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Rusty Young, Founding Member and Frontman of Country-Rock Band Poco, Dies of a Heart Attack at 75

Katie Campione
·3-min read

Scott Dudelson/Getty Images

Rusty Young, a founding member of the country-rock group Poco, died Wednesday. He was 75.

Young died of a heart attack at his home in Davisville, Missouri, a spokesperson for the band confirmed to PEOPLE.

In 1968, Young formed Poco with Richie Furay, George Grantham and Jim Messina. Throughout its five-decade history, Young was the only founding member to remain with the group.

"I just received word that my friend Rusty Young has passed away and crossed that line into eternity," co-founder Richie Furay said in a statement to PEOPLE. "My heart is saddened; he was a dear and longtime friend who help me pioneer and create a new Southern California musical sound called 'country rock.' "

"He was an innovator on the steel guitar and carried the name Poco on for more than 50 years. Our friendship was real and he will be deeply missed," Furay, 76, added. "My prayers are with his wife, Mary, and his children Sara and Will."

Young was a multi-instrumentalist who became known as one of the first musicians to integrate a pedal steel guitar into his music. He then began to associate it with country and rock and roll, according to Rolling Stone.

In 1967, Furay invited him to Los Angeles to play steel on Buffalo Springfield's third and final album Last Time Around. Poco was formed soon after.

In his early years with the band, Young expanded his role as he took on songwriting and vocal responsibilities. After a decade, the band received their first and only top 10 hit for Young's ballad "Crazy Love."

In the 1970s, Young emerged as the band's frontman as several of the original members left.

In a 2014 interview, Young told Goldmine that he thought "things went the way they were supposed to go."

"We did have a big hit in 1978, and if it hadn't been for Richie leaving the band, and Timmy (Schmit) leaving the band, and Jimmy leaving the band, I never would have been a songwriter or a singer, so those things had to happen for my life to be the life it is. So I'm really pleased," he said.

The band was still touring as of March 2020, performing around 100 shows a year, when the COVID-19 pandemic put the tour on pause. In 2017, Young released his first solo album, Waitin' for the Sun.

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Rick Alter, the band's manager for over 20 years, said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE: "Rusty was the most unpretentious, caring and idyllic artist I have ever worked with, a natural life force that he consistently poured into his music. To fans and fellow musicians alike, he was a once-in-a-lifetime musician, songwriter, performer and friend."

Young is survived by his wife Mary, his daughter Sara and son Will, as well as Mary's three children Joe, Marci and Hallie. He also has five grandchildren: Chandler, Ryan, Graham, Quentin and Emma.

Loved ones will be holding a memorial service on October 16 at Wildwood Springs Lodge in Steelville, Missouri, which is where Young and his wife met 20 years ago.