April 14, 2021: Rusty Young, Poco Legend, Dies at 75

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ca. 1973—The country rock band Poco: (l to r) Timothy B. Schmit, Richie Furay, George Grantham, Rusty Young and Paul Cotton (Photo © Henry Diltz/CORBIS)

Singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Rusty Young, a founding member of the seminal country-rock band Poco and one of the most influential steel guitar players in rock history, died April 14, 2021, of a heart attack at his home in Davisville, Missouri. He was 75 years old.

Norman Russell “Rusty” Young was born Feb. 23, 1946, in Long Beach, California and raised in Denver, Colorado, where he began playing lap steel as a boy and performed in local country and psychedelic rock bands throughout his teens. In 1967, Young was invited to Los Angeles by Richie Furay to play steel on Buffalo Springfield’s third and final album, Last Time Around, and Young, Furay, George Grantham and Jim Messina formed Poco soon after. Over the next five decades, alongside members that would also include Randy Meisner, Timothy B. Schmit and Paul Cotton, Young became not only the musical core of the band, but also the writer of many of their hits including 1976’s beautiful “Rose of Cimarron” and 1979’s “Crazy Love.”

Related: Our Album Rewind of Poco’s 1971 live album, Deliverin’

Upon hearing of Young’s passing, Furay wrote, “It’s been a tough day; my friend Rusty Young passed away and we are heartbroken. Our friendship was 50 plus years; together we helped create what became known as the Southern California ‘Country Rock’ sound – believe me, we had a lot of fun and then some.”

The current band – led by Young and featuring Jack Sundrud, Rick Lonow and Tom Hampton – still performed over 100 dates per year. “I made a promise to myself that Poco would only keep going if we remained a band of real musicians who were having fun,” Young said a year earlier. “Because audiences can tell the difference.”

“Poco, at its core, is an early example of what could be described as Americana” No Depression writes, “a roots rock band that melded genres in the process of creating something new and exciting.” Young was inducted into Guitar Player Magazine’s ‘Gallery Of Greats’ in 1974 and ‘Steel Guitar Hall Of Fame’ in 2012. Young orchestrated Poco’s 50th anniversary reunion in 2017 and released his solo debut album, Waitin’ for the Sun, on Blue Elan Records later that year.

“Rusty was the most unpretentious, caring and idyllic artist I have ever worked with, a natural life force that he consistently poured into his music,” said Rick Alter, Poco and Young’s manager of more than 20 years. “To fans and fellow musicians alike, he was a once-in-a-lifetime musician, songwriter, performer and friend.”

Young was survived by his wife Mary, with whom he shared a log home overlooking the Huzzah Creek, where he loved to go fishing in the Mark Twain National Forest. A memorial service was held at Wildwood Springs Lodge in Steelville, MO, where the couple met 20 years earlier.

Related: Musicians we lost in 2021

Poco’s recordings are available here.

Best Classic Bands Staff

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  1. Stuboy
    #1 Stuboy 18 April, 2021, 09:06

    Pre-Eagles, Poco were the best country rock band in the world. They opened the door for so many later bands including one I was with trying our little hearts out trying to sound like Poco. R.I.P. Rusty

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