By Warren Kurtz
Win an autographed copy of “Waitin’ for the Sun,” the first solo album from Poco’s Rusty Young, and read a 50th anniversary of Poco interview!
RUSTY YOUNG is the sole original member in Poco. After the Buffalo Springfield disbanded, Richie Furay, along with the final album member Jim Messina and guest multi-instrumentalist Rusty Young formed Poco, along with bassist Randy Meisner and drummer George Grantham. After their first album, “Pickin’ Up the Pieces,” Randy Meisner left and was replaced by Timothy B. Schmit, a pattern that would repeat in the Eagles. Next, Jim Messina left for Loggins & Messina, and was replaced by Paul Cotton. More personnel changes continued. After 50 years, “Waitin’ for the Sun” is Rusty Young’s first solo album, which includes many past and all current members of Poco. Goldmine spoke with him about the new songs, the group, a pair of cabins, including one formerly owned by Johnny Cash and June Carter, and how David Geffen motivated him to become a singer-songwriter.
GOLDMINE: When we featured the video of your song “Waitin’ for the Sun” at goldminemag.com for a weekend last month, we quickly received over 1, 000 likes. Henryk Ptasiewicz’s artwork is beautiful and your song is soothing, something we needed in August.
RUSTY YOUNG: That was the first song I wrote for the album. It is a about the process of songwriting in my cabin by the Huzzah River in the Mark Twain National Forest in Missouri. At 4 a.m. I can see the sun come up over the hills and the sun inspired me to write. Last month we watched the solar eclipse from a boat with some friends and it was really amazing. There was lots of screaming and cheering, and that was before the eclipse!
GM: Of the 10 songs that you wrote for the new album, my favorite is “Innocent Moon.” Along with the vocals, I love the rhythm and the piano touches.
RY: That is Rick Lonow on drums and Jack Sundrud on bass. In fact, all the current Poco members are on that song. In writing this one I liked how the two words “innocent” and “moon” sounded together and wrote the lyrics around that. I love the guitar at the end, making it like my “Layla.” Those piano parts were from Michael Webb.
GM: Michael’s piano is certainly featured on the instrumental “Seasons.”
RY: That is Michael playing June Carter’s piano. We recorded the album at Cash Cabin in Hendersonville, Tennessee, where Johnny Cash recorded “Hurt” and some of his final songs. “Seasons” celebrates all four seasons that I experienced from my Missouri cabin during the year of writing the album.
GM: You also brought back past members of Poco with Jim Messina and George Grantham on “Honey Bee” and Richie Furay and Timothy B. Schmit on “My Friend.”
RY: “My Friend” reminds me of “Crazy Love.” It took just a half hour to an hour to write. It came so naturally. The best songs come about like that. I wanted to do a tribute to our history, to all of us and the audience too, it is truly about all the Poco members and fans.
GM: In addition to Poco members, I heard from a couple of other people on the record. I love the sax on “Heaven Tonight.” Sax player Jim Hoke told me, “I loved Poco from when they first came out and Rusty’s playing was responsible for my attempting to play pedal steel guitar. He is a unique musician with a big heart. Getting to play with him was a great experience."
RY: When we aren’t doing Poco songs, Jack and I add music to training videos from Scholastic. We frequently use Jim. “Heaven Tonight” is about meeting someone, having that connection and being fulfilled as I am with my wife Mary. The song “Hey There” is also a nod to her. I’m happy I inspired Jim to try pedal steel. My parents started me on that instrument when I was six years old. They were country music fans. In 1968, I was in a band in Colorado with George. Randy was in Colorado, too. I got a call to go to Los Angeles and play pedal steel on “Kind Woman” at Sunset Sound Recorders as the closing number on Buffalo Springfield’s final album “Last Time Around.” That was my first time on record. I also learned to play banjo, mandolin and dobro in the ‘60s during the folk era.
GM: On the album’s closing number, “Gonna Let the Rain,” you are joined by Lisa Oliver-Gray and Jen Friend on background vocals. Lisa told me, “Rusty’s wonderful and kind. I was honored to sing on that recording.” Jen said, “I had a great time singing that one. It is definitely one of my top tunes.”
RY: Both Lisa and Jen sounded so soulful. I was seeking a sound similar to what Bonnie Bramlett brings to a recording, and Lisa and Jen certainly achieved that.
GM: You mentioned “Crazy Love” earlier. In early 1979, at the record store I worked at, side two of your “Legend” album was a refreshing break from the disco albums we were playing during that genre’s peak. Finally, with your 13th album, we were so pleased to finally hear Poco debut in the Top 40 with “Crazy Love” and “Heart of the Night.” In addition to those two hits, that side also included the flip side of “Heart of the Night,” one of my favorite compositions of yours, “The Last Goodbye.” It started so soft and then when the “send me no invitation” line was sung with such a powerful harmony we would look up at the speakers, take notice, and smile.
RY: After no Top 40 hits, our label was ready to drop us. They got us together and we played them my “Crazy Love” and Paul’s “Heart of the Night.” They looked at us, smiled, and said, “OK! Let’s make a record.” Songwriting still felt new to me. David Geffen is a very important person in my life. 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.
GM: Ten years later, in 1989, I constantly played two reunion cassettes. One from Jefferson Airplane and the other was your “Legacy” album and I loved them both. While the singles from “Jefferson Airplane” didn’t chart in the Top 40, your “Legacy” brought two more songs to that chart, “Call It Love” and “Nothing to Hide.” I also enjoyed the latter’s flip side “If It Wasn’t for You” and your catchy mid-tempo composition “What Do People Know,” with all of its harmonies.
RY: “Legacy” is such an overlooked classic. I am so proud of that album. It is a great record, representing musicians from four successful bands: the Buffalo Springfield, the Eagles, Loggins & Messina and Poco. Rick, our current drummer, was one of the co-writers on “Call It Love” with Jim, and I was thrilled to sing it. Randy did a great job singing “Nothing to Hide.” That one was co-written by Richard Marx. We shared the same manager. I was very happy with “What Do People Know” and Jim’s guitar on it. The reunion was lots of fun.
GM: On your new CD, Joe Hardy mixed and mastered it, the same guy who brought a great sound to Alice Cooper’s new album “Paranormal.”
RY: Joe is a big Poco fan. He told me his two favorite groups are The Beatles and Poco. He is an early riser too and would call me at 6 a.m. about the recordings. For the upcoming Poco concerts, I will be my own opening act, playing songs from “Waitin’ for the Sun” before we get into the Poco set. I am really excited and proud of my solo CD. Blue Elan has been behind it so much. I am sure Goldmine readers will enjoy trying to win a copy.
To enter, submit your email address in the box below by Tuesday, Oct. 31, 11:59 p.m. You will be immediately entered in the Giveaway and as a bonus you will receive Goldmine’s informative weekly eNewsletter (collecting news/tips and exclusive articles and interviews with your favorite classic artists). We will randomly draw winners from the entrants. We have five (5) signed CDs to give away and five (5) signed vinyl albums.