Rusty Young ‘Waitin’ for the Sun’ to come up


Courtesy Henry Diltz

Rusty Young, frontman and co-founder of Poco, released his solo debut album Waitin for the Sun on Sept. 15 and will be performing Oct. 25 with Poco at City Winery, 1200 W. Randolph St.  

By Kendrah Villiesse

Norman Russell Young, known as Rusty Young, knew he was destined to play music. A guitar player since childhood, Young inherited the musical gene, he said, from his grandmother, who played piano for silent films, and his grandfather, who played with bands in hotels. That legacy has allowed him to play music for 50 years.

Young is frontman, guitarist and co-founder of the West Coast country rock band Poco, which was nominated for a Grammy in 1982 for “Feudin.” He also played for American rock band Buffalo Springfield. 

Young released his debut solo album Waitin’ For The Sun Sept. 15. Young will perform with Poco Oct. 25 at City Winery, 1200 W. Randolph St. The Chronicle spoke with Young about Poco and 50 years of music.

THE CHRONICLE: What has been the best musical experience so far?

RUSTY YOUNG: Elton John opened for us back in the in the ‘70s in Los Angeles; I played on everybody’s record. I played between Jimi Hendrix and the Chambers Brothers at the Atlanta Pop Festival to a couple hundred thousand people. I played with Eric Clapton. [Poco] did the last concert tour with Janis Joplin before she died and hung out with [her] in the Holiday Inn hotel room. I’ve had a really full life experience in the music business. I got to meet George Harrison, play ping pong with Harry Nilsson and Ringo Starr. There are so many memories. 

 What have you learned from working with Poco after so many years?

I had great people around me, besides the guys in Poco, who taught me how to write and how to sing and how to be a part of the music business and survive [almost] 50 years. I’ve been lucky to have great people around me. 

How did you begin Poco?

I flew out to Los Angeles from Denver in 1968 to play on Buffalo Springfield’s Last Time Around record. Richie Furay and Jimmy Messina asked me to start a band together. That’s when we started Poco. As the years have gone by, people have come and gone. Poco should be the most famous band in the United States. Randy Meisner went on to form The Eagles and Timothy B. Schmidt, our bass player, took [Meisner’s] place. When “Crazy Love” hit in 1978 and sold a million records, it was me singing and writing that song, and then we had another hit, [“Rose of Cimarron,”] that made Poco important. Over the years as guys have joined and left the band, I’ve been the guy who’s carried the flag. 

What inspired Waitin’ for the Sun?

That title tune to this album is actually about writing the album. Once I made up my mind that I was going to do it, I would get up at 4 a.m., and it would be pitch black, and I’d grab my acoustic guitar, legal pad and pen and a cup of coffee. I’d go down to my studio, which had panoramic windows that looked out over the forest and river, and I’d start writing when it was dark. I’d sit there until I’d see the sun come up over the hills. I’d work from about four in the morning until nine, and then I’d resume my daily chores. I wrote [the title track] “Waitin’ for the Sun,” because it’s exactly that: “It’s just another morning waiting for the sun to shine, just can’t keep my eyes closed, so many things on my mind, waitin’ for the sun to shine.”

What made you decide to go solo after all of these years?

What I decided, two years ago,I was just going to do fun things like play with my friends. [Messina] called me and [asked me] to sit in on concerts in California. After the show, a guy came up and introduced himself [from the] label Blue Élan [and asked if I had ever thought] of doing a solo record. In the ’70s, I had a couple of offers to do that, but I was devoted to Poco and keeping it going. I thought maybe this is a sign, [and] it’s time for me to give that a shot. I said, “Let me go home and write some songs, and I’ll send them to you and if you still are interested, we’ll do it.” Hence we have Waitin’ for the Sun, which is my first solo record. This week, [the album] actually enters the Americana Charts in Billboard Magazine. I think I hit a homerun on it, and I am having a lot of fun promoting it. It’s a great way to come out of retirement.

How do you continue to make music and maintain your audience after five decades?

There’s a whole bunch of folks out there [who] grew up with Poco and are [from] the same generation I am. Then there’s a whole bunch of people who were their kids, who grew up listening to Poco music and are considerably younger. They come out to Poco shows and they enjoy the new music we just created. I’m really just trying to get the message out there.

There have been rumors that you’ve been writing a book, is that true? What is it about?

For about 10 years, my wife likes to remind me. It’s finished, and I have a bunch of people who are interested in publishing it, but I [wasn’t] sure what the ending [was] going to be. I want to see if this album becomes really successful or moderately successful or whatever it’s going to do, [and that] will be the ending to the book.

The book is really cool; I’ve got stories about everyone I’ve been around from Neil Young, to going to Graceland with Messina and how he reacted to Elvis Presley, [to] playing at the Blue Bird with Steve Martin as our opening act, which was pretty wild. Back in the ’70s, when we were recording for Columbia, I would be in the studio, and I was able to go in the next studio and watch Dean Martin, Barbra Streisand and Johnny Mathis record. I have stories about sitting there watching all of these people.

The first session I was in, in Los Angeles, [was] for Buffalo Springfield and next to us was Stephen Stills recording stuff in his studio, and across the hall from them was David Crosby recording Joni Mitchell’s first album. I have all of these stories of being in the studio and behind the scenes: touring with Yes, being at the Du-par’s restaurant in Los Angeles when Don [Henley], Glenn [Frey], Bernie [Leadon] and Randy [Meisner] were sitting in a booth and I walked by and they said, “We’ve got a name for our band; we’re going to call the band ‘The Eagles.’” There’s all these memories and all of these stories.