Rock People/Circus

The following article is from the Rock People book by Bud Scoppa. A slightly different version of the article also appeared in Circus Magazine in August 1971.

"Poco is the only rock 'n' roll band I've ever seen whose members smile as they sing - it's hard to grin with your mouth wide open.

For a band that started with the label "longhaired country," Poco play awfully loud and awfully hard. It's unfortunate that they were stuck with that country label, because it kept a lot ot people from taking them seriously as a rock band - which they most definitely are.

They do look like nice boys up there on stage. And they look like nice boys up close too. But what's exciting about Poco is the way the group can get a lethargic crowd on it's feet, fully recharged, moments after it hits the stage. If they just looked nice, they wouldn't be able to do that. And they wouldn't still be around after three years. They can play really well, and sing better than any strong instrumental band I can think of. In fact, Poco has a reputation among other rock musicians for solidness and style, a reputation the group has earned.

Richie Furay devoted all his time and energy for three solid years to putting Poco together. It's finally beginning to pay off. Starting with drummer/harmonizer George Grantham and steel player Rusty Young, Furay has since been joined by Tim Schmit, a fine singer and bass player - and Poco's primary female interest - and, most recently, Paul Cotton, guitarist and singer formerly with the Illinois Speed Press. Furay, Schmit, and Cotton are all able songwriters as well as being sure performers, so the groups creative base is broad and sturdy.

Poco's just put the finishing touches on a new studio album, cut entirely in Memphis, after winning critical acclaim for "Deliverin'", a memorable live album. While in town to headline the Fillmore East, the five talked through a hearty lunch of cheeseburgers and french fries.

See, we had some management problems in the past," Tim Schmit began, "but they're all straightened out now - finally. It's gonna happen for us soon".

How do you know?

Tim's expression was bathed in earnestness. "I can just feel it," he said. "And I think we've finally got our sound where we want it now too," Richie Furay added. "Right now, the sound I had envisioned for Poco from the very beginning is getting real close to what I thought.

"It seems strange that it's taken three years to happen - I knew that it would happen, and I knew that it was gonna take time to get the right people. Man, it's real hard to get the people to play the music who understand what you're feelin'. And we all feel it together.

"In the beginning, it was to be as strong vocally as it was instrumentally, and we were a little weak on the rock 'n' roll part of it then. But it's all together now. Paul adds that rock 'n' roll thing.

"The group right now is more secure than ever. And because of that, we're able to do more of the things we've always wanted to do. Like the people are closer within the group and that makes the group so...so important."

Furay wasn't overstating his point about closeness. The strongest feeling you get about Poco, both on and off stage, is the warmth that's being continuously generated by the members of the band toward each other. With assorted wives and babies filling out the entourage, the Poco party has the look of a big, happy, communal family. Richie even named his kid Timmy, after his partner, Tim Schmit, bass player, singer and songwriter. Furay's choice of names isn't so surprising - Tim Schmit seems to be a fine human being - until you discover that Richie's the father of a baby girl. But it's the sentiment, not the gender, that counts.

Of the five group members, Furay and Schmit appear to be the closest. The timbre of the two voices is often so similar as to be uncanny. Both are mild, soft-spoken, and completely ingenuous. The only obvious contrast in their personalities is Tim's comparative naivete: he seems to take things more seriously than Richie, who's had enough experience in the rock 'n' roll business, both good and bad, to keep on top of things. Richie developed a subtle sense of irony during those long years of kicking around and trying to make it, and it's always there for him to call on if he needs it. Tim, on the other hand, seems completely earnest, whether he's on stage singing a song, or sprawled on the floor of a hotel room, talking about himself and his dreams: "On the 'Deliverin' album, there was a song I wrote called 'Hear That Music'. I saw Poco perform in San Francisco when they were still called Pogo - this was after I knew them and was up for the job with them but they had to tell me 'no'. But I saw Poco that night and I thought, 'My god, I coulda been part of that. I gotta go back.' But I wrote 'Hear That Music' the next day, just because of it.

"As for me as a songwriter, I'm still tryin' to get it together. It's coming real slow to me. They're pretty good, I think, when they come out, but-" "Tim's got a tune on the new album," Furay broke in, "which is ...has got to be one of my favorite all-time songs that I've ever heard. The fact is, I would like to call the album by the title of that song, because the title of the song is 'From the Inside', and I think a lot of the lyrics that are on this album are very personal - to each of us."

"It fits all the songs for sure," Tim agreed, "because all the songs are highly personalized songs, you know, that only one person could've experienced and put down."

Furay nodded. "except musically, because musically we all got to express - what each song meant to each of us, we got to express together through the music. That's why I much prefer to be part of a group than to be a solo artist. Because I think that the influences the other people have on the songs, man, just make for better music."

"Sometimes people will ask you what your biggest musical influence was," Tim said, looking even more earnest than usual. "And I don't say it very much, but my biggest musical influence is Richie - I'm sure of it."

A silence followed, and drummer George Grantham ended it: " When Tim first joined the group, he was over at this house I had, and we were practicing vocals. My wife and I were in the kitchen and we heard this guy singin'. We looked at each other and said, 'Isn't that Richie?' It was Tim, you know, but it sounded exactly like Richie. So when they sing harmonies together, it's really close."

"Which is only another supercompliment to me" Tim added.

Richie looked slightly uncomfortable. "Well, I don't know about that," he said, looking down. "You know, Stephen Stills and I really sang good together in the Buffalo Springfield, but Tim and I sing closer. I'm not sayin' this from me - I'm just sayin' it from what other people said from the other group - but I think Tim and I sing a lot closer together than Stepthen and I ever did.

"There's a consistency somewhere between their two voices, " Tim explained, "and there's a consistency between our two voices too." Inevitably, the talk was rolling toward the Buffalo Springfield. Poco has finally gotten out from under the shadow of it's parent group, but no one has really forgotten.

I think Still's voice was closer to Richie's back in the Buffalo Springfield than it is now. His vocal approach seems ot have changed more than yours has.

Tim disagreed, "Listen to some of Richie's early stuff - listen to 'Clancy'. It doesn't sound like him. He's grown so much - his voice is so much better now - Richie's is".

You always sounded different to me, Richie, when you were singing a Neil Young song than when you were singing one of your own.

"I don't know why you say that, cause I was real close to several of Neil's songs. I really wanted to sing a couple of the other tunes that I didn't get to sing, like 'Expecting to Fly' - I really wanted to sing that song. That was one of those times when Neil was off on one of his 'I wanna-do-my-own-thing' things, and that's why the whole track is Jack Nitzche-Neil Young -" Richie realized where his words were moving. "Okay - we've passed all that - let's get back to where we are."

Back to the present, as Richie requested: Poco has just cut a new album, its fourth. The group built up great momentum through it's exciting and positive live performances, and through it's fine live album, 'Deliverin'. The group's problem at the beginning of their work on album number four was obvious: What do you do for an encore? In trying to solve the problem Poco went to Memphis to record in the sparkling new studios of Steve Cropper, guitarist for Booker T and the MG's. They're really happy about the results.

"Well, this album that we've done in the studio is by far the best album we've done, in the studio or live," Richie said with conviction. "We really captured a lot of feeling on this album."

To what do you credit that?

"Maybe we're just gettin' to be better players. And gettin' to know each other better - knowin' what each of us is gonna feel. It just happened. I guess maybe it just falls into place at one time or another. I think you'll be able to tell when you hear the album that we finally got to be a lot more sure of ourselves. There's a lot of confidence on this album, between the songs and the way we played'em."

Paul Cotton added, "There are lead vocals on it that were done on the basic track that we kept."

Live in the studio?

"Yeah" What made you record in Memphis?

Richie answered. "I guess the fact that we didn't want to record in a Columbia studio in Los Angeles."

"And Steve Cropper has a really big reputation," Rusty added.

"Yeah," Richie continued, "and he wanted to record us, you know, real bad. And we were all probably a little leary about goin' down there but we -"

Was it at Cropper's invitation?

"Yeah. And we were probably a little leary about how much his influence was gonna have on us. And, as it turned out, he was real cool and put Poco on tape, not anything else. And we've got a real good album. We're going back down next week just to finish a few little sweetening things."

They're all still flushed with success, but Richie Furay hasn't forgotten all the days and nights of trying to get there. He hasn't forgotten the mistakes he's made: " A lot of people - well, dig, it's taken three years, man for us to break the image down that we're a country band. If we had to be labelled, I'd want to be labelled a rock 'n' roll band. Or a musical band. We definitely are under the title rock 'n' roll. We can play country, we can play rock, we can play folk, we can play blues, we can play jazz - at jazz - it's our own - all of it's our own style. It's all Poco-rock, Poco-country, Poco-blues, Poco-folk, you know? "It really did hurt us. And we were being compared to Dillard & Clark and the Burrito Brothers, who didn't have any sound - like Dillard & Clark took the bluegrass influence, and the Burrito Brothers took more the country influence, and we were definitely more the rock influence. They would go around and play, and people would think it was gonna be a very similar kind of thing when we played. And people would come, not knowing what they were gonna hear, and really be freaked out when they found out we played rock 'n' roll."

Rusty Young picked it up: "It seems that whenever we've played, we've gotten a following. I think the majority of people like us, and our problem at this point is getting to the majority of the people. you know, we have something to sell, and that's our music, from a commercial point of view. And our problem is making everyone aware of us. It's not whether or not they're gonna like us, because we're pretty sure they are."

I won't be at all surprised if Poco does score very big in the near future. As anyone who's seen them play will attest, they have just about everything it takes to be a geat rock 'n' roll band.

So expect to be hearing from Poco any minute now. Because Timothy B. Schmit has this feeling, see, and he's almost never wrong.

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