On The Blue Cruise 2019

Here in the mile high environs, many of the older music acts simply can’t afford to stop on a tour as we are so far away from all the other large cities bands tend to frequent.  Looking online to see if any likely musical suspects were coming to the Denver area, two patterns emerged:  1.nobody was coming to Colorado other than the high ticket acts like Elton John, and 2.many of the bands I love were all going to be in one place from February 10 – 15 – the On The Blue Cruise originating in Miami.  Mrs. Dentist loves to travel while your intrepid reporter would rather stay in the comforts of home, but the line-up of acts was simply too amazing to pass up the opportunity.  Steve Hackett, Procol Harum, Poco, The Orchestra (ELO covers), Alan Parsons, The Zombies/Colin Blunstone, Strawbs, Rick Derringer, Todd Rundgren, Dave Mason, Vanilla Fudge, David Pack/Wally Palmer/John Elefante (Ambrosia/The Romantics/Styx), etc. with the host being Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues – a mind-boggling group of acts in one place.  On a last minute whim, a few thousand greenbacks were sent by the miracle of online transfer and we were set to spend a few days in Miami Beach then sail away on a classic/prog-rock floating Woodstock aboard the Royal Caribbean ship the Mariner Of The Seas.

Getting to DIA proved to be a challenge as it was -10 with the roads being a sheet of ice, but we made it and sat on an American Airlines plane for 4 hours or so then took the shuttle to the Ocean Reef Suites at 1130 Collins in Miami Beach.  Walking the Art Deco restaurants and clubs next to the beach was a sensory bombardment (especially at night).  We had to try a Cuban sandwich and grab a stroll on the sand.

Being Uber virgins, we paid extra due to a mistake we made but finally figured out how to venture forth riding with strangers (speaking Spanish mainly) to shop for 45s (didn’t buy anything) and see the wall art of Wynwood Walls.

We took day trips to the Everglades (about an hour south) and Key West (about four hours south).  The Miami Tour Company bus came by and picked us up at our hotel just as they said they would (thankfully).  Mrs. Dentist loved the huge shrimp and conch.

Cruise day dawned and we did the Uber thing to the dock dressed in our finest rock frocks.  The opening picture of this blog was posted on their Facebook page (my sister Cheryl shared this with me as I am not a member of that group) and I must say that our clothing was the hit of the cruise – Mrs. Dentist worked for hours on the great one-of-a-kind rock and roll coat and more than one artist on-board asked about purchasing it (not for sale, sorry).

We found our way to the lunch buffet (the food was decent till the last day when it was outstanding) and then retired to our tight but adequate stateroom 7435.  The huge bed took up most of the room along with a small couch and a chair plus a tv that never worked (but we were way to busy to watch the tube anyway).  The bathroom was utilitarian, but fine however the tightness of the shower meant that you had to watch dropping the soap or else do some shimmying to retrieve it.  The schedule of concerts was pretty daunting as each day was crammed to the hilt starting as early as 10 AM and ending as late as midnight or so, but they did supply a list every day of all the shows and where they were located.  Some acts performed as many as three times in open seating venues such as Studio B, the Star Lounge and by the pool while others only did one show in the huge Royal Theater with assigned seating.  Those who paid extra for VIP status were seated first then us riffraff were allowed access. To help figure out when and were we wanted to be, your’s truly made up a flow-chart which was invaluable as we raced from place to place.  Everything started late as they were waiting for stragglers, but finally Justin Hayward appeared on the pool stage with his family to wave and welcome all only then to disappear completely for the whole cruise except for the final night concert we were assigned to (there were red and blue groups you were assigned to).  That was a major disappointment frankly as many of the artists were wandering the decks throughout the cruise and often were available for a chat or at least a quick “you were great at your show” – not Mr. Hayward even though he was our host!  Randy Hansen did a credible if incredibly loud Hendrix tribute by the pool and then we attended one of the best shows of the whole five days – Steve Hackett, the amazing ex-Genesis guitarist who stayed true to progressive music and left that band when they went pop.  Mrs. Dentist isn’t a typical prog fan, but thought his show to be outstanding with amazing laser lights and musicianship on songs like “The Musical Box”, “Dance On A Volcano” and “Supper’s Ready”.  The other shows of the day for us were Dave Mason in Studio B and a late night Pink Floyd tribute from The Machine which was by the pool and also so loud as to be painful (but had some nifty lasers).

Day two was a pretty hectic affair with the morning taken up with on-shore activities in Nassau, The Bahamas.  You could go to the island that housed the Atlantis resort but we chose to look for historic structures in the town then took a cruise to see fish, etc.

The music part of the day was crammed full with an Al Stewart show, Procol Harum and Strawbs Q & A’s, the first of three shows we would attend by the Orchestra who do a wonderful ELO tribute (the other favorite act of Mrs. Dentist), Alan Parsons’ first of two shows, Todd Rundgren overly loud again by the pool, The Young Dubliners and David Pack’s Legends Live in their first of several shows.  The Alan Parsons show was wild with all the lasers and great musicianship, but to call him a singer is a stretch yet he tries to sing some of the leads originated by the late co-Project founder Eric Woolfson.  The Orchestra can lay claim to the ELO franchise even without Jeff Lynne as they feature some former members plus some other fine players like Glen Burtnik of Styx and Eric Troyer who worked with John Lennon among others.  David Pack was the lead singer of Ambrosia (“Biggest Part Of Me”) and his band included Wally Palmer of The Romantics (“What I Like About You”) and John Elefante a later singer in Styx (plus powerful drummer Kenny Aronoff who wanted no part of giving your Dentist an autograph – the only uncomfortable moment of the cruise).  The Strawbs are one of the best prog bands ever and frankly a fine bunch of guys to boot – young keyboard player Dave Bainbridge plus stalwarts Chas Cronk, Tony Fernandez (very nice guys to talk with) and the Dave’s – Lambert and Cousins.  Talking to them was like talking to the Beatles for this writer.  Alan Parsons was awarded a Grammy that day so was honored on board plus guested with David Pack as he had produced records for Ambrosia.

Tuesday we were at sea and decided to skip the Zombies Q & A to attend birthday boy Steve Hackett’s autographing of his new album At The Edge Of Light (and anything else you had, frankly).  That was a brilliant stroke that oddly no other act took advantage of.  Having an autograph session with copies of albums for sale meant more money for Hackett and other acts should have done the same as you have to figure they would have sold multiple CDs (the cruise merchandise table had t-shirts and music for sale but they were not autographed).  We then hustled up from the Star Lounge to the upper deck Viking Crown Lounge (overlooking the pool stage) to experience a rare and unexpected treat – a live painting session with album cover artist Roger Dean (Yes, Asia, Gun, Osibisa, Gentle Giant, etc.).  For $99 we purchased a limited edition signed exclusive cruise print – a very cool work of art.  Former Colorado good guy Rusty Young of Poco did a Q & A as did Alan Parsons then we went to our first photo experience where a very long line awaited D. Pack Legends, Procol Harum, The Orchestra & Wishbone Ash.  After the VIP’s entered, we were brought in to the room in waves of twenty then a photo was taken of each of us with the different acts.  Frankly we still don’t have a clue how we will get to see those pictures but we are hopeful it will happen.  We then crammed in Rick Derringer of the McCoys (on the painfully loud pool stage), Stephen Bishop (the folk singer in Animal House), Strawbs and the Zombies.  Luckily they had late night eats from 11 PM to 3 in the morning as eating dinner didn’t fit that crazy day.  Before you entered the Windjammer Buffet, there were many handwash outlets plus hand sanitizer stations (also spread throughout the ship to prevent illness).  The Zombies were wonderful and for the last song “She’s Not There” they included all four living original members.  We were given glow sticks to wave during the Argent hit “Hold Your Head Up”.  Special mention needs to be made of The Strawbs as they were at the pool stage which actually sounded incredible for them with loud mellotron/guitar on songs like “Down By The Sea” and “Autumn”.   They were troupers in the face of gale force winds which made for very dramatic pictures as their hair was whipping behind them but probably felt awful.

Day four had us at the private island of Labadee (Haiti) for a cruise along the shore (seeing the village and fishermen with lobsters) and a beach stroll, but prior to that we attended a Todd Rundren Q & A that was awful in that the interviewer didn’t ask any real music questions and didn’t allow the audience to participate (something that all the other Q & A sessions had done).  At lunch we had a surprise moment with David Pack who has to have been the nicest celeb on the cruise – thanks, David!  After returning to the boat, we enjoyed another photo experience with Alan Parsons, The Strawbs, The Zombies and Al Stewart.  We attended yet another excellent Orchestra concert though they did the same songs (the other acts who did multiple concerts made changes to their sets).  We saw Procol Harum by the pool which was again too loud and then Poco which was the most painfully loud of all the pool shows (even with earplugs, the bass was still uncomfortable).  An extra add-on show was tacked on at 11:15 with an all-star band made up of players who had been on the Cruise To The Edge which ended prior to ours (featuring Yes, John Lodge and a host of young prog acts).  The leader of that show was keyboard player Dave Kerzner whose New World (deluxe edition) was my top album a few years back (others were guitarist Fernando Perdomo and the McBroom sisters).

The final full day of the cruise was jammed with music but started as usual with us eating breakfast (no vacation is truly a vacation without a waffle after all) and doing at least two miles walking around the pool.  The rest of the day saw us running around the ship starting with a 10 AM photo op with Dave Mason, Danny Seraphine’s CTA (a Chicago tribute we never had time to see), Poco and Randy Hansen.  Next was a fun poolside Q and A with David Pack, Wally Palmer and John Elefante.  We had a later photo op with The Young Dubliners, Steve Hackett (who comically said about our clothing that he felt under-dressed), Todd Rundgren with Utopia members and Rick Derringer (who talked to me about the 1965 Denver Freddie & The Dreamers, The Beau Brummels and The McCoys concert which was my first ever show).  We caught Procol Harum in Studio B and frankly they benefited from much better sound than the pool gig and played a fabulous set with highlights “Grand Hotel”, “Whisky Train” (with hot guitar riffage from Geoff Whitehorn) and “Conquistador”. We managed to see half of the Colin Blunstone set where he combined Zombies hits with his own catalog including a rocked up version of “Say You Don’t Mind” and “Wonderful”.  Oddly, the Strawbs in Studio B while good were not as hot as by the pool since the sound wasn’t as loud plus they lost a lot of their audience to competing shows (this cruise forced you have to make tough decisions on which shows to see and when to eat).  We raced out to the main theater to see most of Alan Parsons’ set (“Don’t Answer Me”, “Time”, Breakdown”, “Sirius”, “Eye In The Sky”, etc.) which had a guest spot with Gary Brooker of Procol Harum singing “Limelight”.  We again went to the pool stage which sounded better this time for the Orchestra and their third stab at playing the same set (but it was still a lot of fun getting to sing along to “Strange Magic”, “Mr. Blue Sky”, “Do Ya”, etc.).  After an amazing dinner where all our good work at not overeating totally went out the window, we attended a very pretty but subdued Justin Hayward show which had at least one of us nodding off during the quiet songs like “The Actor” and “Are You Sitting Comfortably”.  He seemed to labor over some of the vocals which has to be a concern going forward.  Finally we managed to see a bit of Vanilla Fudge by the pool (again way too loud).  They were extremely nice signing autographs and talking to fans.

All in all it was a blast to hear so much great music and to get to know some of the acts personally.  I wish I had a handle on who could be approached for autographs as after the Aronoff debacle I tended to shy away from bothering these guys (there were obvious jerks on the boat too who pestered the artists to sign multiple items – those folk gave the rest of us a bad name).  That being said, we got so many requests to have photos taken with us because of our clothing that you did tend to see how tiring it must be for these folk to constantly be bombarded with requests for personal time – we all have bad days, but these guys aren’t allowed that luxury which is too bad.  I would recommend this sort of cruise wholeheartedly and would do it again as long as the the line-up was different enough to make it of interest.  I don’t think a cruise with only a few entertainment opportunities would be something I would want to do however as it is obvious that you can get bored with too much downtime.  It would be nice to also see one of these for British Invasion bands or something like that to appeal to us baby boomers who spend the money for these sorts of things.  Thanks to all the artists and the hardworking staff for making this a memorable experience (we had a lot of fun talking to the great On The Blue security folk while waiting for events to happen as well).  The last day we awoke at 5 to greet the Miami sunrise after breakfast then take our two mile hike before leaving the ship.  For those who wonder, they assigned numbers to let you know when you would leave the ship (ours was an 8:10 exit) and then you go through customs (quick and painless) and grab your luggage to find a host of shuttles waiting to whisk you to the airport, etc.  United Airlines did a fine job of getting us home to pick up an elated dog from his week at “camp”.

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25 Musical Hidden Treasures That Deserved A Better Fate

   

I collect 45 rpm records as does a good friend of mine Ted Scott and we often have music playing sessions with the vinyl we have found.  Some of the best records we have latched on to over the years either never charted in the U.S. Hot 100 or barely managed to dent the charts which is often confusing (and vice versa – there are some pretty awful records that did chart).  Ted worked as a disc jockey and can attest to the fact that back in the day there were simply too many records coming across a program director’s desk to give each one a fair shake.  Many factors played into getting a record on the air.  A nationally successful act or a known label had a leg up over an unknown though often local records could chart quite high while never making any impact in the rest of the country (the KIMN charts here in Denver had many ’60s Astronauts records at #1 as an example).  Another problem was simply bad timing – a great rock record during the height of disco (or in the current hip-hop era) didn’t stand much of a chance chart-wise for instance which is why so many rockers have tried country.  In the early days of rock and roll, especially, there also was a now illegal practice called payola where deals were made between dishonest record companies/pluggers and radio stations/programmers to play a record in exchange for money/drugs/sex/you-name-it.

I’ve wanted to pay tribute to many of those sadly forgotten records over the years and am now getting around to the first installment of it.  As an Anglophile, many of my faves over the years made a big impact in the U.K. but not here in America (Slade, Shakin’ Stevens, the Move, etc.).  I don’t intend to list many of those records as at least they were hits somewhere if not here (the Shadows, Marty Wilde, Cliff Richard all come to mind).  I further admit that I could fill one entire post with nothing but great Colorado records that never broke out nationally, but I am going to defer and ask you to go back to my September 2015 entry if you wish to read about bands like the Boenzee Cryque or the Rainy Daze.

There is no attempt to place these songs in any order or even keep them to any one era so scroll through and understand that I am a big fan of guitar-based pop music and my credo is every song is better with handclapping and/or lotsa percussive (cowbell, anyone?).

1.Thomas & Richard Frost – She’s Got Love

This 45 on the Imperial label did manage to crawl to a peak placement of #83 in late 1969.  Why it didn’t do better is a bit of a head scratcher except perhaps it needed to come out a year or two earlier stylistically.  The California brothers’ real last name was Martin and they had previously been in the group Powder.  They recorded the LP Visualize which sadly wasn’t released back in the day as it fell into the cracks of Imperial being sold to United Artists.  The tunes did finally see the light of laser with a great now out of print CD.  Their 1972 LP on Uni didn’t have the same energy as these earlier pop/rock sides, by the way.

2.The Searchers – Hearts In Her Eyes

Boy was it ever a pleasant surprise when this excellent British Invasion band returned to release two truly outstanding rock and roll albums on the Sire label in 1979 and 1981 (if you love 12-string guitar jangly-pop records you need to pick them up on CD).  The only change from the ’60s band was a new drummer, otherwise you still had Frank Allen (bass), John McNally (guitar) and lead-singer/guitarist Mike Pender (who I was lucky enough to see in concert with my pal Dan Campbell in D.C. a few years back). This was a cover of a song by the group the Records that had the same feel as early Searchers hit “Needles & Pins”.

3.The Monkey’s Uncle – Annette (with the Beach Boys)

By 1965 it had been four years since Annette Funicello had placed any record in the charts while the Beach Boys were red-hot so combining them on the theme from a popular Disney movie seemed like a way to get Annette back into the charts.  It didn’t happen and perhaps that was due to the innocuous lyrics (all written by long-time Disney writers the Sherman brothers), but it also could have been that during the Beatles/folk-rock era Annette’s name on a record label was chart death.  Today, the bigger act would have been plugged instead so the credits would have likely read The Beach Boys ft. Annette which might have generated more interest.  Either way, I like this tune from Annette’s and Tommy Kirk’s last Disney movie.

4.Ford Eaglin – Travelin’ Mood

James “Wee Willie” Wayne originally wrote and recorded “Travelin’ Mood” for Imperial in 1955 after which it became an R&B standard.  Blind guitarist/singer Fird Eaglin, Jr. recorded his version in 1961 for the same label under the name Ford though he would revisit the song with a heavier blues feel years later as Snooks Eaglin.  This arrangement eliminated Wayne’s whistling and makes it more of a New Orleans piano shuffle in the realm of Lee Dorsey’s “Ya Ya” from around the same time.

5.Billy Lee Riley – Red Hot

This was a 1957 rockabilly raver covering a rockin’ blues original from two years earlier by Billy “The Kid” Emerson – both on Sun records.  Perhaps Riley’s delivery on this (and the equally great “Flying Saucers Rock & Roll”) was too raw for radio, but that doesn’t excuse neither record from at least sniffing the lower rungs of the Hot 100.  Riley always blamed Sun owner Sam Phillips for neglecting to promote any record not by his primary artists (first Elvis then later Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and at the time of “Red Hot” Jerry Lee Lewis).  Riley found more success as a session player then dropped out of music for construction till he was rediscovered and had some sporadic minor success till his death in 2009.  In 1977, Robert Gordon with Link Wray took a nearly identical version of “Red Hot” to the lower rungs of the chart (plus also recording “Flying Saucers Rock & Roll” to equal rockin’ goodness).

6.Clairette Clementino – He Don’t Want Your Love Anymore

Would this record have been a big charter if it had been recorded by the nearly identical sounding Lesley Gore?  I think it would have charted as it was a catchy melody over an excellent arrangement by Stu Phillips (The Hollyridge Strings).  For some reason this and Clairette’s other eight 45s never made any headway.  Clementino was a California teen who perhaps would have been better served changing her name to a less unwieldy one (Clair Tino?).  She did some radio jingle work in Nashville after that then quit music to raise a family back in Marin County.  I think pal Turntable Ted Scott was the first one to play this for me so thanks!

7.Bobby Fuller Four – Let Her Dance

Oh my, what a brilliant but tragic figure was Bobby Fuller.  In 1965 this record came out a bit before Fuller finally found success with “I Fought The Law” and might have had too quirky a rhythm for hitsville.   Fuller either committed suicide or was murdered – we will never know.  His records were pure pop confections full of jangling guitars and blasting percussion.  The late power popster Phil Seymour did a fantastic if more polished cover in 1981 that was equally star-crossed chartwise and could have been in this list instead.  I decided to go with the original as the guy who first wrote and conceived of the song deserves the nod.

8.Caravan – Love To Love You (And Tonight Pigs Will Fly)

Richard Coughlan, Pye Hastings, Richard Sinclair and Dave Sinclair were collectively the Canterbury, England progressive band Caravan.  Their 1971 album In The Land Of The Grey And Pink was always my favorite of their albums and featured this uncharacteristic pop song written by Hastings.  This was the era when a cool album cover could attract me to buy a record and this one didn’t disappoint.  Had this single come out in 1968 I think it would have fared better, but by 1971 the charts were rife with singer/songwriters like James Taylor, Carole King and their ilk.

9.The Astronauts – Main Street

I know I promised not to fill this list with Colorado artists, but that doesn’t mean I can’t slip in one or two along the way.  By their 11th single from their final RCA Victor LP (Travelin’ Men) you know these guys were looking for any way to get a hit outside of the Rocky Mountains.  This record didn’t do it (however it did place at #1 here in Denver), but deserved to. I was as good a Gary Lewis & The Playboys record that was not actually by that band.  Producers Snuff Garrett and Leon Russell had worked wonders creating a string of hits for Lewis and at the height of their run in 1966 added their touch to this fine song by Mike Gordon and Jimmy Griffin (later of Bread).  Rich Fifield delivered a sincere lead vocal over some excellent harmonies and a Playboys-like production.  It didn’t happen and the band broke up after one more fine single as Sunshineward.  Drummer Jim Gallagher still tells some fun stories about touring Japan while we nosh on Sink Burgers in Boulder plus Jon Storm Patterson sold me Dental supplies for years till his retirement.

10.The Pierces – Glorious

I enjoy this record so much it gives me goose bumps every time I listen to this piece of gauzy pop perfection from 2011 by the beautiful Pierce sisters (Allison & Catherine).  In a perfect world for the Rock & Roll Dentist this sort of music would be popular, but that it isn’t tells me how old and in the way I truly am (it did chart in the U.K. albeit only at #176).  This to me is the best record released in all the 2000s.  It featured on their fourth album (titled You & I) and was originally by James Levy (who played guitar on the Pierces version).  The echo-laden production was by Coldplay bassist Guy Berryman and that band’s producer Rik Simpson (known as the Darktones).

11.Hilly Michaels – Calling All Girls

The period between 1979 to 1982 was one of my favorite eras – maybe even better than the ’60s for me as I could actually afford to buy the records I heard and loved (back in the ’60s it took a lot of baby-sitting money to come up with the 60 cents or so to buy a single).  With the out-of-nowhere success of “My Sharona”, record labels where ditching disco discs and pumping out great gobs of grinding guitar-pop that ultimately wouldn’t chart.  A look at the hits of 1980 when this single came out shows Michael Jackson, Barbara Streisand and Kenny Rogers – not Hilly Michaels which was a pity as this record rocked with great sound by Cars producer Roy Thomas Baker.

12.The New York Rock Ensemble – Beside You

When assembling this list I had to look at both my singles and album chart books to confirm that nothing by this talented group ever troubled the Hot 100 – amazing and shows a true lack of taste by the American record buyers.  This gorgeous ballad by the late Michael Kamen was from their fourth (and best) album Roll Over – 1971.  For this Columbia records album, guitarist Clif Nivison was joined by a trio of Juilliard students in Kamen, Dorian Rudnystsky and Martin Fulterman – now known as Mark Snow (who composes TV songs like the X-Files Theme).  I had the pleasure of seeing this band with the Denver Symphony in ’71 and (as a former oboe player myself) was thrilled to see a rock band where two musicians played the double-reed and one played cello.

13.The Everly Brothers – The Price Of Love

Don and Phil Everly were proof that genetics could breed vocal harmonic greatness.  I have always assumed that this self-penned gritty rocker was a big hit back in 1965 and was shocked to see that while it did do well in the U.K., it never made it in the States.  Very uncharacteristically, country-rock band Poco did a decent cover on their Cowboys & Englishmen LP in 1982.  Next to the brothers, the best version is by Bryan Ferry of Roxy Music.  Perhaps the problem in 1965 was that folk-rock, Motown and British Invasion records dominated.

14.Ian Hunter – Cleveland Rocks

Proof again that 1979 was a cool year for music, former Mott The Hoople man Hunter with the late/great guitarist Mick Ronson put out the fine rock and roll LP You’re Never Alone with a Schizophrenic.  The only Hunter single to chart in the U.S. was from that album (“Just Another Night”) so it seemed possible that as a follow-up if every person in Cleveland bought the new single, it might have charted – but it didn’t.  The song has actually had quite a long life in spite of no chart presence.  It was used for a time as the theme-song to The Drew Carey Show (by the Presidents Of The United States Of America) and has continued to be played at Cleveland sporting events.  It may inspire me one day to travel to see the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (if I can think of another reason to go to Cleveland).  I actually prefer musically the more driving (and more obscure) U.K. single he did called “England Rocks”.

15.The Guitar Ramblers – Surf Beat

When we were youngsters in Broomfield, my pal Dan Campbell had a Capitol records compilation with “Surf Beat” by Dick Dale & His Del-Tones on it – a great record that I remember fondly.  This 1963 more stately cover of that song by the faceless studio band The Guitar Ramblers really doesn’t sound like hit material, but I always loved the single anyway – plus I dig instros.  The LP says it was under the direction of Jack Marshall who was a jazz guitarist and composer of cool music for The Munsters and Thunder Road.

16.Eric Andersen – Is It Really Love At All?

Back in 1972 when I was in the thrall of Humble Pie, Foghat, the Faces, etc., I remember hearing this gentle ballad on Denver radio and really liking it not knowing the long folk history of the performer.  I now know that his most famous ’60s composition was about civil rights – “Thirsty Boots” (covered by Judy Collins, John Denver, etc.).  This song was from his most successful LP Blue River which fit well with the singer/songwriter era of the early ’70s.  Stan Soocher and I saw him in a very intimate concert in a barn-like structure in Elizabeth, CO.

17.Paul Collin’s Beat – That’s What Life Is All About

Boy was it hard to choose just one song by the most criminally overlooked band from the skinny-tie power-pop era when bands like The Knack and the Romantics kicked leisure-suited disco aside – if briefly.  From 1979 it could have been the cowbell-driven “Workin’ Too Hard” or the snotty “Don’t Wait Up For Me” from their first album titled The Beat.   I ultimately settled on this more mature song with gorgeous harmony vocals over a driving strummed guitar passage from their second LP released in 1982 (The Kids Are The Same).  My old friend G Brown treated wife Aimee and me to a fantastic Boulder double bill back in ’82 with these guys backing The Stray Cats – great stuff (thanks G!).  Paul Collins is still out there touring and recording though with a lot less hair (though I guess I am not one to talk).

18.The Millennium – It’s You

There was a loose group called the Millennium that recorded the 1968 album Begin that spawned this sunshine-pop single that also put out music as the Ballroom and Sagittarius.  The exquisite 1967 first Sagittarius album (Present Tense) was producers Curt Boettcher and Gary Usher with studio men like Glen Campbell and also included tracks from their earlier band the Ballroom.  They then recorded the Millennium album with friends like Michael Fennelly, Sandy Salisbury, Joey Stec and Lee Mallory which became the most expensive flop ever for Columbia records up to that point.  Later, Usher would start his own label (Together) and issue another Sagittarius album (The Blue Marble).  Over the years music by these artists have gained a loyal cult following with pop fans.

19.The Delroys – Bermuda Shorts

Coming from 1956, the Delroys called Long Island, NY their home and managed to cut this hot doo-wop rocker the next year for the small Apollo records label.  There were too many small regional labels back in the day who all found it hard to gain distribution outside of their local area.  If they did get distributed wider, you knew that there was not going be a good accounting for sales figures either which inevitably would mean little or not payment to the artist on the record.  One can assume that poor distribution is what kept this ode to short pants from breaking out nationally as it has the sound of a hit otherwise and did manage some success in a few markets.  These black kids, like so many, were a faceless outfit that never saw any money from their records but at least got to live out the rock and roll dream – if only for a short time.

20.Freddie & The Dreamers – A Windmill In Old Amsterdam

For some reason I was bitten by the Freddie bug for a short time back in 1965 and can thank my friend Rick Steele and his thoughtful dad for getting to attend my first rock and roll show at the Auditorium Theater in Denver to see the Dreamers.  While the band declined in national popularity, I continued to buy their records for a bit including this cover of a novelty written by Ted Dicks and Myles Rudge.  Freddie Garrity always had a streak of ‘silly’ on-stage and this song about a clog-wearing Dutch mouse fed in to that perfectly (and gave him a chance to use his dopey laugh).  Needless to say I played it for daughters Brenna and Hilary as kids since that is the main reason you have kids – to torment them with your music and old jokes.

21.B.J. Thomas & The Triumphs – Never Tell

This song was issued on three different labels and was originally the featured side over “Billy & Sue” which was on the flip.  This is a very catchy pop single (with handclaps on the chorus) first released on the small Bragg record label in 1964 then picked up nationally on Warner Brothers that same year.  The record was not a hit and eventually Thomas made it to Scepter records in 1966 to start a long and successful music career with a cover of the old Hank Williams ballad “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”.  Hickory records then acquired the rights to the 1964 release and flipped the record to make the more country flavored “Billy & Sue” the top side over the poppier “Never Tell”.  Their plan worked as the record hit #34 in 1966 meaning my preferred side never got airplay nationally.  Mark Charron wrote both sides of the single (he died in his early 50s).

22.Baja Marimba Band – Portuguese Washerwoman

Well it is time to own up to a guilty pleasure and admit that back in 1966 when I was buying Beatles and Stones records I also grabbed the LP Watch Out! by the Baja Marimba Band when I heard this song.  It was a cover of the #19 hit from 1956 by pianist Joe “Fingers” Carr.  While the Jewish Julius Wechter’s Hispanic image for his band traded on politically incorrect stereotypes, the music was great and mostly played by the same musicians who recorded the Tijuana Brass records and so many others  – the Wrecking Crew.  While the record did chart top 20 on easily listening stations, nationally if only hit #126.

23.Kip And Ken – Trouble With A Woman

Fred Darian and Al DeLory wrote the novelty record “Mr. Custer” (a hit for Larry Verne).  A keyboard player with the Wrecking Crew backing musicians, DeLory later was the arranger/producer behind a string of great Glen Campbell hits in the ’60s.  Al DeLory is listed as the arranger on this 1965 record while Fred Darian is the producer.  Joseph Van Winkle and Darian are listed as  composers.  If you go back to the first appearance of this song on vinyl (1963 – The Camptown Singers), you will see that DeLory was the arranger, Darian was the producer, but the composers were listed as Van Winkle and Dobie Gray.  That version doesn’t sound awfully different than this slightly more polished and vocally superior take by the unknown Kip and Ken.  Billboard back in 1965 had a capsule review saying it was a Righteous Brothers sounding pulsating rocker.  It wasn’t a hit for either act.  I’m struck by how similar one for the singers sounds to the late great Sam McFadin (Flash Cadillac).

24.Traffic – You Can All Join In

This track was from the self-titled second Traffic album that was released in 1968.  Dave Mason had left the band just as their first album was released, but returned in time to contribute some great songs to the next album before quitting once again.  This very catchy pop song from Mason has gentle commentary about issues of the day.  Chris Woods plays a very basic sax that sounds almost like a duck call, but it works over the acoustic guitar strums and lyrical lead guitar breaks.  The word is that this wasn’t released as a single in the U.S. as the band didn’t want to play up the pop tunes over the direction of the rest of the album.  I would wonder if there wasn’t some competition between Steve Winwood and Mason over the direction of the band.

25.Poco – A Good Feeling To Know

Here is one more song with Colorado ties.   That it broke the heart of the man who wrote and sang lead on it (Richie Furay) is frustrating, but it doesn’t take away that it was perhaps the peak of his time in Poco.  For my story about the band, you are referred to my extensive blog post of April 2017.  The clip I chose to link to cuts off the intro to the song, but it is the only one that shows a promo of the band doing their tribute to the state that they had recently moved to – Colorado.  Back when I interviewed Furay for my article, he was just emerging again as a performer while trying to fit it in with his commitments as Pastor of Calvary Chapel in Broomfield.  He obviously still had pain over the lack of success on the charts for the song he thought would make him a true star.  That failure ultimately lead him to break away from Poco, but thankfully he has always returned to their music in concert and has often guested with them.  At the time I told him how much a wanna-be and never-was rock musician like me would have given their right arm to have had even a piece of the success he had seen in his time and I sure hope he has come to grips with what a great career it has been.  Chart success or no, in concert the song still gets the crowd up and cheering every time.

POCO – The Sound & The Furay

What follows is an update of an article I had published back in 2001 about the pioneering country-rock band Poco and founding member Richie Furay.  Much has changed in the ensuing decade and a half + which I have tried to add in a condensed form  If I have missed something or misspoken, please feel free to comment (and thanks for reading).

 

A case could be made for the enshrinement of country/rock pioneer band Poco in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.  It will likely never happen as an equal case could be made for their enshrinement into the Country Hall Of Fame.  That is even a longer shot to ever happen even though much of what you hear today on country radio directly traces to what a bunch of long-hairs where trying to do with a short-hair music form traditionally closed to them.  To embrace the twang of country and western music when acts like the Doors and Jimi Hendrix reigned wasn’t a smart move commercially or politically.  That style of music was seen as being allied with the conservative slicked-back pro-Vietnam War types – certainly not what hip rock musicians would be caught dead playing.  Yet…

Poco has already been represented in the pages of Goldmine by two fine articles:  August 2, 1985 by Mick Skidmore and August 20, 1993 by William Ruhlmann.  The purpose of this article is not to rehash those pieces, but to color, correct and update the story.  The bulk of the included information comes from separate interviews with founding members Pastor Richie Furay, George Grantham and Rusty Young who are really good guys. That fact doesn’t sell records, but it does make their lack of huge chart success even harder to take.  During a 21 year recording career, Whitburn shows that Poco charted 16 singles and 21 albums in Billboard.  That’s actually pretty darn impressive, but their chart placement and commercial recognition pales next to the Eagles – a band that learned from Poco’s example and even took their bass players.

The story of Poco must begin with the story of Richie Furay.  Paul Richard Furay (5/9/44 – Yellow Springs, Ohio) entered the world of music with the Monks, a folk trio he had while attending Otterbein College to study theatre and dramatics. The details of Furay’s growth as a musician are well handled in his and John Einerson’s 1997 Canadian book For What It’s Worth – The Story Of The Buffalo Springfield (Quarry Press).  Suffice it to say that he met a young talent in New York in the spring of ’64 named Stephen Stills who would join him in the hootenanny group the Au Go-Go Singers.  This act recorded one album for Roulette, They Call Us Au Go-Go Singers, then disbanded.

Furay went to work for Pratt & Whitney, but got the bug to perform again when a friend from the New York club brought a new album to him.  “When Gram (Parsons) brought his record to me, it stunned me.  I had never heard anything like it and I had to get out of there so I sent a letter off to Steve (Stills).”  The story of how the principals that would form the Buffalo Springfield (Furay, Stills and Neil Young) finally got together is amazing and again well covered in the book about the band.  Through dumb luck this volatile group of strong individuals were linked, but only managed one true hit in Stills’ “For What It’s Worth.”

  (1966 version of Buffalo Springfield)

While their first two albums are not country, there are certainly elements present such as Furay’s “A Child’s Claim To Fame.” With the band splintering, producer and engineer Jim Messina (12/5/47 – Maywood, California) was brought into the band as a replacement bassist.  Messina had previously been a guitarist playing in such bands as the Dick Dale influenced Jim Messina and the Jesters (check out “Yang Bu” on the GNP Crescendo CD Bustin’ Surfboards).   Messina and Furay clicked as a team and set about pulling together a final Buffalo Springfield album Last Time Around.  One track they worked on was entitled “Kind Woman” which needed a steel guitar.

The Springfield had a roadie named Miles Thomas who had come to California with the Colorado band the Poor.  To play steel on “Kind Woman” Thomas suggested his friend from Colorado band the Boenzee Cryque – Russell (Rusty) Young (2/23/46 – Long Beach, California).  Young started playing steel guitar at the age of six.  While the Boenzee Cryque was his first rock band, Young actually started playing in country bands at the age of 12.  When Young joined the Boenzee Cryque he played straight six-string guitar as can be heard on the April 1967 Uni single “Sky Gone Grey”/”Still In Love With You Baby” a #1 hit on Denver’s KIMN-AM.  The unusual name came ostensibly from the Benzie-Kricke Sporting Goods company in Denver whose sign intrigued lead singer Sam Bush (note – this accounting is in dispute as some say it was a hardware store with that name).  Bush has been erroneously listed in articles as the player in the New Grass Revival, but this Bush worked for years at a Denver film lab after leaving music.

By the second Uni single in June of ‘67 “Watch The Time,” Young plays a nasty sounding steel guitar that gives the song textures foreign to most garage records of the time. The rhythm section really comes to the fore on this record – bassist Joe Neddo and drummer George Grantham (1/20/47 – Cordell, Oklahoma).  Young’s steel sounds totally wild on the Hendrix-like “Ashbury Wednesday” on the Psych-Out soundtrack (Sidewalk) while the last Boenzee Cryque single “Sightseer” (Dot records – listed under their guitarist’s name, the late Malcolm Mitchell) sounds Springfield-like.  “Sightseer” features something that Young would become known for in Poco and that is playing the steel through a leslie cabinet which would make it sound like an otherworldly organ.

Image result for boenzee cryque

At the time Young received the call to play on “Kind Woman” he was making good money selling guitars and giving lessons at Don Edwards’ Guitar City out on West Colfax, but jumped at the chance to hit the big-time (so to speak).  “I didn’t realize the Springfield was breaking up, but I really admired Jimmy and Richie.  I was a big fan.  We all realized we had a lot in common and maybe we should see if we could put something together.”

Furay and Messina knew they wanted to start a band after their experiences with the Buffalo Springfield where over.  “Jimmy and I kind of connected.  We just appreciated each other.  Jim probably had more of a country vision than I did,” said Furay.  “Sight unseen we brought in Rusty and Jimmy and I liked the way he played and said there’s the guy we want.  Our whole vision included vocal harmonies and Rusty said ‘I got a drummer who can sing’.”  That singing drummer turned out to be Grantham who was still working in Colorado (listen to the chorus of “Watch The Time” for his counterpoint vocals).  That left one unfilled position: bass player.  Furay toyed with the idea of a keyboard player, but auditions didn’t work out with the more R&B influenced Gregg Allman who tried out on organ.

Auditions turned up a good candidate for bassist in Timothy B. Schmidt (10/30/47 – Oakland, CA) from Sacramento band Glad, but there where reservations at the time about his college and draft status.  The bass position instead went to Randall (Randy) Meisner (3/8/46 – Scottsbluff, Nebraska) who was familiar to Grantham and Young from Colorado band the Poor.  Over the years, leader Allen Kemp said that Poor pretty well summed up their economic status after leaving Denver for the ‘riches’ of L.A.  It should be added, however, that Poor does not describe their series of 45’s for York, Loma and Decca.  “Once Again” is a great ballad while “Feelin’ Down” shows off Meisner’s high harmonies.  That Decca single, collectors should note, has “Come Back Baby” on the B-side – written by Randall Meisner.  There are two nearly identical 2003 CDs to attest to the fine records of the Poor (and their predecessor the Soul Survivors – not the band from New Jersey) with the edge going to the 15 track Sound City release over the 13 track Rev-ola import.

The five-man band was christened Pogo after the Walt Kelly comic about a possum.  Their road manager loved the cartoon and it was assumed Kelly would be flattered (like the Buffalo Springfield Steamroller Company had been previously).  After the band’s coming out at Doug Weston’s Troubadour in L.A. (Nov. 11, 1968), the guys found that Kelly wasn’t flattered by the use of his possum’s name for a band; he sued.  Since there was already a following for this new group, Furay asserts that it was decided to simply remove the little horizontal line from the G and make it a C to create a new name:  Poco (which he says sounds better anyway).  Poco means ‘little’ in Spanish (and in exchange for rehearsal space at the Troubadour, the band is paid ‘little or nothing’ for evening shows).

Though A&M had some interest in the band, Poco went with Epic records to facilitate perhaps the first sports-like trade in music.  Furay was still tied to the Atlantic label who wanted Graham Nash of the Hollies (an Epic band) for a new supergroup being formed with David Crosby and Stills.  The trade was made for a Jan. 15, 1969 signing that allowed Poco to begin recording their first album.  It should be added that though there are reports of an audition for Apple records and perhaps even an unreleased recording, neither of the players interviewed for this story would confirm that.

 (Messina, Meisner, Grantham, Furay, Young)

Various stories have been reported about the falling out with bassist Meisner prior to the first album’s release.  What is clear is that he had wanted to attend the mixing sessions for the record but was rebuffed by Furay or Messina (who was producing).  Not feeling properly a part of the band, Meisner quit.

 (Stone Canyon Band – Kemp, Meisner, Nelson, Shanahan, Brumely)

Interestingly enough, an attendee at the Troubadour during Poco’s tenure was former teen idol Rick Nelson.  Nelson was taken by this melding of rock and country music and  decided to put a new band together called the Stone Canyon Band.  Roadie Thomas should get some sort of recognition in the creation of country rock.  Just as he had suggested Young to Furay and Messina, this time he brought members of the Poor to Nelson’s attention.  Drummer Pat Shanahan, guitarist Allen Kemp and bassist Randy Meisner were drafted from the Poor along with a new pedal steel player, Tom Brumley and an LP was recorded live at the Troubadour.  This became the Jan. 1970 Decca record Rick Nelson In Concert (DL 751620).  Meisner left the band but returned for the Rudy The Fifth record before quitting for good to co-found the Eagles.  This was prior to Nelson’s loping countryside hit “Garden Party” in 1972.

 

The loss of Meisner required changes to the completed first Poco album.  Where possible, Messina took over the bass duties and eliminated Meisner’s vocals (though at times his harmonies and playing still appear).  Furay believes that Meisner originally sang “Calico Lady”, but on the released version it is Grantham who takes a rare lead.  The cover also needed changing and the picture of Meisner was replaced by a drawing of a dog.

The album Pickin’ Up The Pieces was very much a Furay record with only one song not at least co-written by him, the Young instrumental “Grand Junction” titled after a town on the western slope of the Colorado Rockies.  A fan of Poco’s, Kathy Johnson, wrote a poem about Poco which Furay set to music becoming the LP intro “Foreword.”  This leads to the very up song “What A Day.” The best introduction to the band, however, comes on side two with Furay’s “Pickin’ Up The Pieces,” Poco’s policy statement.  “We’re bringin’ you back home where folks are happy, sittin’, pickin’ and a-grinnin’.”  The cover is a noteworthy creation by the Institute For Better  Vision with trading card pictures of the band and western drawings on the inside of a digipak.  The songs are great though the recording sounds a bit thin on the old vinyl.

While the title song single went nowhere, the LP did manage to chart June of ’69 as high as #63 in Billboard.  The Parsons-lead Flying Burrito Brothers charted a month sooner, but only managed a placing of #164 for the same A&M label that had wiffed on signing Poco.  While the success of Poco’s debut was good, there were raised eyebrows when Crosby, Stills and Nash soared to #6 with their self-titled record.  The big country-rock record of that summer, however, was Bob Dylan’s Nashville Skyline, a smash at #3.

Messina didn’t want to continue as bassist, so a trip to Sacramento was executed to draft in Schmit who officially joined in early ’70.  Back in August of ’69, however, his “Hard Luck” was used as the flip for a non-charting non-LP single with Furay’s “My Kind Of Love” on the top side.  These songs can be found on the excellent two-CD set The Forgotten Trail (1969 – 74), a 1990 release on Epic Legacy.

For the next LP titled simply Poco, it was decided to harden the sound a bit.  As has been quoted many times since, it was felt that their sound was “too country for rock and too rock for country.”  To get the grooves recorded, however, was a trial since their management at the time had a tiff with label-chief Clive Davis who prevented Poco from recording till it was settled.  The savior turned out to be an agent with the Creative Management Agency, David Geffen, who befriended the guys and interceded on their behalf with Davis.  While Geffen didn’t take on the band as manager, the back of the second LP reads:  “dedicated to David Geffen who ‘Picked Up The Pieces’.”

The second side of Poco was dominated by a new version of “Nobody’s Fool” from the first record followed by an extended jam titled “El Tonto De Nadie, Regresa” (Spanish for “Nobody’s Fool, Revisited”).  The Spanish spelling fits the Latino feel which is obviously influenced by the jams on the contemporary first Santana LP.  Furay confirms that.  “The whole scene was the strobe-light flashing ‘let’s stretch out a little bit’ San Francisco thing and we didn’t want to be left out.  We felt like we had very capable musicianship in the band.”  Indeed, the playing is excellent with Young defying the tradition of country pedal steel by playing it through a leslie cabinet as he did in the Boenzee Cryque.  Furay:  “To this day I think Rusty is the most innovative steel player that there is.  I think he’s one of the finest all-around musicians playing steel, dobro and awesome rhythm guitar.”  It should be noted that the recorded sound of the second record is much louder and denser than the first.

Poco charted during the late summer of ’70 at #58 in Billboard and was helped along by the single “You Better Think Twice” backed with “Anyway Bye Bye.”  While the 45 charted at #72, Messina’s finest moment with Poco deserved far better.  The song careens along like a well-oiled steam engine fed by tasty bursts of Messina’s James Burton-inflected licks and Schmit’s pumping bass.  The wind-down is preceded by Young and Grantham playing in tandem like a racing firetruck.  While all this flailing and picking is going on, the vocal harmonies dance around a very catchy sprite of a melody.  Furay’s bluesy B-side was originally written as a vehicle for Meisner to sing.

The Gary Burden designed cover is distinctive with a striking Henry Diltz band photo superimposed on a Morris Ovsey drawing dominated by mountains, trees and two very large oranges.  But, Furay, what does it mean?  “I don’t have a clue.  I’m not a very visual guy.  Somebody liked it – it’s the one with the oranges on it!”

Sessions for a third studio record did not progress well in July and August of ‘70.  It was decided that since they were building a pretty fair following in concert (especially at colleges), perhaps the best thing would be to record shows for a live album.  October concerts in New York and Boston were used for the record.  Another reason a live recording was used was because Messina had decided that he was the odd man out when it came to placing songs with Poco (since Furay dominated the writing) and tensions were running high in the studio.  When he decided to leave, Messina showed a world of class in a tough time.  Instead of leaving the band high and dry, he helped work his replacement Paul Cotton into the act while rooming with him on the road teaching him the songs.  Furay today shows great respect for Messina.  “That was pretty upstanding  for Jimmy to help get Tim established and then when he knew he was leaving to bring Paul in; he made that transition easy.”  Messina left one other treasure prior to departing, the sweetly soothing “Lullaby In September” which finally saw the light of laser on The Forgotten Trail (originally a gift for Furay’s wife Nancy, then expecting their first child).

Norman Paul Cotton (2-26-45 – Camp Rucker, Alabama) was a rock musician and was brought in to toughen the sound.  His history is well given Cotton’s website http://www.paulcotton.com/.  Raised in a Chicago suburb, Cotton recorded in the early ‘60s with the mainly instrumental outfit the Mus-Twangs (check out their raw 45 on Smash “Roch Lomond”/”Marie” which is very Duane Eddy).  By ’69 he and Kal David fronted the Illinois Speed Press who made two Columbia LPs.  That band was handled by James William Guercio who also had the band Chicago that had a bassist named Peter Cetera (brother of Tim Cetera who took over on bass from Meisner in Rick Nelson’s Stone Canyon Band) who was taking steel guitar lessons from Young of the band Poco who needed a guitarist-singer finding him when Cetera recommended Cotton – dig?.

February ’71 found Poco with their biggest hit to date as the live record Deliverin’ went to #26 with Furay’s “C’mon” hitting #69 on the singles chart.  For many, that remains the Poco LP with an acoustic version of “You Better Think Twice,” reminders of  the first record (“Grand Junction”) and even the Buffalo Springfield (“Kind Woman” and “Child’s Claim To Fame”).  Some of the songs appeared in shortened linked form.  According to Furay, this was because as a frequent opening act they wanted to touch on as many songs as possible so they took to arranging songs in medleys.

In the fall of ’71 Poco was also on the charts with two live cuts on the bloated triple LP The First Great Rock Festivals Of The Seventies: Isle Of Wight/Atlanta Pop Festival.

This mixed Poco fans with those of the Allman Brothers and Johnny Winter in a July 4, 1970 sweatbox of a festival in Byron, Georgia.  “Kind Woman” and a steaming “Grand Junction” show the band in top form.

For the first record with Cotton, Epic paired Poco with producer Steve Cropper of Booker T & the MGs.  While the mix of a country rock band with an R&B guitarist sounds incongruous, the result was excellent.  Furay still has a hard time coming to grips with this record as he was going through a personally difficult time in his marriage.  “We were spending more time on the road than at home and I lost all concept of home.  The band was my family.”  Yet, as has been proven time and again in music, conflict often produces great music and the resulting record From The Inside was no exception.  Cotton brought “Bad Weather” from the Speed Press and a tough rock sound as seen in “Railroad Days.”  The title song was a pretty Schmit ballad while the lead track was a Furay/Young collaboration on the jolly “Hoe Down.”  Furay’s “What If I Should Say I Love You” was a nice ballad with a great rock chorus, but perhaps his greatest moment in Poco was on the single “Just For Me And You” which only managed a charting of #110 in November ’71.  History is littered with singles that went begging for airplay and were cruelly rebuffed as this one was.  That pattern seemed to dog Poco’s history more than most bands.  The song starts with an attractively Beatlish acoustic riff and lopes along like the Eagles’ “Take It Easy” would six months later.

From The Inside managed a placement at #52 and featured a set-piece on the cover constructed by Kathy Johnson (she of the poem on the first LP).  In the middle of the construct is a picture of the band while on the back cover the same picture appears in large form with the band standing next to the set-piece containing the picture (not unlike Pink Floyd’s Ummagumma).  Furay still has the piece hanging at home.

Home for Poco became Colorado around this time.  Boulder and the areas just to the west in the foothills had become somewhat of a musical retreat with notably Guercio building a recording studio at his Caribou ranch (that would become famous a couple of years later via Elton John’s record of that name).  Indeed, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band had relocated to that area and took the opportunity to cover Furay’s “Do You Feel It Too” in a faster, less bluesy fashion for their All The Good Times record.  Furay:  “We all knew we wanted to get out of L.A. as the smog was driving us nuts.  San Francisco was our first choice, but only George bought a place.  After we decided to move to Boulder, I remember going up to San Francisco and here’s George on a ladder painting and we tell him that we’re all on our way to Colorado.  Luckily George is a pretty mellow guy and he followed in suit.  Of all the bands I’ve been in, Poco was certainly a family especially when Tim and Paul were a part of the band.”

A new song of Furay’s debuted in concert and held the promise of the biggest success yet for Poco.  “You’d play along at one level, then everything would just go right on up to that song.  I figured we’d finally got it now so we hired Jack Richardson and Jim Mason to co-produce ‘A Good Feelin’ To Know’ for us to release as a single”.  And…nothing!  For some unfathomable reason the song that has today become one of Poco’s standards never charted.  An excellent album of the same name was recorded anyway and it did chart in late ’72 at number #69, but Furay was devastated by the lack of success of one of his finest creations.  “I wanted to be a rock ‘n’ roll star like Neil and Steve and Randy and Jimmy.”  Indeed, ’72 was a watershed year for his friends.  Messina teamed up with Kenny Loggins and had a string of chart successes.  Meisner’s group the Eagles released their debut and soared to gold.  Neil Young reaped the same with Harvest and Stills grabbed gold with Manassas while Poco kept plugging away to middling sales.

Richardson, who had produced the Guess Who, and Mason, who went to gold later recording Firefall, crafted a superb album that rivaled the Eagles’ step for step yet couldn’t gain the same audience.  Cotton’s “Keeper Of The Fire,” Schmit’s heavyish ballad “Restrain” and Furay’s angelic “Sweet Lovin’” all deserve mention.  The standout is probably “Go And Say Goodbye,” a Stills song from the Springfield done in a very catchy style.  Needless to say, as a single it also tanked.

At that point Furay resolved to give up on Poco and recorded the sixth album Crazy Eyes as somewhat of a lame duck.  In this climate, however, some great music transpired.

Cotton set the prototype for today’s country with his tough guitar on “A Right Along” while Young chipped in “Fool’s Gold” another excellent instrumental driven by banjo and Chris Hillman’s mandolin.  That song with Schmit’s ballad “Here We Go Again” appeared as a non-charting single.  Just months before Parsons’ premature death, Furay was strangely drawn to cover one of his tunes, “Brass Buttons.”   The highpoint of the record, however, was a nine minute country rock opus about Parsons that would become the title song for the album.  “Crazy Eyes” benefits from a Bob Ezrin co-arrangement using strings that foreshadowed his work with Kiss.

Crazy Eyes actually did better on the charts hitting #38 in 1973, but Furay’s future was already elsewhere.  “I talked to David Geffen and told him I was disappointed (with the lack of success for “A Good Feelin’ To Know”).  He said ‘let’s get you together with Chris (Hillman) and J.D. (Souther) and have another Crosby, Stills and Nash.’”

That certainly became an epiphany moment for Rusty Young who had previously been content to chip in the occasional instrumental and be a silent musician.  “There was no room for four writers and I see that breaking up bands.  There are two or three turning points in your life and that was one of them for me.  That was the first day I started being a songwriter because it was obvious that was where everything revolved around – the guys writing the songs.”

In retrospect, Young fully understands Furay’s leaving, but has some animosity towards Geffen.  “Geffen threw a lot of money at Richie to quit.  I would have done the same thing (leave Poco for that money).  The only unfortunate thing was Geffen wanted Poco to stop and Richie to carry the entire audience.  He threatened people.”

Rather than throw in the towel, Poco continued as a four-piece and recorded Seven which still managed a #68 chart placement during the summer of ’74.  For the next non-charting single, Cotton’s nice ballad “Faith In The Families” was paired with perhaps the best of all the Young ‘hoe-down’ instrumentals “Rocky Mountain Breakdown.”  This time around, the mandolin was handled by former member Messina with sideman Al Garth chipping in on fiddle (never actually a band member contrary to some reports).  This album moved into even harder territory as seen on Cotton’s guitar workout “Drivin’ Wheel” and Schmit’s “Skatin’.”  Close inspection of the credits showed cover design by a Philip Hartmann whom you may remember from such roles as Troy McClure and Lionel Hutz on the Simpsons and Phil Hartman on Saturday Night Live.  Young pointed out that “there were three brothers John, Paul and Phil.  John and Harlan Goodman were our management company and Phil was the really talented in-house art guy.  He designed a lot of albums for America, CSN and us.”

A few months later, the self-titled Asylum debut by the Souther, Hillman, Furay Band lived up to expectations by going gold, placing as high as #11 in the charts.  It spawned a medium-sized hit with the hard pop of Furay’s “Fallin’ In Love,” a #27 charter that would not have sounded out of place on a Poco record.  Indeed, the other two songs he placed on the LP would have fit Poco as well:  “The Flight Of The Dove” and “Believe Me.”  How well the latter would have fit was evidenced on The Forgotten Trail CD with a previously unreleased Poco version from the Crazy Eyes sessions.  The Poco version is in some ways superior to the SHF version which is a bit tighter, but perhaps not as raw and fun.  Veteran producer Richie Podolor who Furay credits with coming up with the stutterstep guitar intro to “Fallin’ In Love” handled the radio-friendly production.  Podolor had earlier been tapped by Poco for a post-Messina recording session, but Epic had rejected the results.

That all was not well in the SHF camp was evidenced by their 1975 LP title Trouble In Paradise.  Though it did hit #39 that summer, the music had less energy and less Furay contribution.  He was experiencing problems at home and within the band.  “My life was falling apart again plus J.D., I love him to death, he was more of a solo guy.  Chris was the mediator trying to keep peace while J.D. and I were on opposite sides.  Nancy and I had separated again and were looking heavily at divorce so that second record was a real blur.  Just to get me to the studio up at Caribou was a chore.”  The supergroup broke up, but Furay’s marriage thankfully did not and continues to endure.

Over in the Poco camp, three more albums had been released on two different labels.  Late ’74 saw Cantamos (Spanish for ‘we sing’) chart at #76 with some songs very reminiscent of early Poco like Schmit’s “Bitter Blue” and Young’s “All The Ways.”

One highlight is Cotton’s “Western Waterloo” which he told this author, via his website,“is about how the Native Americans lost the West.”  While Young’s “Sagebrush Serenade” continued in his hoe-down style, his growth in writing shone on the Springfield-like “High And Dry” which appeared as a single (of course it didn’t chart).

Cantamos had a small square cutout on the cover which allowed a picture to show through from the inner sleeve.  Epic played hardball charging Poco for that little bit of artistry, so with their recording contract up for renewal Poco moved over to ABC.  This did not go over well with their old label, said Young.  “I have a framed letter from the head of Epic that when we would release a record on our new label, they would release something to compete and do their best to bury us.”  This competition showed up on the charts in August of 1975 when the first ABC album Head Over Heels was climbing to #43 while a two record set on Epic titled The Best Of Poco was also moving up to #90.

  

Head Over Heels benefited from the liltingly harmonic Schmit ballad “Keep On Tryin’” which charted at #50, their biggest hit yet and first Top 100 charter in over five years.  That this single didn’t go higher is again hard to explain.  Indeed, pockets of the country were more open to the song as seen by Denver’s KTLK-AM pushing the song as high as #23 in early fall 1975 (the same placement as on adult radio nationally).  The next single, Young’s country rocker “Makin’ Love” couldn’t duplicate the chart placement, however.  Cotton continued to hone his style on the fine “Let Me Turn Back To You.”  This album was notable for one more thing, Young’s first recorded lead vocal on “Us.”

A month before the next ABC LP, Epic released a second Poco live record to attempt, no doubt, to undermine the band’s new recordings.  Any questions about Epic’s feelings toward Poco can be read into the cover illustration showing the flank-section of a horse with the band’s name stamped on the rump.

   

While only charting at #169, Live was actually a pretty good record showing they still had the chops in concert to even do a hot version of “A Good Feelin’ To Know” sans the song’s writer.  Summer of ‘76 saw the new ABC record Rose Of Cimarron rise to only #89.  Perhaps the non-descript cover didn’t help with no mention of the band’s name or song titles and an unrecognizable picture of the band.  The title track was a shuffling Young song that slowly built to a symphonic end.  As a U.S. single it only managed #94, but was a big hit elsewhere according to Young.  “That’s our biggest song worldwide.  It was a big hit a lot of places including Australia.  It was covered by a lot of different people including a German group.” (In concert Young related that the Germans changed the lyrics to make the song tell the story of a Luftwaffe pilot flying over the ocean then crashing into the sea).  One of those covers was in ’81 by Emmylou Harris as the lead track to her Cimarron LP.  An overseas single paired the Schmit/Logan ballad “Starin’ At The Sky” with Cotton’s “P.N.S. (When You Come Around).”  PNS doesn’t refer to a medical condition, but rather stands for Paul’s New Song.

That fall, Furay released his first solo record, the Asylum LP I’ve Got A Reason which charted at #130.  “That is one of my favorite records.  During our rehearsal time with SHF, Al Perkins (steel guitarist) had lead me to the Lord and I remember when I went in to record this David Geffen called me in to his office.  He wanted to know if I was gonna give him one of those Jesus records.  I do admit that in 1976 it was probably not the most popular thing a guy in rock ‘n’ roll could do, making a commitment to Jesus Christ.”  With this record, Furay pioneered yet another musical vision that others have taken to greater success.  The radio rock sound grafted to lyrics that could be read as either the love of two people or love of God has lately come to the fore with acts like Jars of Clay and Michael W. Smith.  The title ballad, the driving “Starlight” and the superb Poco-like rocker “Getting’ Through” are among the highlights of I’ve Got A Reason.  One song deserving mention is the rocker “Still Rolling Stones” which slaps at the magazine of that name.  “I was fed up with Rolling Stone always short-changing every band I’ve ever been in.”

A year after Rose Of Cimarron, Poco had a bit more success (#57) with the Indian Summer LP which also spawned a #50 single in the title track.  Donald Fagan of Steely Dan played synths on the record in return for Schmit guesting on their records.  This was the last record with Schmit as Young explained.  “The Eagles made Tim an offer he obviously couldn’t refuse plus George was going through some personal things and needed to take some time off.  After Indian Summer it was just Paul and me and the label dropped us.”   Luckily, ABC changed their minds when Cotton and Young auditioned some new songs they intended for the next record: “Crazy Love,” “Heart Of The Night” and a couple of others.

Young and Cotton auditioned a number of players for a new rhythm section, but settled on two Englishmen who had worked with Leo Sayer.  Due to their having played together previously they were already a tight section which gave them the advantage, according to Young.  Charlie Harrison (4/8/53 – Tamworth, Staffordshire, UK) was in on bass while Steve Chapman (11/14/49 – London) took over the drums for Poco to record the album Legend.

Proving that perseverance pays off, Legend finally rewarded Poco with gold and a #14 placement on the charts.  Young took over from Schmit writing nice ballads as the first single “Crazy Love” went to #17 in early 1979.  Cotton’s “Heart Of The Night” did nearly as well at #20 with the third single, the tough rock title track by Young, only getting to #103.  By this point, Young was playing six-string guitar rather than steel since he felt that it was easier to sing that way.  As a result, this LP was a move away from the country sound yet it was the only time that Poco managed to chart in the country world as “Crazy Love” and “Heart Of The Night” placed at #95 and #96 respectively.  Go figure.

Speaking of figures, the cover art was a very stylish line-drawing of a horse by Hartman which would become the Poco logo.

While there was a new Poco, the old Poco (at least the post-Meisner band) all made guest appearances on Furay’s second solo record Dance A Little Light.

  

A single of the old Drifters song “This Magic Moment” bubbled just under the Top 100 in the summer of ’78.  “James Taylor was doing ‘(What A)Wonderful World’ and I’m playing the game to find something that’s gonna put me back over again – not having enough confidence in my own songs.”  Producer Mason was given some wonderful songs to work with actually.  The title song and “Bittersweet Love” would not have sounded out of place with the old Poco while “Stand Your Ground” is a fine guitar workout with Perkins, Young and Virgil Beckham trading licks like the Beatles did on “The End” of Abbey Road.

In late ’79 Furay released his last secular solo LP (till the download era and his return) with I Still Have Dreams.  This album featured the title track, a pleasant Pocoish ballad that hit #39.  Proving that Furay kept in touch with his past, this record had Souther as a guest and, intriguingly, two ex-Poco bassists (Meisner and Schmit) together on background vocals.

While producer Val Garay fashioned a very slick record including a remake of the old Young Rascals song “Lonely Too Long,” solo success eluded Furay again.  “When it just didn’t happen again I felt ‘Lord, what would you have me to do’ and I really started to put my focus on the ministry.”  He had begun a home Bible study group which escalated to an organized church.  “Today I am a Pastor at Calvary Chapel of Broomfield.”

  

Poco’s new status as a heavyweight was evidenced by an appearance at the September ’79 MUSE concerts protesting nuclear power and weaponry.  The resulting three record set which went gold featured the Doobie Brothers, CSN and an incendiary performance by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.  Poco’s contribution was a long guitar workout to “Heart Of The Night” that also saw a new member in the fold, keyboard player Kim Bullard (5/6/55 – Atlanta, GA).  To cash in on the success of Legend, Epic at this time also released two non-charting LPs:  The Songs Of Paul Cotton and The Songs Of Richie Furay.  Interestingly, another hot record of early ‘80 was a single by the Eagles of the Schmit song “I Can’t Tell You Why” which got to #8.  Young’s response later seems fair in light of all the lack of success Schmit had with similar songs in Poco.  “It got down to a name.  If that had been a Poco record it wouldn’t have been a hit, yet as an Eagles record it was.  It was frustrating.”

For the all-important follow-up to Legend Poco released an even less country oriented LP Under The Gun which hit #46 in late summer ‘80.  Young is very clear about the feelings at the time.  “Boy it was nice to finally have a hit and I guarantee you the motivation was to have another.  Springsteen had hit and country rock was not seen as much of a cool thing anymore.”  The sound of the time was New Wave (the Knack, the Beat, the Romantics) and the look was skinny ties on skinny guys.  The Searchers-like Cotton title track to Under The Gun fell right in line with that sound which in retrospect may have confused fans looking for another “Heart Of The Night.”  Young also felt that the larger label MCA buying out ABC hurt Poco’s momentum.  “When MCA bought ABC, I think Steely Dan never made another record and Tom Petty refused to release his album till they gave him his own label.  MCA made a lot of enemies because they fired a lot of people.”

Poco’s next move may have doomed whatever career momentum they still had according to Young.  “We were really upset with MCA and didn’t want to be there.  Since we owed them two records, we made the huge mistake of recording them really quick just to get off the label.  People go out and spend money expecting to get their money’s worth.  We didn’t give it to them with Blue and Gray or Cowboys and Englishmen although there were some nice songs on each record.”

  

Of the two, the first one is actually pretty good with a Civil War theme running throughout.  Young especially shone on the tough “Glorybound,” the Schmit-like ballad “The Land Of Glory” and the heavy “Widowmaker.”  While that LP charted at #76 in mid-’81, Cowboys and Englishmen probably deserved the paltry #131 placement a few months later.  At the time it felt like a contract fulfillment record though at least it marked a return to country with songs such as “There Goes My Heart” and “Ribbon Of Darkness.”  The only original was a banjo drivin’ medley by Young, “Ashes” and the instrumental “Feudin’.”

In 1982, Furay returned to the record stores with a reissue of his I’ve Got A Reason record on the Christian label Myrrh.  This was followed by a record of new music titled Seasons Of Change.  Half of the songs were of a religious bent while songs like the autobiographical title track were of a piece with his other solo records.  This was also reflected in the cover showing a very Poco looking Furay on the front cover with a cross next to a door on the back.  Of the more secular songs, “Endless Flight” stands out while the banjo gospel of “Rise Up” and the intense “Through It All” shone in the sacred realm.  Poco fans who may have missed this record should look for it at their used vinyl shops.

  

In 1982 Poco turned up on the double album soundtrack to the movie Fast Times At Ridgemont High with the Young composition “I’ll Leave it Up To You.”   The song is pleasant keyboard pop with a Phil Kenzie sax break.  Among solo contributions by Eagles Felder, Henley and Walsh was Schmit’s remake of the old Tymes #1 “So Much In Love.”  That same year, Poco delivered a Christmas present to their remaining fans with the album Ghost Town on a new label, Atlantic (ironic as they had of course traded away Furay to Epic at the start of this puzzle).  A #195 chart placement confirmed that the last MCA album had indeed hurt Poco’s career which is a pity as this was one of their strongest records.  Young’s “When Hearts Collide” had an England Dan and John Ford Coley country pop feel while his “Ghost Town” was one of his best compositions.  While the singles buying public only placed the latter at #108, Young’s ballad “Shoot For The Moon” did better at #50 (#10 Adult Contemporary).  Cotton’s excellent “Break Of Hearts” couldn’t crack the charts at all even with a sound similar to “Heart Of The Night.”  The MCA hits package Backtracks could only manage a dismal #209 chart position at this same time.

Giving it one last shot, Young and Cotton released yet another strong record in 1984’s Inamorata.  As with Ghost Town, the record buying public was not enamored and had finally deserted Poco (the cover was interesting, but what did it have to do with country-rock?).   This last Atlantic LP went to #167 and more’s the pity as fans missed some of the band’s best later-day work; indeed, Cotton’s “Days Gone By” could well be his high-point as a member of Poco.  Of note was the return of full vocal harmonies on “This Old Flame,” “How Many Moons” and “Save A Corner Of My Heart.”  A glance at the back cover shows why as Furay, Schmit and Grantham are listed on vocals.  Furay notes that “Rusty called and said I’d like you to sing on this record.  We sang well together though it was not a reunion yet.  I can’t remember what we sang on, but ‘Save A Corner Of My Heart’ stands out.”  Young also confirms this.  “I think it struck me as kind of an old Poco song.  It was fun just hanging out and singing.  That’s still one of my favorites I’ve written.”  While studio guys did much of the playing, Bullard and Chapman still turned up.  Bassist Harrison was out, according to Young however, due to ongoing personal problems.

With success’ fleeting torch apparently extinguished, Poco was seemingly done in 1984 and Young turned to session work in his new home of Nashville.  Cotton went in search of a solo career in L.A. while his forerunner Messina’s solo career with the LPs Oasis, Messina and the pleasant pop of One More Mile had stalled.  First bassist Meisner had taken a similar dive after the Eagles with One More Song and Randy Meisner at least spawning three chart singles from 1980 to 1982 (notably “Hearts On Fire” with a #19 placement).  Schmit’s solo career hadn’t been much healthier with only the fine record Playin’ It Cool doing any damage on the chart (albeit minor damage at #160 in 1984).  Furay of course had his church work while Grantham did some session work.

Rising like the phoenix, however, Poco had one last (at least as of this writing) chart hurrah when in 1989 they reunited for the Legacy album.  Furay gives Young the credit while Young sees it the other way ‘round, but, no matter the catalyst, there was new life with some caveats as explained by Furay.  “We did have some lengthy discussions about the fact that I wanted to be careful of things.”  Young confirms that those things were too hard to overcome and ultimately resulted in Furay leaving once again.  “Richie has a commitment to his church and that takes priority.  I don’t think we fully understood going in (to the reunion) what that meant.  You can’t approach music on that scale as a part-time job.”  At any rate, the intent to finally record as the first version of Poco (with Meisner) was a commendable idea if ill fated.

As reunion records go, this one did pretty well getting to #40 and spawning two chart hits in “Call It Love” at #18 and “Nothin’ To Hide” at #39.  The latter shared some similarity to Meisner’s “Take It To The Limit” from his Eagles days while the former had a catchy guitar riff, but a rocky genesis.  Both Furay and Young confirmed that the original lyrics were of the adult variety and caused some friction.  Furay:  “If you would have heard the original lyrics, it was essentially “Call It Lust” and it wasn’t Poco.  We never wrote songs like that.”  Singer Young mentioned “I told them (the writers) I can’t sing that.”  Regarding the LP as a whole, both members also confirm it was more of a project and an attempt to make Poco into Richard Marx by manager Allen Kovac.  Again Furay intones that “had we been left alone to do our own music, it would have been fine, but there were some songs on Legacy that didn’t belong there.  I hope I did stand up for the integrity of the band.  I don’t think Poco wanted to be known for those kind of songs.”  Young, Messina and Meisner created the album with studio players essentially.  Grantham was not allowed on drums and Furay played only on his two songs, the autobiographical “When It All Began” and the ballad “If It Wasn’t For You.”  Furay finally exited over objections to the video done for “Call It Love” and was replaced for the tour by a friend of Young’s, Jack Sundred.  Of interest is the success this record had on adult stations as “Call It Love,” “Nothin’ To Hide” and “What Do People Know” got to #2, 10 and 24 respectively according to Whitburn’s Adult Contemporary book (“Crazy Love” was their highest adult hit at #1 with “Heart Of the Night” at #5.)

Young didn’t feel the band ever got their due.  “You had the Eagles, Loggins and Messina and Poco all on one record.  We’re up there at Radio City Music Hall singing “Take It To The Limit,” “Your Mama Don’t Dance” and “Crazy Love.”  It was disappointing that the critical people didn’t jump on the bandwagon and go ‘this is where it all began, guys’.”  Messina, Meisner and Young cut demos for a second LP, but labels weren’t interested and Poco as a recording unit was put back in mothballs.

 (The Sky Kings – Young, Cowan, Simmons, Lloyd)

Young’s next project was to start a new band The Sky Kings.  “A friend here in Nashville, head of A&R at RCA, wanted to put together a project like a country Traveling Wilburys.  We had Bill Lloyd of Foster and Lloyd, John Cowan an amazing singer from the New Grass Revival and I called Pat Simmons of the Doobie Brothers since he’d written their hit “Black Water” which was very Pocoish.  We cut a great record and they never released it.  The head of the label left and the new head dropped it.”  With the Doobie Brothers reuniting, Simmons left the Sky Kings who cut another record for Warner Brothers.  The single “Picture Perfect” was released from the 1996 sessions, but the album never followed till Rhino Handmade resurrected it in the fall of 2000 in an expanded 24 track version (From Out Of The Blue RHM 7714).

Meisner recorded with Black Tie and returned later with the World Classic Rockers an aggregation of former chartbusters trying to keep their music before the public.  Messina returned to his art and sporadic solo career.  Grantham went back to playing drums with the likes of Ronnie McDowell.  Schmit continued with a reunited.  Cotton issued two solo albums:  Changing Horses in 1990 and Firebird in 2000.

        

Furay released a solo CD on the Calvary Chapel Music (later reissue on Friday Music) In My Father’s House in 1997.  The players on the record were augmented by Sam Bush on fiddle and Young on steel guitar and dobro.  For that reason, it sounds in places like ‘Poco goes to church’.  For his next album I Am Sure (2005 Friday Music),  the names Cotton, Messina and Young again crop up in the credits on what was another fine album of Christian-rock music.  Furay continued his ministry with occasional concerts like a show at a Highlands Ranch, Colo. church which mixed the sacred songs of his newest album with career highlights like “On The Way Home,” “Go And Say Goodbye” and “Pickin’ Up The Pieces.”

For the 2000’s, the lineup of Young, Cotton, Grantham and Sundred went out on the road and to earn your concert (if not your record) dollar.  Heck, this reviewer took his family of four and paid $54 total to see a fine concert while the reconstituted Eagles wanted $125 for one ticket – sheesh.  For one glorious night on July 3, 2001, Furay rejoined his old mates at Hudson Gardens in Colorado and played several songs (during a 2 hour set) including a white hot version of “ A Good Feelin’ To Know” that had the crowd up on their feet roaring at the end.  The five capped the show with a heart-felt and smokin’ Colorado version of Chuck Berry’s “Back In The U.S.A.” accompanied by fireworks.  30+ years on, Poco could still could (country-)rock.

  

It appears that the lure of recording and playing music with his daughter Jesse finally got the best of Furay and in the new millennium he has thankfully again returned to the stage and the studio with some exceptional new music that sounds more like Poco than the current Poco in many ways.  2006 saw his first non-Christian themed album in decades in the outstanding The Heartbeat Of Love which is a Poco album in all but name.  Jeff Hanna of the Dirt Band, Timothy B Schmit, Neil Young, Kenny Loggins, Paul Cotton, Sam Bush, Rusty Young all guest alongside Furay and his daughter.  The packaging is gorgeous and can be found (along with all his other more recent albums) on richiefuray.com along with any news.  The Buffalo Springfield reunion in 2011 was certainly news that was welcome.

In 2008, the Richie Furay Band (including stalwart guitar/banjo man Scott Sellen making it a family affair with son Aaron on bass plus Alan Lemke on drums) released a 2 CD set called Alive which is where best to appreciate any Poco project.

  

The newest Furay album is 2015’s Hand In Hand (with a classic picture on the cover of he and his wife Nancy) leading off with his tribute to Poco “We Were The Dreamers”.  One of the bonus tracks here is a new version of “Kind Woman” (also on The Heartbeat Of Love) featuring the guest vocals of Neil Young and Kenny Loggins.

The Poco discography has grown mostly by live albums which are hard to keep track of, but there have been two studio releases.  The 2002 album Running Horse was a core band of Cotton, Young, Sundrud and Grantham back after a long layoff.

   

This version of the band were augmented by Furay for a great concert at Nashville’s Belcourt Theatre on May 20, 2004 that can be heard on the CD Keeping the Legend Alive (also on DVD as Crazy Love – The Ultimate Live Experience).  Not long after that concert, Grantham suffered a stroke which lead to George Lawrence coming in as drummer.

     

The next three albums were live.  The Last Roundup was recorded in 1977 but didn’t get a release after Schmit left the band.  It is a fine record including Furay guesting on two tracks (“Magnolia” and “Hoe Down/Slow Poke”).  The next two were mostly acoustic affairs –  Bareback at Big Sky from 2005 and 2006’s The Wildwood Sessions which was more stripped down musically.  Yet a third live album came out in 2010, but Live at Columbia Studios, Hollywood 9/30/71 was not new material, but rather was the From The Inside band in an intimate family/friends show.

  

Cotton left Poco in 2010 meaning that the 2013 All Fired Up album saw Young, Sundrud and Lawrence joined by Michael Webb on keys/guitars/mandolin.  Grantham got a percussion credit on the title track for old-time sake.  If this is the last studio record of Poco, it has some fine moments including “Regret” (plus on “Neil Young”, Rusty clarifies that he and Neil are not related).  This and many other Poco albums can be found in the store of their website poconut.org (not to mention t-shirts and such).

Poco was inducted into the Colorado Music Hall Of Fame in 2015 with Cotton, Furay, Schmit and Young performing together for perhaps the last time…but who knows.  Since Young announced his retirement in 2013, the band continues to play sporadic shows proving the end is apparently never the end.  Indeed, looking at the tour section of their website shows a handful of 2017 dates being played by Young, Sundrud and Webb with a new drummer in Rick Lonow.

At this time, all the Poco original albums have been released on CD.  A good overview to their career can be found on the Hip-O release Ultimate Collection, but it still lacks critical early songs like “Just For Me And You” which can best be purchased on the 1999 Epic Legacy set The Very Best Of Poco.  Intense fans of the Epic years are best served by the two CD set The Forgotten Trail while MCA released a Millennium Collection in early 2000 to replace Crazy Loving – The Best Of Poco 1975-1982.

  

While Poco’s success pales next to their contemporaries the Eagles, frankly so does everybody else’s since they currently have the one of biggest selling albums ever with their greatest hits package.  Few countryish acts have ever done well on the pop chart seemingly caught between a rock and a country place.  In that context Poco was as successful as any.  In retrospect, Poco (and their like) created the new country music (which owes much to rock) as opposed to changing the pop charts.  While money and fame are critical yardsticks, bands that dare to color outside of the lines are measured more by the quality they leave behind (small consolation, however, the talents that populated Poco).   In death, many have anointed Gram Parsons as the originator, yet the creation of this style of music was more a collaboration than the creation of one player.  Heck, the Monkee’s Michael Nesmith deserves as much credit as Parsons for turning kids’ ears in a country direction, but he gets ignored as a one-time teenybopper idol.  If the ability to create music is a super-power, than ultimately it can be said the players of Poco used their powers for good rather than evil.

George W. Krieger DDS, the rock and roll Dentist wishes to thank the members interviewed for their help.  In addition: G Brown, Epic Legacy, Jerry Fuentes, Mike & Pat Hawkinson, Ted Scott.

(What follows is a mostly up to date list of Poco records however reissues are not all listed.)

POCO U.S. DISCOGRAPHY

 

SINGLES

Pickin’ Up The Pieces/First Love                              Epic 10501                                1969

My Kind Of Love/Hard Luck                                     Epic 10543                                1969

You Better Think Twice(edit)/Anyway Bye Bye      Epic 10636                                1970

C’mon(edit)/I Guess You Made It(edit)                    Epic 10714                                1971

Just For Me & You(edit)/Ol’Forgiver                                   Epic 10804                                1971

Railroad Days/You Are The One                               Epic 10816                                1971

A Good Feelin’ To Know(edit)/Early Times             Epic 10890       1972  +reissue-1973

Go & Say Goodbye/I Can See Everything                 Epic 10958                                1973

Here We Go Again/Fool’s Gold                                Epic 11055                                1973

Magnolia(edit)/Brass Buttons                                                Epic 11092                                1974

Faith In The Families/Rocky Mountain Breakdown Epic 11141                                1974

High & Dry(edit)/Bitter Blue                                    Epic 50076                                1975

Keep On Tryin’/Georgia, Bind My Ties                    ABC 12126                               1975

Makin’ Love/Flying Solo                                           ABC 12159                               1976

Rose Of Cimarron(edit)/Tulsa Turnaround               ABC 12204                               1976

Indian Summer(edit)/Me & You                               ABC 12295                               1977

Crazy Love/Barbados                                                 ABC 12439                               1979

Heart Of The Night/The Last Goodbye                     MCA 41023                              1979

Legend/Indian Summer                                              MCA 41103                              1979

Under The Gun/Reputation                                        MCA 41269+pic slv                 1980

Midnight Rain/A Fool’s Paradise                              MCA 41326                              1980

The Everlasting Kind/?                                              MCA 51034                              1980

Widowmaker/Down On The River Again                 MCA 51172                              1981

Sea Of Heartbreak/Feudin’                                        MCA 52001                              1982

Ghost Town(edit)/High Sierra                                   Atlantic 7-89970                      1982

Shoot For The Moon/The Midnight Rodeo               Atlantic 7-89919                      1982

Break Of Hearts/Love’s So Cruel                              Atlantic 7-89851                      1983

Days Gone By/Daylight                                             Atlantic 7-89674                      1984

This Ole Flame/The Storm                                        Atlantic 7-89650                      1984

Save A Corner Of Your Heart/The Storm                 Atlantic 7-89629                      1984

Call It Love(edit)/Lovin’ You Every Minute            RCA 9038+pic slv                    1989

Nothin’ To Hide(edit)/If It Wasn’t For You              RCA 9131+pic slv                    1989

The Nature Of Love/interview (?)                             RCA 9138                                 1990

What Do People Know/When It All Began               RCA 2623                                 1990

 

ALBUMS

Pickin’ Up The Pieces                                                            Epic 26460                                1969

Poco                                                                            Epic 26522                                1970

Deliverin’                                                                   Epic 30209 (+Quad)                 1971

From The Inside                                                         Epic 30753                                1971

A Good Feelin’ To Know                                           Epic 31601                                1972

Crazy Eyes                                                                  Epic 32354 (+Quad)                 1973

Seven                                                                          Epic 32895 (+Quad)                 1974

Cantamos                                                                    Epic 33192 (+Quad)                 1974

Head Over Heels                                                        ABC 890                                   1975

The Very Best Of Poco                                              Epic 33537 (2LP)                     1975

Live                                                                             Epic 33336                                1976

Rose Of Cimarron                                                      ABC 946                                   1976

Indian Summer                                                           ABC 989                                   1977

Legend                                                                                    ABC 1099 (+1/2 speed)            1978

Songs Of Paul Cotton                                                 Epic 36210                                1979

Songs Of Richie Furay                                               Epic 36211                                1979

Under The Gun                                                           MCA 5132                                1980

Blue & Gray                                                               MCA 5227                                1981

Cowboys & Englishmen                                            MCA 5288                                1982

Backtracks                                                                  MCA 5363                                1982

Ghost Town                                                                Atlantic 80008                                      1982

Inamorata                                                                    Atlantic 80148                                      1984

Legacy                                                                        RCA 9694-2-R                          1989

Crazy Loving-The Best Of Poco 1975-1982             MCA MCAD-42323                 1989

The Forgotten Trail (1969-74)                                   Epic Legacy E2K 46162 (2CD) 1990

On The Country Side                                                  Sony A26735                            1996

Ultimate Collection                                                    Hip-O  HPD-40136                   1998

The Very Best Of Poco                                              Epic Legacy EK 65731             1999

The Millennium Collection                                       MCA 088 112 224-2                 2000

Running Horse                                                            Drifters Church 0003               2002

The Last Roundup                                                      Future Edge                              2004

Bareback at Big Sky                                                   Drifters Church 0006               2005

The Wildwood Sessions                                             Drifters Church                        2006

Standing Room Only                                                  Sony/BMG Custom                  2007

Live from Columbia Studios, Hollywood 9/30/1971 Collectors Choice                    2010

Setlist: The Very Best of Poco LIVE                         Sony Legacy                             2011

All Fired Up                                                                  Drifters Church                        2013