The Colorado Connection
Beginnings – The Au Go-Go Singers
Richie Furay was born in Ohio and early on was a member of a regional group called “The Barons” out of his hometown of Yellow Springs, Ohio. As a teenager Richie would travel once to Colorado with his family on vacation where he would glimpse at his future home state for the first time.
Back in Ohio Richie would enter into college at Oberein where he would become part of a traveling choral ensemble. This group would form the nucleus of a brief sojourn in New York, participating in a “Broadway” production. The group would be called the “Au-Go-Go Singers”. The group released one long play on the Roulette Record label. Parallel with his time in the choral group, Richie and a few other male members would also perform in folk vein in small clubs in New York City, as the Monks. (The Au-Go-Go Singers also included Michael Scott later of The “Highwaymen” and Colorado’s “Serendipity Singers”, Roy Michaels later of “Cat Mother and the All Night Newsboys” and most famously, former band mate Stephen Stills.
California & Buffalo Springfield
Furay would eventually work his way out to Hollywood taking a route shared by so many in the 1960’s. His big break came when he became a founding member of what would come to be consider a very early “super group” with members Stephen Stills, Bruce Palmer and Dewey Martin. In short order they would be joined by Canadian Neil Young. The Buffalo Springfield journey was not a smooth one with competitive collisions occurring often between Stills and Young. In addition their other Canadian member, Bruce Palmer battled substance issues and was always on the edge of being deported back to The Great White North, which actually did happen.
The Buffalo Springfield journeyed into Colorado in 1968 where they would perform at local KIMN disc jockey Hal Moore’s Aurora establishment “Hal Baby’s”. Opening for them at that venue was a local group, The Boenzee Cryque, a group which ironically include future Furay music collaborators Rusty Young and George Grantham. Furay relates that he did not make any contact with either band member at that engagement – just coincidence. Furay’s path via the Springfield would also intersect with The Poor, a Colorado founded group and The Illinois Speed Press in a similar manner – during shared billings. And those two groups included two more future collaborators – Randy Meisner (The Poor) and Timothy Schmidt (Illinois Speed Press).
From Pogo to Poco
Which brings us to the formation of Poco. Furay’s next group was an early venture into the largely unexplored genre of “country rock n’ roll”. Richie’s influences included his early exposure and love of folk music back east, as well as California artists such as Merle Haggard and Buck Owens, both out of Bakersfield. The formation of Poco began with Richie and Jim Messina’s mutual love of the country sound. Both musicians were intrigued by the idea of including a pedal steel sound to their endeavor. Enter Coloradoan Rusty Young who had recently played on The Buffalo Springfield’s “Kind Woman” track from their farewell LP “The Last Time Around”.
Now Richie, Jimmy and Rusty would seek a few more additions to round out the line-up. Gram Parsons and Gregg Allman were both considered but these candidates both soon moved on. Next, at Rusty’s recommendation, the trio auditioned Coloradoan and former fellow Boenzee Cryque drummer, George Grantham. He passed the audition with flying colors, not only due to his drumming skills but also because of his vocal harmony skills. Needing a bass player to round out the group, they tapped a Nebraskan from The Poor, Randy Meisner, and “Pogo” was formed.
The group name was challenged by cartoonist Walter Kelly, who created “Pogo” the possum. The newly formed group appeared a few times as “Pogo” and then briefly as “R.F.D” (Rural Free Delivery) before settling on “Poco”.
The group hung on for a time in California releasing five albums. Meisner departed and was replaced by Timothy Schmidt. Poco was never a “singles band”. With Furay on board their highest charting record was “C’mon” (#69 in 1971). Later on the group would enter the Top 20 twice with Rusty Young’s “Crazy Love” (#17 – 1979) followed by Paul Cotton’s “Heart of the Night” (#20 also in 1979).
On to Colorado
Tiring of the Los Angeles scene, the group with all of it’s Colorado connections, headed to the Rocky Mountain State in 1972. Richie and family settled in the mountain community on Sugar Hill Road five miles from Nederland which was prospering with the arrival of the Caribou Ranch crowd. The move to Colorado would prove to become Furay’s permanent place-of-residence and the place where he would immerse himself into a life and calling to the Christian Ministry, most of the while maintaining his musical pop career – sometimes on – sometimes off.
Poco would undergo many personnel changes. Furay himself departed the group, though he would reunite with them for a time. In between, in 1974, he would join the “Souther-Hillman-Furay” band, releasing two long plays. The group was short-lived due to creative disagreements (what else is new?). Furay would then begin recording gospel oriented music staring in 1976 with “I’ve Got a Reason” and continuing for the next almost 30 years. Furay began ministering in the Boulder area finally establishing his own congregation The Calvary Chapel in nearby Broomfield, Colorado in 1983 where he remains to this day.
Richie survived a tumultuous episode in his marriage to Nancy – now a partnership of nearly 50 years. They raised four daughters together, and through all the challenges managed to emerge in tact, happy and fulfilled by all accounts. Richie’s autobiography, “Pickin’ Up the Pieces” is a journey through the pop world laced heavily with his Christian conversion.