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Eagle Tim Feeds The Fire

Jun 15 2001
John Whishaw, Birmingham Post

In the summer of 1839, Captain John Augustus Sutter, a naturalised American citizen, sails up the Sacramento river with a small crew. With a land grant of 44,000 acres, he establishes Sutter's Fort.

A decade later, the discovery of gold sees thousands heading west to stake their claim. Fast forward a hundred years and a two-year-old youngster is taking the first steps on his way to becoming a mainstay of the Sacramento music scene, before becoming a famous rock star with one of the greatest groups in the world.

Born in Oakland California on October 30, 1947, Timothy B Schmit grows up with the sound of music in his ears. His dad Danny plays mandolin with local three-piece the Tunemixers and soon his son is destined to follow in his father's footsteps. By the age of 15 as a member of folk trio Tim, Tom & Ron, with his pals Tom Phillips and Ron Flogel, the boy becomes seduced by the beat of the British invasion.

Armed with his first Fender Jazz bass guitar, and with George Hullin on drums, they evolve into the surfing sound of the Contenders who are superseded in 1964 by the guitar-based pop of the New Breed, who establish a four-year following in Northern California, opening for the likes of Sonny & Cher, Herman's Hermits and Janis Joplin's Big Brother & the Holding Company. The Sacramento beat boys are spotted by Doris Day's son Terry Melcher, the man behind early hits for the Byrds, who changes their name to Never Mind and then to Glad, cutting an album Feelin' Glad for ABC Records.

Meanwhile, following the dissolution of Buffalo Springfield, as Stephen Stills and Neil Young go off to LA superstardom, guitarist Richie Furay is teaming up with multi-instrumentalist Jim Messina who had helped out on their final album Last Time Around.

Pedal steel wizard Rusty Young, another who'd contributed to Buffalo Springfield's Atlantic swansong, is invited to join the new line-up in Hollywood in 1968. Rusty is a member of Colorado combo Boenzee Cryque, whose drummer George Grantham becomes the group's fourth member. With the addition of bass guitarist Randy Meisner from another Rocky Mountain outfit the Poor, who'd gone to LA in search of fame, the new band is born. They call themselves Pogo, in honour of a strip cartoon hero, until the character's creator Walt Kelly takes exception, necessitating a swift name-change to avoid litigation. Now named Poco, they secure a deal with Epic Records when Richie Furay, still under contract to Atlantic, finds himself swapped for Graham Nash, signed to Epic as a member of the Hollies. In April 1969, Randy Meisner quits for Rick Nelson's Stone Canyon Band, and Poco approach Timothy B Schmit to take his place, but with Glad on the verge of breakthrough, he declines their invitation.

Poco carry on as a four-piece until February 1970 when they approach the bass guitarist once again. This time Timmy says yes, and his dramatic good looks, forceful musicianship and tuneful vocal harmonies will play an important role in the popularity of the group for the following seven years. Poco's reputation as an outstanding live attraction finds them a fervent British following. "I'm learning about that now," he laughs. "Bigger than I thought it was at the time."

As a writer, Schmit contributes Hear That Music, Here We Go Again, Hard Luck and From The Inside and many more to the Poco songbook. "I wasn't that prolific," he now admits. "I didn't look on it as competition with the others."

He finds himself in demand to sing on sessions for Steely Dan (Aja, The Royal Scam and Pretzel Logic), Jimmy Buffett, Bob Seger, Crosby Stills and Nash, Elton John and even Spinal Tap. Everything is going swimmingly until September 1977 when Schmit receives the phone call which will change the course of his career for ever.

Randy Meisner, by this time bass guitarist with the Eagles, is once again on the move and as his natural successor, Timmy Schmit is offered the job. "Glenn Frey called me," he reveals. "He asked me to keep a lid on it, but out of loyalty to the guys in Poco, I went round to each of their houses to get their approval."

Schmit joins the Eagles for the Hotel California tour, playing on The Long Run and Eagles Live albums, penning I Can't Tell You Why with Glenn Frey and Don Henley, before the group begins a 14-year sabbatical, saying they will only regroup "when hell freezes over". The various members pursue successful solo careers until Nashville's 1993 Eagles tribute Common Thread, which includes Vince Gill's version of I Can't Tell You Why featuring Timothy B Schmit on background vocals.

Encouraged by the record's enthusiastic reception, the Eagles decide to reform, calling their comeback album, what else, Hell Freezes Over. In January 1998 the Eagles were inducted into the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame. Timothy B Schmit has just released his fabulous fourth solo album Feed The Fire, his first since 1990's Tell Me The Truth.

The 53-year old is joined by Eagles guitarist Joe Walsh for the track I'll Always Let You In, but the composer has no plans to include the song in their set.

"I think it's too early," he admits. "The album isn't well enough known yet. I am very proud of the album. I put a lot of time and energy into it."

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