Rusty Young, a cofounder of Poco and the band’s only constant member since its formation in 1968, has died. He was 75.
An official statement released by his record company notes that Young died yesterday of a heart attack at his home in Davisville, Mo.
Young was born Norman Russell Young on Feb. 23, 1946, in Long Beach, Calif., but was raised in Denver. He began playing lap steel when he was young and performed in various country and psych-rock bands during his teenage years.
By 1967, Young had relocated to Los Angeles, where he befriended Richie Furay, a member of Buffalo Springfield, who took him on as a road manager. That band was falling apart at the time and needed assistance putting together the pieces of its third and last album, Last Time Around. Young ended up playing pedal steel guitar on Furay’s “Kind Woman,” a highlight of that 1968 LP.
That same year, Young, Furay and another Buffalo Springfield member, Jim Messina, formed Poco. Their debut album, Pickin’ Up the Pieces, was released in 1969 and marked one of the first records in the growing country-rock movement.
Poco placed 17 singles in the Top 100 through 1989, including 1979’s “Crazy Love,” which peaked at No. 17 and was the band’s biggest hit. Their album that year, Legend, also became their highest-charting, reaching No. 14 and gold status.
The original quartet of Young, Furay, Messina and drummer George Grantham reunited in 1989, which resulted in the album Legacy and the No. 18 single “Call It Love.” Various Poco lineups continued over the years with Young at the front. In 2012, he was inducted into the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame. In 2017, he released his first solo album, Waitin’ for the Sun.
“I had been offered solo deals back in the ‘70s, but always felt Poco was more important,” he said upon the album’s release. “But I feel I’m now the best I’ve ever been as a singer and songwriter, and I have a better grasp of the music than ever before. And I realized that this was the perfect time to do something that could be a really rewarding part of my legacy.”
“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 Young’s manager, Rick Alter. “To fans and fellow musicians alike, he was a once-in-a-lifetime musician, songwriter, performer and friend.”
“I’ve been fortunate to have had a magical career,” Young said in 2020. “From the moment I was called to play on the Buffalo Springfield album, all through Poco, and now through my solo projects, things have just fallen into place. I’ve worked really hard to be the best I can be, and I think my music is the proof.”
Young is survived by his wife, Mary, and their two children. A memorial service is planned for Oct. 16 in Steelville, Mo.
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