By Mark T. Gould

Itís time to come clean. Iíve been holding this in for too long. Itís finally got to come out. Iíve got to get it off my chest.

Iím a Poco nut.

At least thatís what Rusty Young, one of the founding and sustaining members of this glorious, wondrous band calls us, the ones who have been following and enjoying their spectacular music for, gulp, 30 years.

How did this obsession start? Well, you can blame a local guy for it. Rob Goodman, known in my younger days as Bobby, turned me onto them in the spring of 1970. I played sports with Bobby, and had known him for years. He was a senior in high school, and I was a sophomore. I started to notice that he was dressing in a new Western motif, sporting cowboy boots and sparkling blue jeans. He had been listening to new music, from California, he said.

One beautiful spring day, I was at his house, and asked him just what the music was. He handed me a new record with a bright yellow center, which turned out to be the Epic Records logo. No album jacket or cover, just the record. He told me to take it home and listen to it.

I remember to this day, jogging with it back across the shortcut from his home to mine in Mystic. I would turn the record a certain way, and the bright sun would reflect and shine off the yellow sticker.

It was an omen for many bright things to come with Poco and me.

I got it home and gingerly put in my old turntable in my room. I closed the door and listened. Richie Furayís songs, Rusty Youngís picking, and that beautiful harmony singing. I broke out in a big smile thatís still there 30 years later.

Poco. For me, itís always been country enough for rock, and rock enough for country.

So, I was hooked. Bless you, Rob Goodman, wherever you are.

And, the joy of Pocoís music hasnít left me for even a minute in those 30 years. I own all the albums, all the CDs, have seen them over 25 times in concert, have autographed pictures of them all over my office, and have had some great times after shows with various members of the band.

Through it all, the music of Poco has always been there for me, and, if you will permit me, three quick stories really brings it all home.

First, back in April 1979, I stood outside the Bottom Line in New York City, in a chilly spring rain, in line for over two hours for a standing room only ticket to their triumphant return to New York, armed with "Legend," their first gold record, and two hit singles. It might have been a miserably long afternoon, but for a very big, friendly guy and his equally nice and beautiful wife, who kept me company while we waited for the doors to open. But, more about them in a minute.

A year later, I drove cross country to Oregon for law school. There I was, 3,000 miles from home, not knowing a soul. The day I got in, I picked up the daily paper, looking for something to do, and I saw an advertisement for something called the Multnomah County Fair, and I decided to go. As I drove up, I heard what I thought was a musical group singing "A Good Feeling to Know," a classic Poco song. As I walked closer to the covered tent on the fairgrounds, it was unmistakable. I peered in. There they were: Poco, making a homesick boy feel a little closer to something familiar.

Three years later, I was back on the East Coast, in Philadelphia, the best man at a wedding. I had on a tuxedo, but underneath it, a Poco tee-shirt. Why? Because less than three hours after the scheduled end of the reception, I was going to see them in concert-back in New Haven.

I talked my way into a quick getaway. I did not even stop to go to the bathroom. Speeding along at close to three digits on the turnpike, I raced to New Haven. I screeched to a halt near the club, jumped out of the car, tore off the tux revealing my tee-shirt, slipped on some jeans and made a mad dash for the front door. And, of course, a bathroom.

When I found it, in the basement, I was happily relieving myself and catching my breath for the first time in many hours, when I heard a voice say "hey, nice shirt." I twirled around, ready to meet sarcasm with the same, and who did I literally run into, who had made the comment, but a grinning Rusty Young, who then chatted with me, alone, for about 15 minutes.

It was quite the calming effect.

In recent years, thanks to the Internet and various Poco chat rooms, as well as my predilection for collecting their concert tapes, my fanaticism with their music has brought me a whole host of new friends. Jon, an illustrator from Stamford, whose enthusiasm for Poco knows no bounds; Tom, a singer-songwriter who has actually opened shows for the group, lucky dog that he is; and Dennis, perhaps the biggest and best Poco fan of them all, who has proudly tattooed the Poco horse logo on his left biceps, in honor of his favorite group.

Another thing about Dennis. I learned, after meeting him a few years ago, that it turns out that it was his wife and him, outside, in the rain, keeping me company and showing me some urban hospitality, lo those 21 years ago, outside the Bottom Line in New York. It also turns out that Jon was seated only feet away from me in the club that night. I never met these great people until several years later, and all because of this musical group that we all love so much. Thereís much to be said for that.

So, there. Iíve gotten it off my chest, and I feel much better now. Thereís just one more thing Iíve got to say:

Long live Poco.

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