The co-founder of the pioneering country-rock band Poco died on April 14 of a heart attack at his home in Davisville, Missouri.
Norman Russell Young was born in California in 1946 and grew up in Colorado. With a love for country music, he took up the pedal steel guitar and played in local bands. A friend of his, who was also friends with the L.A.-based country-rock band Buffalo Springfield, invited Young to come to Los Angeles.
From there, Poco was born, and country-rock never had a better band.
While the Eagles are held as "the" epitome of country-rock, in reality Poco's mixing the genres predated the Eagles by four years. In fact, the Eagles obtained both of their bassists from Poco: Randy Meisner was on the first Poco album, Pickin' Up the Pieces, but left in a dispute before the album was released. (The painting of the dog on the cover shows where Meisner was supposed to be in the original artwork.) Timothy B. Schmit replaced Meisner and stayed with Poco until Meisner left the Eagles in 1977, shortly after Poco's Indian Summer tour had concluded. The Eagles grabbed Schmit, leaving Poco's future in doubt.
Young, who was by 1977 the only original member left (other notable former members include Jim Messina and Richie Furay), decided to retire the Poco name, and he and longtime member Paul Cotton would continue on as the Young-Cotton band. Their record label, however, pushed them to keep the Poco name for the next album.
That album was 1978's Legend, which yielded Poco's hits "Crazy Love" and "Heart of the Night." Both of those songs scraped the bottom of the Billboard country charts while being top 20 pop hits.
In 2013 Young was inducted into the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame. That year he decided he'd had enough of the road, intending to retire and turn Poco's legacy over to Paul Cotton. However, Cotton quit and Young's retirement was put on hold.
"We've been together longer than we have with some of our wives," Young once said about the half-century of Poco's good-time music that was, while "rock," far more country than most of the stuff you'll hear on country radio today.
That opening line from the title song of Poco's first album, Pickin' Up the Pieces, describes the history of Poco's music best:
There's just a little bit of magic in the country music we're playin'
So let's begin
We're takin' you back down home where folks are happy
Sitting pickin' and a-grinnin' casually
Rusty Young was 75.
K.F. Raizor, author of the website Raizor's Edge and the book We Can't Sing and We Ain't Funny: The World of Homer and Jethro is our guest writer today on That Nashville Sound. She's ever so gracious to provide wonderful tributes to honor those to whom the music we treasure just wouldn't be the same without. Thank you, K.F.