Poco leader and guitarist suffered a fatal heart attack yesterday. He was 75 years old and was in the band for more than 50 years.
Poco went through many iterations through the years with Rusty being the only original member to play the entire with every version. Rusty came close to retirement back in 2013, but gradually started playing shows again and released his first solo album in 2017.
I met Rusty a couple of times. I have related the experience of spending time with Poco prior to a concert in my hometown. What a great memory. Rusty and the band invited us inside out of the cold while they set up for the concert.
He was kind and soft-spoke, and didn’t have to treat a couple of fans with such kindness. We got to mingle with the band and I had a great conversation with former member Richie Furay, who was the opening act.
A couple of years before, I send a memorabilia item to the band’s website, hoping to get Rusty and maybe Paul Cotton’s autographs. Mary Young, Rusty’s wife and manager of their website, sent me an email saying they received it and were holding it until former drummer George Grantham was in town to also sign it. A few weeks later it arrived signed by everyone. What a nice gesture.
The Poco website always had great items for sale and Mary would include a bonus item or two. One time she offered some of Rusty’s Poco hats for sale. I grabbed one with the running horse logo.
Headquartered in Missouri, Rusty always brought Poco to Kansas City each year to an enthusiastic crowd. Mary ran the merchandise table and the band always came out to meet fans afterwards.
Rusty was known for his steel guitar and country-rock sound of the band’s early years. With stronger personalities in the group like Jim Messina, Furay, Timothy B. Schmidt and Paul Cotton, it was only later that Rusty became one of the main writers and adding lead vocals. As the 1970s ended, Rusty moved to center stage with Cotton as Poco’s popularity got a sudden boost with Legend (1978). “Crazy Love” a ballad written and sung by Rusty, showed his songwriting growth and stage presence. Rusty stepped away from the steel string except for certain songs.
Poco went through ups and downs, and even a brief reunion of the original members. They may have missed the on-ramp to success on the scale of Eagles and Crosby, Stills & Nash, but the core group of fans were loyal and kept supporting the band.
After deciding against retirement, Rusty continued music, but on a pace that meshed with life. Personally, I’m glad he kept going. I grew up with Poco and even bough the new albums were sporadic, it was the legacy that kept going. Even with Rusty’s passing, the spirit of the band will continue and the music is timeless.
Rest peaceful, Rusty.