Rusty Young, a founding member of the country-rock band Poco, has died at age 75, a spokesperson for the band confirmed to PEOPLE. Young died of a heart attack at his home in Davisville, Missouri. Young formed Poco in 1968 with Richie Furay, George Grantham and Jim Messina and is the only founding member of the band to have remained with the group throughout its 50-year history.
"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. "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.'" Furay added that Young "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. 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, beginning to associate the instrument with country and rock. He was born in Long Beach, California and grew up in Denver, Colorado, where he played in local bands and worked in a music store. In 1968, Furay, then in Buffalo Springfield, invited Young to Los Angeles to play steel on that band's third and final album Last Time Around, and Poco was formed soon after.
Poco has released 19 studio albums and is considered one of the founders of the Southern California country rock sound. Along with his talent on the pedal steel, Young also showcased his talents as a singer and songwriter, penning the group's only Top 10 hit, "Crazy Love." After several original band members left, Young became the group's frontman, a move he told Goldmine in 2014 that he was happy about.
"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," he said. "So I'm really pleased."
In 2017, Young released a solo album, Waitin’ for the Sun, while continuing to tour with Poco, which he did up until the pandemic began. "I don’t have to do this," he said in a 2019 interview, via Rolling Stone. "But I took a vow when I kind of took over the band that the music would always be something that the guys that have been in the band would be proud of. And that I would be proud of what we’re doing."