It is with great sadness that we confirm the passing of Poco co-founder, Rusty Young, at the age of 75. Young suffered a heart attack last night. A beloved member of the Blue Élan Records family, Young was best known as the heart and soul of Poco—the band widely considered to be one of the founders of the classic Southern California country rock sound. Young was an integral member of the band throughout their influential six decade career.
Norman Russell "Rusty" Young was born February 23, 1946 in Long Beach, CA and raised in Colorado. He began to play the lap steel guitar at the age of six and taught both guitar and steel guitar lessons during his high school years. In 1967, Young was invited to play steel guitar on what would become Buffalo Springfield’s final album, Last Time Around. Soon after, Young – along with Richie Furay, George Grantham and Jim Messina – would form the seminal West Coast country-rock band Poco. Over the next 50-plus years, alongside bandmates that would also include Paul Cotton, Randy Meisner and Timothy B. Schmit, Young became not only the musical core of the band, but also the writer and vocalist behind hits including "Rose Of Cimarron" and Billboard chart-topper "Crazy Love." His innovative style influenced many young musicians to learn and love the steel guitar.
In 2013, Young was inducted into the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame, and also announced his retirement. It turned out his retirement was short lived as Young continued to tour with Poco up until the pandemic in early 2020. Poco’s most recent line-up included Tom Hampton on guitar, Rick Lonow on drums, and longtime member Jack Sundrud on bass. As the sole remaining founder of Poco, Young is the only group member to have played at every single live concert and on every Poco recording since 1968.
Young released his only solo album, Waitin’ For The Sun in 2017 on Blue Élan Records. At the time he explained why it took him so long to finally make that leap, “I had been offered solo deals back in the ‘70s, but always felt Poco was more important. 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.”
As tributes to Young pour in, Kirk Pasich, Founder and Co-President of Blue Élan Records, shares a remembrance at the time of his signing, “I was a longtime Poco fan, but really fell in love with the band once Rusty became one of the predominant songwriters and vocalists in the group.” He continued, “He was one of the first artists that I wanted to join our Blue Élan family, and it was one of my great privileges that he recorded his first solo album ever for us. His songwriting confirms just how important Rusty was—not only to Poco, but for artists that followed like the Eagles.”
“I’ve been fortunate to have had a magical career,” Young said last year. “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 last released several singles with Blue Élan over the last two years in addition to a live remake of “Crazy Love” which featured a host of Blue Élan label-mates joining Young at Clear Lake Studios in December 2017. Watch the video here
Young was dedicated to his community and invested in philanthropy. He donated his time and money to Santana’s Hope for Paws (Friends of Steelville Pound) Animal Shelter, and in 2019 even released “Listen to Your Heart” to benefit the local animal shelter.
Young is survived by his beloved 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. He is also survived by their daughter Sara, son Will, and three young grandsons Chandler, Ryan and Graham, as well as Mary’s three children Joe, Marci and Hallie and grandchildren Quentin and Emma. A memorial service will be held October 16th at Wildwood Springs Lodge in Steelville, MO where Rusty and Mary met 20 years ago.