Gary James' Interview With Rusty Young of

What an all-star line-up Poco had! At one time this group contained members Jim Messina (Loggins And Messina), Richie Furay (Buffalo Springfield), Randy Meisner (The Eagles) and Timothy B. Schmit (The Eagles).

Of course the biggest star of Poco is Rusty Young, who's managed to keep the group name together year after year and anyone in a band knows just how tough of a job that can be.

Rusty Young spoke with us about Poco.

Q - Rusty, the critics always liked Poco didn't they?

A - Yeah. They pretty much did.

Q - How important was that to the band? If the L.A. Times raves about your record, does it make a difference?

A - I don't think it really made a difference, no. Critical acclaim is great, but it didn't translate to album sales or radio airplay.

Q - In his book The Encyclopedia Of Pop, Rock And Soul, Irwin Stambler has this to say about Poco: "It always had seemed on the verge of supergroup status in the early 1970s, but never achieved the hoped for mass audience appeal." Is that true?

A - That's absolutely true. We never had the breakthrough...that one song, actually not until "Crazy Love" hit in 1978. That was the breakthrough that came at the end of the 70s.

Q - Your 1969 debut album sold over 100,000 copies. Was that considered good in those days?

A - Yeah. It was considered good enough that they let you make another record. If you could sell 100,000 to 200,000 they would take a chance on you making another record.

Q - Poco made its debut in November, 1968 at The Troubadour in L.A. At that time, who might've been in the audience watching the group?

A - Those were pretty interesting days because we had the buzz in town. Everybody wanted to come see us. Richie had really come up with the concept of the Country / Rock thing that wasn't being done. Everybody was ready to jump on the bandwagon. In The Troubadour there'd be a booth and there would be Ricky Nelson and Ozzie and Harriet. The whole gang would be there in their booth. The Smothers Brothers came down. George Harrison and (John) Lennon came down because they tried to sign us to Apple at one point. Pretty much all the L.A. people you can imagine would be in the audience on any given night.

Q - Was that nerve wrecking for you?

A - It was a lot of fun. It was great. Richie carried the band and I didn't feel any pressure at all because it was Richie's deal. So, I was just there for the fun.

Q - (Comedian) Phil Hartman designed one of Poco's album covers, didn't he?

A - A bunch of 'em actually. He must've done five or six of our album covers.

Q - And that's because his brother was managing the group?

A - Right. His brother John Hartman managed America, Poco and Crosby, Still And Nash. We were a part of that same little family there. Phil was the head of the art department and he did album covers for America, CSN and our album covers. Then he would go off at night and do the comedy thing.

Q - You must've met him several times then?

A - Oh, Phil was a good friend, yeah. A really good friend, yeah. We used to hang.

Q - How were you supporting yourself in the Summer and Fall of '68 when Poco was rehearsing?

A - I actually was doing really well in Colorado before I moved out, playing in local bands in local bars. Giving guitar lessons. Selling guitars. So, I sold everything I had and went out to L.A. I had a friend out there who was actually the one who got me the job playing on "Kind Woman" that sent me out there in the first place. He was road managing The Turtles and I actually stayed at his house while he was on the road.

Q - Are you the only original member of the group?

A - No. There's Paul Cotton. He's been in the band since 1970. And there's George Grantham whose been in the band forever. We have a friend of ours that's playing bass who has been in and out of the band since 1985. Of the four original guys from the mid-70s, the only one missing is Tim Schmit, who obviously is not gonna quit The Eagles to come play with us.

Q - What kind of venues do you perform in?

A - Oh, we play everything from casinos, which I really enjoying playing, to fairs and festivals.

Q - Any plans for new material to be released?

A - I think we'll actually finish the new CD. The neat thing about the way things have changed is, in the old days you couldn't afford to make a CD. Even when we made the "Legacy" record, it cost half a million dollars to make. Today, it's a whole different thing. I paid for the new record. I own the new record. It's as good a sounding or better sounding record that we've ever made, done in the best environment you can imagine on the most up to date equipment. Because things have changed so much with the Internet, you can make distribution deals. Before you needed a label because you needed $250,000 to make the record, $500,000 to promote the record. Poco is not going to get played on mainstream Rock 'n' Roll radio. It just isn't going to happen. So, you don't have t spend the money going after that. There are certain places where you spend money to get promotion to let the Poco audience know there's a product there and to get it into all the outlets where they can do that. I don't need a label to do that. I can hire a label to do that. I can hire the same distributors, the same promotion guys and the publicity people. I can hire all those people myself as long as I have the money. In the past, "Legacy" sold close to a million copies. None of us in the band will ever see a penny from it.

Q - Why would that be?

A - Because the record company makes all the money. They charge you for everything. They charge you for studio time, promotion, everything...and they take all the profit. That's how these guys have those big, tall buildings and you don't because they know how to do it. But, the difference is, and a lot of people have learned this, the John Prines of the world, the Ricky Scaggs. Ricky Scaggs is just doing gangbusters since he's been dropped from a major label. It's because he has his own label. You don't have to sell half a million records to make money these days if you own the record. So, that's the deal. We own the record and we're just finishing it up. There are labels that are interested and want to make an offer. As soon as it's finished, we'll start playing it for them. And then I have to decide whether it's a good deal for the band or whether we'll do it ourselves. It'll be our own label. So, I don't know. We'll see who comes up with the best offer and makes the most sense for us. That's what we'll do.

© Gary James. All rights reserved.