Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Poco: Good Feeling To Know

Poco was started in 1968 as an offshoot of Buffalo Springfield by Jim Messina (later of Loggins and Messina) and Richie Furay (later of Souther, Hillman, & Furay) and is still active today. I’ve picked “Good Feeling to Know” from the 1972 album of the same name as it was the song that was receiving the most airplay when I saw them in concert in August 1973. This was my very first concert.

The Poco lineup at that time included Richie Furay, Paul Cotton, Timothy B. Schmidt, Rusty Young, and George Grantham. My brother Chuck took me to see this show as a going away to college gift. There were to be two warm-up acts: Ian Lloyd and Stories (“Brother Louie”) and Joe Walsh and Barnstorm. Unfortunately due to illnesses in both acts, neither showed that night.  A newly signed Asylum Records artist - folksinger David Blue was the substitute opening act. He appeared along with Don Felder who provided electric guitar accompaniment to Blue’s acoustic guitar.

When Poco came on, they were extremely high energy. Much of what I remember of that show were the performances of steel guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Rusty Young. At various times during the concert he played an unusual Frankenstein of a guitar. He called it “The Bear,” but the official name of the instrument was the “Melobar.”

 Melobar by Moserite Guitars

It basically was a lap steel guitar neck affixed to a solid guitar body.  The neck was aligned at approximately a 75 degree angle. This provided the artist the opportunity to play lap steel without needing a lap or a console to house the instrument. Pretty cool, huh? The name “The Bear” was given to it by the band because of the effects Rusty was running it through as it often sounded like a growling bear when he performed low-end slides. 

Additionally towards the end of the show, Rusty did some wild things with his pedal steel guitar. At one point, he picked up his chair which had a round tubular bottom and used it as his slide. He also knocked the pedal steel on its side and played it with the necks facing the audience. What a showman.

To top it off, we saw the show at Pittsburgh’s then Syria Mosque – which was the home of the local Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine. Our father had been a member of the Syria Shrine. The Syria Mosque was a great hall for concerts due to its size. There was not a bad seat in the house, and although we sat on the very back row of the first level, we saw everything clearly. The Syria Mosque was an ornate and elaborate facility that sadly is no more. In the 1980s, the University of Pittsburgh purchased the property that adjoined their campus and leveled it to make way for a parking lot. Ah, progress.

 One of the two sphinx at the entrance of Pittsburgh's Syria Mosque

As for Poco, the band released one more album (“Crazy Eyes”) with lead singer Richie Furay before exiting the group to join John David Souther and Chris Hillman in the Souther, Hillman, Furay Band. He would later rejoin the group as did most of its former members over time. Furay is currently the minister of Calvary Chapel Church of Bloomfield, Colorado. He has continued to tour to support both his Christian recordings and his secular music in  reconstituted versions of Buffalo Springfield and Poco.

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