By Bob Fukuyama
Poco is like that proverbial good lover: always there, always reliable, always sweet. Something that consistent however, comes to be taken for granted eventually, and so it has happened with Poco.
Never spectacular (e.g.,they've never had a smash single), Poco has nevertheless created an abundance of stunning country-rock since forming in 1968. Some people simply recall Poco as another Buffalo Springfield splinter group; most credit them as being among the first 'country-rock' band. "We were playing country-rock long before it became a trend," comments bassist Timothy Schmit. "We were doing the harmonies the same time as Crosby, Stills and Nash, and we were about the first rock band to mix country into rock, what with Rusty's steel guitar especially.
"It's funny, but only Rusty has a solid country music background - although I liked the Everly Brothers, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis, my musical roots are essentially rock. And basically it's the same for George (drummer Grantham) and Paul (lead guitarist Cotton). But then we love to sing together and play good-time music."
Poco's original lineup included, along with Rusty Young and George Grantham, Richie Furay and Jim Messina. Timothy Schmit joined after the first album, Paul Cotton enlisting in 1970. After being the group's leader for years, Richie left to become a member of the illfated Souther-Hillman-Furay Band. The quintet having been reduced to a foursome, and having incurred a substantial loss, did they ever consider any other course but to continue on? "No," answers Timothy. "We, in fact, welcomed the change to a foursome. There's more of an opportunity now for everyone to share in the writing of songs; as you can see, we've been dividing up our albums pretty evenly. About quitting, we never thought of it - we have too much fun playing together. "The only thing that we were even a little worried about - worry's the wrong word, we mean conscious of - was that we'd have to prove to people that we were still serious, still good without Richie. "After touring once, twice, we were as popular and as 'valid' as ever. "Head Over Heels" (Poco's latest) is selling well, and with our new label (ABC) really behind us, it looks like we're gonna do better."
After compiling 10 albums now in seven years, Poco remains hopeful of finding that elusive first blockbuster single. "We've never had that important hit." begins Schmit, disappointment etched on his face, "and we've tried everything. Our new single, 'Keep On Tryin',' a song off the album, is doing okay, but what we need is something on the level of the Eagles success." (Speaking of the Eagles, their bassist/vocalist Randy Meisner briefly played with Poco.) Before this interview commenced, I had watched Poco rehearse a number of songs from the current album that they were yet perfecting for live performance. Sitting close together in a circle, the band members faced one another practicing vocal harmonies that, when finally synchronized, were exquisite. With each individual playing an acoustic guitar, the group ran through several songs that revealed folky-spiritual textures along with the country and rock.
It was obvious that Poco loved playing and singing and, even without hits, would enjoy recording and touring, indefinitely.
"You'd never know we've been together six years and a million gigs, would you?" joked Schmit. "Things are just beginning to happen. I mean, this is our best album in a long time, perhaps our best ever. On it Rusty did his debut lead vocal - everbody else sings frequently. We're touring Europe for three weeks with America, and we did well the last time, and we should do better this time - our album's on the charts there. " We have some songs in the can for the next album, and although we won't start recording untillat least January, it looks promising. Now if we can only come up with that single...."
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