by Naomi Elkins
Rusty was born February 23, 1946 in Long Beach, CA. He is from Denver, CO. He started out playing lap steel when he was about six years old, before moving on to Pedal Steel around age thirteen, and then regular guitar. Rusty's parents were big fans of country music, and he practiced 5 or 6 hours a day. Rusty's early Pedal Steel influences were Speedy West and Jerry Byrd. Other influences were Ralph Mooney, Jimmy Day, and Buddy Emmons. His first PSG was a Fender 1000.
He started playing professionally when he was about 12 years old, playing in bars on Sunday afternoons. Around age 16, he worked in a music store, giving lessons after school, and playing pedal steel guitar in bars around Denver at night. He joined a Band called theBoenzee Cryque.
In 1968, Rusty had previously given PSG lessons to Miles Thomas who was then a road manager for the Buffalo Springfield. The Buffalo Springfield was in need of a pedal Steel guitarist for "Kind Woman". He called Rusty and asked if he would be interested in coming to L.A. Rusty flew out and did the session. Richie Furay, Jim Messina and Rusty became good friends, and they decided to form a new band. By this time, the Buffalo Springfield were splitting up. The final Buffalo Springfield Show was on May 5, 1968.
Rusty's friend and drummer from Boenzee Cryque, George Grantham, also moved from Denver to L.A., to join Poco. Randy Meisner, a bass player who had been in "The Poor", a band from Nebraska, joined also, at Rusty's recommendation. The new band was called Pogo, and they debuted at "The Troubador" in L.A. in November, 1968. In April, 1969, Walt Kelly threatened to sue them because "Pogo" was the name of his comic strip. They decided to drop the line off the "G", and became "Poco". Meisner quit the band around this time.
In February, 1969, Pogo signed with Epic Records, after trading Graham Nash for Richie Furay with Atlantic Records. The first Poco album, " Pickin' Up the Pieces", was released on May 19, 1969. It went to #63 on Billboard charts. Timothy B. Schmidt, who had been in New Breed/Glad joined on bass. (They later changed their name to Redwing.) The second Poco album, titled "Poco", was released May 6, 1970. Jim Messina left Poco in October, 1970. Paul Cotton, who had been in the "Illinois Speed Press", joined on guitar.
"Deliverin', a live album was released on January 13, 1971. On September 5, 1971, "From the Inside" was released. "A Good Feelin' to Know" was released on November 25, 1972. On September 15, 1973, "Crazy Eyes" was released. Richie Furay left Poco around this time, to Join the Souther, Hillman and Furay Band. The remaining members decided to continue as a four-piece band. On April 12, 1974, "Seven" was released. On November 1, 1974, "Cantamos" was released.
On April 12, 1975, Poco signed up with ABC records. "Head Over Heels" was released in July, 1975. Epic released "The Very Best of Poco" soon after. On April 3, 1976, Epic released "Poco Live". On May 29, 1976, ABC released "Rose of Cimarron". In May 1977, "Indian Summer" was released. In September 1977, Timothy B. Schmidt left Poco to become the Eagles bass player, replacing Randy Meisner, for the second time. George Grantham left Poco in January 1978.
They had recorded a live album, called "The Last Roundup", which was to be their last. Rusty and Paul were left to decide what they would do next. They thought about starting a new band, called the Cotton/Young band, but ABC told them they still had a contract as long as they were Poco. They had auditions, and Steve Chapman (drums) and Charlie Harrison (bass) were hired. ABC cancelled the release of "The Last Roundup".
"Legend" was released in November, 1978. Kim Bullard joined on keyboards in December, 1978. This gave Poco their two biggest hits to date, "Crazy Love" (#17) and "Heart of the Night" (#20). Also, in 1979, Poco performed "Heart of the Night", at the "NO Nukes" concert in NYC. In July 1980, "Under the Gun" was released, on MCA records. In July 1981,"Blue and Grey", was released, followed by "Cowboys and Englishmen" in February, 1982. After that, Poco signed with Atlantic Records, and on September 20, 1982, they released "Ghost Town". A compilation album, "Backtracks" was released by MCA in December 1982. On April 16, 1984, "Inamorata" was released. It had vocals by George Grantham, Timothy B. Schmidt, and Richie Furay.
In November 1984, they relocated to Nashville. They disbanded in August, 1987. Rusty joined Vince Gill's backing band sometime after that.
In September 1988, Rusty organized a reunion with the original members of Poco, Jim Messina, Randy Meisner, George Grantham, and Richie Furay. They signed with MCA Records. George was sick and didn't play drums, but did vocals. "Legacy" was released on September 23, 1989. "Call it Love" reached #18. Richie had two songs on Legacy, but couldn't finish the tour because of his church commitments. (He had since become pastor of Calvary Chapel Church in Boulder, CO) In November 1989, MCA released a compilation CD, "Crazy Lovin". In November 1990, a 2-CD set,"The Forgotten Trail" was released by Sony Legacy.
In late 1992, Rusty formed Four Wheel Drive with Patrick Simmons (Doobie Bros.), Bill Lloyd (Foster & Lloyd), and John Cowan (New Grass Revival). Rusty and Bill met when Rusty was in Vince Gill's band, and Bill was a big Poco fan. John Cowan was another friend of Bill's. They recorded an excellent album for RCA-Nashville, but the company let a lot of people go, and the album ended up in thevaults.
They had to change their name, because it was already being used. Pat suggested "The Sky Kings". Pat left to rejoin the Doobie Brothers, and the three continued to record songs. Problems with the record company prevented their CD from being released. They would only release singles and promo copies to radio stations. The CD, From Out of the Blue, is now available from Rhino Handmade. It has 18 songs on it.
In 1999, Poco reformed with Rusty, Paul, George, and Jack Sundrud on bass. Jack had previously been with Poco in 1985 -86. He is also a successful songwriter in Nashville.
The new CD, Running Horse, is now available at the official Poco website.
Rusty has also played pedal steel guitar, lap steel, and dobro on various other band's/musician's albums. To see a list, click here!
Rusty plays a Carter Pedal Steel guitar.
Steel Guitar World Magazine, Feb. 1997 Interview by Kevin R. Hatten
Poco Timeline 1996 by Jerry Fuentes
Forgotten Trail Booklet CBS Records 1990
Sky Kings Booklet Rhino Handmade 2000