RICHIE FURAY OF THE BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD AND POCO REMINDS US WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
by Terry Roland
“Country-rock music is not a fad. It was a created sound during the late 60’s and early 70’s that put the best of two worlds together, two elements of solid music. We were pioneers in doing that.”
At a May 22, 2010 Eagles show in Denver Colorado, bassist Timothy B. Schmit dedicated a song to his friend and mentor; as he said Richie Furay, was ‘partially responsible’ for him being there that night. Indeed, it could also be said that Richie Furay is partially responsible for The Eagles being there as well.
One listen to the scope of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee’s career beginning with the 1966 release of the first Buffalo Springfield album through the ground breaking first three Poco albums to his latest solo releases, 2005’s “Heartbeat of Love” and 2008’s “Alive,” reveals his influence on the early country-rock sound of The Eagles, arguably the most successful American rock band of the last 40 years. The bond is strong when you consider former Poco members include original Eagle bassist, Randy Meisner, and his replacement, Timothy B. Schmit.
However, Furay has done more than this. He is a key figure in pioneering country-rock and a major contributor and influence on today’s Americana music. The song, “A Child’s Claim to Fame,” from the second Buffalo Springfield album, is one of the earliest examples of the new genre in popular music we call country-rock today. The song carries an inspired, spirited arrangement with an early use of a dobro on a rock record. It is structured around instrumental breaks rather than the more traditional hook line, chorus, bridge format of most popular songs. Ironically, it was the least pretentious and more insightful songs about the pitfalls of fame of the day inspired by Furay’s frustrations with Neil Young’s on-again-off-again membership in the band.
Later, in 1968, as The Buffalo Springfield drifted apart, Furay was left to compile a third and final album under their record label contract. On The Last Time Around, he had minimal support from Stephen Stills and Neil Young, who had gone on to other projects. He recruited Jim Messina, who became a member of the band. When he needed a pedal steel player, Furay called his friend from Colorado, Rusty Young, to play on his now classic song, “Kind Woman.” Recorded under the name of Buffalo Springfield, according to Furay it was the first Poco recording. The song signaled the beginning of a new well-defined country-rock sound that carried Furay and Messina into the early years of Poco.
Poco gave new life to the energy Furay put into The Buffalo Springfield. While much of country-rock eventually became known for its ‘laid-back’ sound, there was nothing casual about Poco, who generated a driving rock-tinged country feel never before heard on record or a live stage. The first three Poco albums formed a strong country rock foundation; Pickin’ Up The Pieces, the follow-up self-titled, Poco, and the live Deliverin,’ created a fire-brand sound fronted by Furay, Messina and Rusty Young with a still unmatched frenetic energy, skill and showmanship for country-rock music. Their debut shows at L.A.’s Troubadour are now the stuff of legend among music insiders of the era. Eventually, it wasn’t unusual to see Rusty Young doing Hendrix-like stage antics with his pedal steel, while Richie created his own unique high-pitched rebel-yell, dancing and jumping backwards on the stage as Jim Messina intricately picked and weaved guitar leads around Young’s steel guitar playing.
Today, Furay is confident in stating that, in so many words, he and his friends from The Buffalo Springfield and Poco were working on an original sound. They were creating the blueprint that later bands like The Eagles, America, Firefall and Pure Prairie League would build upon.
The intervening years since the late-sixties and early 70’s have seen Furay joining forces with Chris Hillman and JD Souther and then embarking on a solo career which, because of the lack of promotional support from his record company, didn’t produce commercial success. During this time he experienced a spiritual re-birth through the Christian faith and later became the pastor of Calvary Chapel Broomfield, Colorado.
In 2005, after releasing two fine Christian themed albums, In My Father’s House and I Am Sure, he decided he wanted re-record the Poco song,”Let’s Dance.” This was the genesis of his finest solo album to date, Heartbeat of Love, which includes the same energy and passion he captured during the Springfield/Poco days. When he called friends Stephen Stills, Neil Young, Rusty Young and Timothy B. Schmit, they were more than willing to help. Heartbeat of Love is the album every Furay-Poco fan has hoped for. It includes new original songs, except for a beautiful re-recording of “Kind Woman” with Neil Young on lead guitar and, of course, Poco’s “Let’s Dance.”
The Richie Furay Band consists of his daughter, Jesse Furay-Lynch, his close friend and lead guitar player, Scott Sellen, drummer, Alan Lemke and Aaron Sellen, Scott’s son, on bass. In 2008 the week Springfield drummer, Dewey Martin died, they appeared in San Diego. As a part of his set, Furay included three Neil Young songs he sang on the first Buffalo Springfield album most notably,”Nowawdays Clancy Can’t Even Sing.” The songs that evening were not nostalgic, but ‘roots’ in the truest sense of the word. He drew from the energy of those early years and made the song into something timeless.
Today, Furay is dusting off the blueprint others have used so well and building something original and new. The Richie Furay of the Poco/Springfield days, who once set the stage on fire with Neil Young, Stephen Stills, Rusty Young and Jim Messina, is still there with no sign of letting up anytime soon.
The Richie Furay Band shows are rare, however, on Thursday, August 19, he will be appearing at the Fox Tucson Theater in Arizona with Jim Messina opening, followed by shows at Nissi’s in Lafayette, Colorado on August 27th and at Copper Country Festival in Copper, Colorado on September 5th.