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The long run

Forty years after their first album, country-rock trailblazers Poco keep the legacy alive


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Yes, Roy Rogers, Germany's Luftwaffe and Rockford Files actor Stuart Margolin do have something in common. Just ask Poco founder Rusty Young, who effortlessly ties the three together in a surreal saga from his group's past.

In 1976, his record-producing friend Margolin phoned him with a request: Could he compose a suitably Southwestern trail song for a Rogers comeback album? So the pedal-steel pro promptly whipped up the loping twanger "Rose of Cimarron." But the album got nixed, the song became the title track of Poco's next catalog classic instead, and Young wound up overseas promoting it.

Which is where a famed German folk duo had already re-recorded "Rose," remembers Young, who's currently hitting the tour trail with a version of Poco that features longtime cohort Paul Cotton.

"Driving down the Autobahn, their version comes on the radio, and I was really feeling good. But my friend, who spoke German, said, 'Uhh ... do you know what they're saying?' And I said, 'Well, of course I do! I wrote the song!' But their version, rewritten in German, was about a Messerschmitt pilot who got so depressed he decided to fly his plane out over the ocean until it ran out of fuel and he died."

Ach du lieber!

It's a fitting story for Young's autobiography, which will chronicle his four decades in country rock. Young wants to set the record straight, he says, "because most of the books I've read about country rock talk about the places I've been, people I know, and things I've seen, but they're wrong. They get it wrong, and it's infuriating."

Young's first-person account boasts characters like Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Gram Parsons, as well as renowned alums like Randy Meisner and Timothy B. Schmit, both of whom Poco lost to the Eagles. In regard to the latter account, Young says he's far from bitter: "If the Eagles weren't so successful in the mid-'70s," he figures, "we probably would've been dropped by our record company before our Legend album happened in '78."

And that history is still being scripted. On a rare Eagles break, Schmit himself rejoined Young and co-vocalist Cotton for Poco's recent Stagecoach Festival appearance in Indio, Calif. Original members Richie Furay and Jim Messina were already on board, Young explains, after playing a recent reunion gig at Missouri's Wildwood Springs Lodge, near his home in the Mark Twain National Forest.

"It's an old hunting lodge from the 1920s, and they have concerts there," he says. "It's where I met my wife, and I've been doing shows there since 2001. And for the last few years, Richie's come out and joined us, but this last October Jim Messina came out, too. So when Stagecoach made an offer, we all said, 'Sure — we'll do it again!' There was even talk of Randy Meisner doing it, too, but they gave us a 70-minute set, and it's pretty tough to fit everything in within that time with four main guys, much less five."

There's no new album to tout on this tour — four live records were released between 2004 and 2006 — but Young is still content.

"The way I look at it is, I wish I had Don Henley's ranch in Wyoming," he says of his Eagles contemporary, "but at every concert we play, I meet people who say 'This Poco song was played at my wedding,' or 'This one was playing when I proposed to my wife.' There are all these stories about how our music has affected people's lives.

"And that, to me, is much more valuable."

"Rose of Cimmaron" by Poco


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