When the genre of country rock gets written about, Poco often gets short shrift. The band didn’t have, say, the massive radio hits of the Eagles, the hip imprimatur of the Byrds, or the doomed allure of Gram Parsons.
But Poco — whose signature songs include “A Good Feelin’ to Know,” “Rose of Cimarron,” “Heart of the Night” and “Crazy Love” — was there at or very near the music’s birth, rising from the ashes of the Buffalo Springfield. Poco was formed by Richie Furay and Jim Messina from the Springfield along with Rusty Young, who played steel guitar on the Springfield’s final album, “Last Time Around.” Randy Meisner and George Grantham rounded out the original lineup.
Even though Poco sometimes doesn’t receiver proper credit, you won’t hear Young, who now leads the group, complaining about it.
“Sometimes it’s a little hard for me to stand back and listen to the kinds of stories that aren’t necessarily true,” Young says by phone from his cabin overlooking Missouri’s Mark Twain National Forest. “But it’s been a great life, a great career. So I can’t get upset by that.”
Another factor that may have held the band back in some accounts is its revolving-door membership. Meisner left and joined the Eagles. He was replaced by Timothy B. Schmit, who would later leave … and replace him in the Eagles. Messina split and joined forces with Kenny Loggins. Furay left to form a not-quite-supergroup with J.D. Souther and Chris Hillman. Later, Paul Cotton and many others would cycle through the group.
Originally, it wasn’t that everyone left for greener pastures, Young says. It was that Furay fired them — first Meisner and then Messina.
“The best one is that then he fired Richie!” Young says with a laugh.
The plus side of Furay’s eventual departure is that it forced Young to start writing songs. Prior to that, he was the band’s ace instrumentalist, especially on steel guitar. (Young is a 2013 inductee of the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame.)
“It was a life-changing moment for me,” he says. The oft-covered “Rose of Cimarron” and “Crazy Love,” which became Poco’s breakthrough hit, are both Young compositions.
These days, the band’s lineup includes guitarist Jack Sundred, a member since 1985; Rick Lonow, who wrote the band’s 1989 hit “Call It Love”; and the most recent addition, multi-instrumentalist Lex Browning.
“It’s just a little four-piece band,” Young says. “Hence the name ‘Poco.’”
Young, meanwhile, has been up to some activities outside the group. He recorded a solo album, “Waitin’ for the Sun,” in 2017. Messina, Furay, Schmit and Grantham all appear on the disc. More recently, he released a digital single, “Listen to Your Heart,” whose proceeds benefit Santana’s Hope 4 Paws, an animal rescue operation in Steelville, Missouri. It’s a passion project for Young and especially his wife, Mary, he says.
He’s also writing a book, which he hopes to finish soon. It’s not an airing of grievances, he says, though he does describe it as “pretty pointed” in terms of talking about his experiences with record executives such as David Geffen and Clive Davis and musical luminaries he’s crossed paths with, such as Elton John and Janis Joplin.
“A lot of books that I read, they want to be so politically correct, and they won’t tell the real story,” he says. “They kind of dance around the hard part. If I can pass anything on, I want to pass on the things that I think are mistakes or the things I saw that turned out to be mistakes, or the things I did that turned out to be mistakes.”
Young considered retiring a few years back but kept going because he’s still having a great time.
“I don’t have to do this. But I took a vow when I kind of took over the band that the music would always be something the guys that have been in the band would be proud of. It would always be something the audience and the fans who had been there all along would enjoy. And that I would be proud of what we’re doing. And I am.”
What Poco • When 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday • Where Wildey Theatre, 252 North Main Street, Edwardsville • How much $60 • More info 618-307-1750; wildeytheatre.com
Editor's note: Richie Furay's manager, Dave Stone, reached out to reporter Daniel Durchholz to dispute some of Young's statements: "Richie never fired anyone. He did not fire Randy Meisner or Jim Messina. Randy left the band because of disenchantment with not being allowed in the control room with Richie (and) Jim as they were mixing the first album. Jim left because he didn’t want to be on the road so much and he wanted to focus on producing only. And Richie certainly did not fire himself. David Geffen persuaded him to leave Poco and join forces with Souther & Hillman."