Poco frontman Rusty Young has died sat the age of 75.
The news was confirmed by fellow Poco co-founder Richey Furay, who told Variety, “I just received word that my friend Rusty Young has passed away and crossed that line into eternity. My heart is saddened; he was a dear and longtime friend who help me pioneer and create a new Southern California musical sound called ‘country rock.’
“He was an innovator on the steel guitar and carried the name Poco on for more than 50 years. Our friendship was real and he will be deeply missed. My prayers are with his wife, Mary, and his children Sara and Will.”
Poco were formed in 1968 by ex-Buffalo Springfield members Richie Furay (lead vocals and guitar) and bassist Jim Messina, with Young – who’d been brought in to contribute to some of Springfield’s final recordings – on pedal-steel guitar.
The band’s first album, 1969’s Pickin’ Up The Pieces, was the blueprint for a more sun-dappled, Californian approach to country-rock, with harmony vocals, pedal-steel guitars and a soft-rock backbeat. The band’s second album, Poco, included the instrumental El Tonto De Nadie Regresa, which featured some superb pedal-steel work by Young.
Disillusioned by the band’s lack of success, Furay left to join JD Souther and Chris Hillman in The Souther Hillman Furay Band, but Poco went from strength to strength under Young’s leadership, and their 1978 album Legend featured two US Top 20 hits in Heart Of The Night (sung by Messina’s replacement, Paul Cotton) and Crazy Love, written and sung by Young.
“David Geffen is a very important person in my life,” Young told Goldmine in 2017. “A few years prior to Legend he was managing us and called us into his office. Richie was leaving for the Souther Hillman Furay Band. He looked at Paul and said, ‘You’re okay. You sing. You write. You’ll be fine.’
“Then it was my turn. I was on the cover of Guitar Player. I was possibly the most famous steel pedal player in rock and was feeling pretty good about myself. David looked at me and said, ‘You’re in trouble. You don’t write. You don’t sing.’
“That shocked me at first and then inspired me. That is the day that changed my life and that led to Crazy Love, our highest charting single.”
In 2013 Young was inducted into the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame and Poco released their final studio album, All Fired Up. Young announced his retirement the same year, although Poco continued to play sporadic shows, and in 2019 Young recorded his final song, Listen to Your Heart, a charity single to raise awareness for Santana’s Hope for Paws, an animal charity in Steelville, Missouri.