Not rusty, not young, not Neil’s brother

My high school classmate and friend Mike Frost joined me to see the group that goes under the name Poco at the Dakota this past Tuesday night. Mike and I were trying to repeat the past. We saw Poco live in Boston in 1971 or so playing in the configuration (Richie Furay, Jim Messina, Timothy Schmit, George Grantham and Young) represented on the group’s Deliverin’ album, with which I had fallen in love. Mike loved what we heard in Boston that night too.

Former Poco pedal steel guitar player Rusty Young is the only original in the current version of the group, but they capably carry on the legacy and cover the highlights from Buffalo Springfield (Rusty entered the picture on the Springfield’s Last Time Around album) to the present. In the photo above Mike and I flank Rusty in the shadows (sorry) next to the merchandise table after the evening’s first show. Below is the medley that closes side 1 of Deliverin’.

My friend Kirk Kolbo joined us. He wasn’t familiar with Poco but now declares himself a convert. It was a beautiful and exhilarating show before a sold-out house of long-time Poco fans.

Rusty joked about fans like us. He says he is frequently asked by fans if he remembers them at some 1972 concert sitting in the third row. We wanted to tell him we saw him in Boston in 1971. When we did, he asked if we were in the third row. We told him we were in the balcony. (He laughed.) The late Jim Croce opened the show, incidentally. I forgot to ask him if he remembered that.

I saw Poco again in the field house at Dartmouth in March 1972. I thought at the time that it was the best live show I had ever seen. Rusty was a wild player. At one point he took a chair and used it on his pedal steel. I vividly remember it and couldn’t get over how good he made it sound.

Rusty plays just about every string instrument. He played several on Tuesday night, but the pedal steel stayed at home. The closest he comes to the pedal steel in the show now is the dobro (it sounded great). Am I the only one who remembers the chair routine? I haven’t seen anyone mention it over the years. I was afraid my memory might be playing tricks on me.

I told him I loved Poco’s concert at Dartmouth and that I remembered him using a chair to play his pedal steel. He used to be wild, I observed. What happened?

“I got old,” he told me. “It takes too much energy!”

You can’t repeat the past. There’s a lesson in there somewhere.

But you can at least try to get it right. In previewing the Poco show the Star Tribune informed its readers: “Co-founding pedal steel guitarist Rusty Young, brother of Neil, still anchors these early and veteran purveyors of country-rock.” Rusty, however, is not Neil Young’s brother. Anyone who knows anything about Poco or Rusty knows that. He’s no relation to Neil Young. It’s an old, old error.

Rusty even wrote a song trying to put this misconception to rest (below). The song made for a humorous change of pace on Tuesday night. I do believe, however, that Richie Furay wrote “A Child’s Claim to Fame” about Neil Young (the second song in the medley above). So there is that.

Rusty also wrote the first Poco song to make the top 40. That would be “Crazy Love” (1979). It was a highlight of the show Tuesday night.

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