Rusty tells G. Brown about growing up as a steel guitar prodigy in Denver (0:50), meeting drummer George Grantham and playing in Böenzee Cryque (6:40), getting the call to play on a Buffalo Springfield session in L.A. (7:18), auditioning Gregg Allman and Gram Parsons as potential Poco players (8:42), Neil Young unknowingly saving Poco (12:45), Poco moving to Colorado (17:06), Richie Furay leaving the band (18:30), writing the Poco classic “Rose of Cimarron” (20:22), Timothy B. Schmit leaving for the Eagles (24:18), “Crazy Love” hitting No. 1 (24:49), SNL’s Phil Hartman designing the Legend album cover (27:11), reconvening the original Poco lineup (29:29), making his first solo record (31:52) and watching Johnny Cash weigh in on Gram Parsons’ dress 36:40).
Rusty Young got his musical start in Böenzee Cryque, a Denver-based band that recorded for Uni Records. The double-sided 45 “Still in Love with You Baby” backed with “Sky Gone Gray” went to No. 1 on the hit list of KIMN, Denver’s dominant Top 40 station, in April 1967. That same year, Young received a call from Buffalo Springfield guitarist Richie Furay in Los Angeles, who was looking for a pedal steel guitarist to play on the band’s innovative country-rock composition, “Kind Woman.” In 1968, with the Springfield in disarray, Furay and guitarist Jim Messina quickly set about assembling a band of their own. They recruited Young, who called in two buddies from Colorado—drummer George Grantham, also from Böenzee Cryque, and bassist Randy Meisner, who came from a rival band, the Poor. Poco’s Pickin’ Up the Pieces album debuted in 1969, blending sweet country harmonies with a driving rock beat. Then Meisner left and later co-founded the Eagles, and Messina slipped into the band’s bass slot until Timothy B. Schmit signed. Poco made its reputation as an exciting concert attraction, playing hopeful, optimistic music. The live album, Deliverin’, was the band’s biggest seller of the era. After Messina split to form a duo with Kenny Loggins, former Illinois Speed Press guitarist Paul Cotton stepped in, and the fall of 1971, the members moved to Colorado. Furay wrote one of Poco’s most distinctive compositions, 1973’s “A Good Feeling to Know,” but departed the band when the track failed to generate the expected commercial success. Poco plugged on, recording such classics as Schmit’s “Keep on Tryin’,” Cotton’s “Indian Summer” and Young’s “Rose of Cimarron.” When Meisner left the Eagles, Schmit quit Poco to take his place; Grantham left to live and work in Nashville. With Legend, Poco’s 12th studio album, Young and Cotton cracked the top of the charts. Young wrote and sang on the surprise hit, “Crazy Love.” Cotton’s “Heart of the Night” was a second Top 20 hit. Young orchestrated a Poco reunion of the five original members in 1989; Legacy contained the Top 20 hit “Call It Love” and earned a gold record. The team of Young and Cotton carried on until 2008. Young, the Colorado native, has remained the only member who has performed at every Poco gig and played on every Poco recording since the band’s inception.