I read that pedal steel guitarist Rusty Young passed away recently. Young was one of the first musicians to integrate the pedal steel guitar, an instrument associated with with country music, into rock. Young’s playing was central to the band’s goal of fusing the two genres. As a founding member of the band Poco, he helped define country rock and establish the pedal steel guitar as an integral voice in West Coast rock.
Formed in 1968, Poco originally included the singer-guitarists Jim Messina and Richie Furay — both formerly of Buffalo Springfield, another pioneering country-rock band from L.A., along with Rusty Young, the drummer George Grantham and the bassist Randy Meisner, a future member of the Eagles. (Timothy B. Schmit, another future Eagle, replaced Mr. Meisner after he left the band in 1969.)
Rusty Young said in a 2017 interview that “the concept was to take rock and roll lyrics and melodies, chord changes, and add country instruments as the color around them, because I play steel guitar and banjo and mandolin, all the country instruments I could add that color and Jimmy played that James Burton, Ricky Nelson-kind of guitar. We could use this kind of country colors palette to choose from, and have it be rock and roll.”
Poco they never had the big hits of the Eagles or the critical acclaim of the Flying Burritos Brothers but they gave off a good-time, crowd-pleasing vibe that was best captured on their 1971 live album Deliverin‘.
After the first three albums I lost track of the band as they evolved into a soft country rock sound but those first three records are pretty good with a bunch of excellent songs to be found.
Below are my personal favorites.
Poco – You Better Think Twice
Poco – A Good Feelin’ To Know
Poco – C’mon
Poco – Keep On Believin’
R.I.P Rusty Young