It’s ‘Poco,’ Not ‘Pogo’

Editor’s note: This is the third in a four-part series about “Americana” music, a hybrid rock sound that gave birth to the country rock format. (Catch up with Part 2 now.) Here’s rock historian Doug Morgan.

The other big country-rock outfit was Poco, formed after the messy breakup of Buffalo Springfield. To say it was messy may be an understatement, because two band members (Neil Young and Steven Stills) recorded songs for the last LP ("Last Time Around") without the other band members, and Richie Furay used only producer/bass player Jim Messina from the band.

Upon the group's collapse in May of 1968, Furay, Messina, and pedal steel whiz Rusty Young thought it would be a good idea to form their own band. They added drummer George Grantham and bass player Randy Meisner to the mix. With Meisner on bass, Messina was able to switch to lead guitar.

Their first studio album came out in May of 1969. "Pickin' Up The Pieces" was considered as important a record as the Burrito's "Gilded Palace Of Sin" was, with both LPs coming out about the same time. Thus a trend was born.

Poco - Pickin' Up the Pieces

Note that the LP cover in the beginning of the clip above has a painting of four people and a dog. Randy Meisner isn't on the cover. After it was recorded but before it was released, Randy Meisner was, er, fired from the band. Seems he was a touch unhappy to be excluded from the final mix. Furay insisted that only he and Messina, who had experience mixing LPs, would do the final mix. That didn't set well with Meisner, who left to join Rick Nelson's Stone Canyon Band, then went off with Bernie Leadon and friends to become The Eagles.

Unfortunately, like the Burrito's first LP, "Pickin Up The Pieces" was loved by the critics but not audiences. The album, now hailed as a seminal record in the development of country-rock, flopped in the sales department. With Timothy B Schmidt replacing Meisner, the second LP, "Poco", did a little better.....

Poco - Hurry Up

....hitting the low 50s on the Billboard Hot 200.

One of Poco's problems was that it suffered a bit of what I call the KISS syndrome: They were a terrific live act, but they couldn’t seem to capture that same energy in their studio recordings. KISS found a way around it by producing a live album. Well, Poco did the same thing, and in January of 1971 produced "DeLIVErin'," which was the first Poco LP that could be called a hit.

Poco - You'd Better Think Twice

Alas, the wandering musician bug hit Jim Messina just before the LP was released, and he quit the band to return to independent producing, feeling the Furay was exacting too much control over the band's sound. On the other hand, he did select his replacement, guitarist/singer Paul Cotton, late of The Illinois Speed Press. A couple LPs followed, September of '71 saw "From the Inside" and November, 1972's "Good Feelin' to Know."

POCO - A Good Feelin' To Know

…were built around the concert favorite song. Neither LP was a big seller. Furay, upset with both the production of the LPs and the general direction of the band, left the group after 1973's "Crazy Eyes," another semi-flop of a record. Thus the last original member left.

Poco - Magnolia

Except one: pedal steel guitarist Rusty Young remained, so the group continued, off and on. The band took a break, but finally found commercial success with 1979's soft rock classic, "Crazy Love."

Poco - Crazy Love

Two more big hits followed, but by the early 1980s, the band's record sales faded, and they pretty much stopped… for a while.

Next: Poco members go their own ways

Don’t miss a beat! Catch up with earlier installments now:

Part 1: Before they were The Byrds

Part 2: The Flying Burrito Brothers

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