join the Eagles, coincidentally replacing former Poco member Meisner yet again. Undaunted, Young and Cotton redoubled their efforts, selecting Brits Steve Chapman (drums) and Charlie Harrison (bass) to round out their new quartet. The band's 1978 album,Legend, with cover art by comedian 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 1979, the biggest hit on the AC chart that year) and Cotton's "Heart of the Night".

Crazy Love

In the Heart of the Night

Despite creating music that often lived up to the quality of the band's earlier efforts, this lineup 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. After a lengthy recording hiatus, Poco reemerged 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. Just like the early days, though, internal conflict disrupted the continuing success of this lineup, and it splintered and then disbanded in 1991.

Call it Love

Nothing to Hide

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 comprise the current lineup. Check out their official website!

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