In the mid-1960s, the most popular rock band in Colorado was the Boenzee Cryque (pronounced BEN-ZEE CRICK), which was formed in 1964 by Sam Bush, who later started the new Grass Revival, and several of his friends.  The personnel changed from time to time as members were drafted, married, moved and pursued other interests.  Still, they remained a working band, playing clubs, high school dances, fraternity parties – maybe a bar mitzvah or two, though I can’t say for sure.  For awhile, they had a #1 single in the regional market.

Their greatest popularity was between 1966 and 1968 when their lineup included a pedal steel guitarist named Rusty Young.  Young had played in country bands since he was in elementary school, and his work with Boenzee Cryque was an important step in the development of country rock.

Autumn in Nederland

Autumn in Nederland

Boenzee Cryque disbanded in 1968 as a direct result of the breakup of a much more famous group, the Buffalo Springfield, whose most famous members – Steven Stills and Neil Young – had decided to strike out on their own during the recording of their final album, Last Time Around.  Other musicians came and went during those months, but by the time they were ready to record the last song, “Kind Woman,” the group was essentially just Richie Furay and Jim Messina.  For that last track, Furay invited Rusty Young, whom he had known in Colorado, to come to California to play pedal steel.  The result was one of the best songs ever done by Buffalo Springfield, and Young stayed in California to form a new group with Furay and Messina.

That new group was Poco, which included Young, Furay and Messina, as well as George Grantham, who was the Boenzee Cryque’s drummer, and Randy Meisner, who was a vocalist/bass player for a band called the Poor, which was made up of former members of another Denver band, the Soul Survivors. 

We could go into a convoluted musical genealogy here because the guys from the Soul Survivors went on to become members of the New Riders of the Purple Sage, Meisner left Poco and was one of the original Eagles.  He was replaced Timothy B. Schmit,  who later left Poco himself to join the Eagles after Meisner quit that group at the height of its success.  However, that is not necessary.  Let us simply say that the personnel changed often, and Rusty Young was the only original member remaining when Poco announced it was retiring from touring in 2014.

Most of the original members of Poco lived in Colorado when they were not on tour.  Richie Furay was the band’s principal songwriter during the early years, and many of his songs were written at his home outside Nederland.  Furay left Poco in 1974, just before they recorded their seventh album, which was cleverly entitled Seven.  Songwriting duties were quickly absorbed by the other members, and one of Rusty Young’s compositions was the song featured here, “Rocky Mountain Breakdown.”

Richie Furay is still involved in music, fronting the Richie Furay Band, and he still lives in Colorado.  However, that band is not his primary interest these days.  He is now Rev. Richie, the pastor of the Calvary Chapel in Broomfield.  His weekly services, which include good music along with inspirational sermons, are recorded, and anyone interested can view them on the chapel’s website.

Here is Poco doing “Rocky Mountain Breakdown,” as provided to YouTube by Sony Music Entertainment:

Rocky Mountain Breakdown
By Norman Russell (“Rusty”) Young

Ooh, stealin’, Colorado reelin’
Rocky Mountain breakdown

Bow to the fiddler, don’t be slow
Smoke on the mountain, fire on the bow
Pick out the tune, we love to hear
Patch up the feeling’s, mend all the fear

Oh, what a showdown, toe to toe
First one to holler, last one to go
Change your partners, clap your hands
Stomp your feet at the new barn dance

Ooh, stealin’, Colorado reelin’
Rocky Mountain breakdown

(C) Sony Music Entertainment, Inc.

For an index of the Colorado Songs in this series, please click here.

3 thoughts on “ROCKY MOUNTAIN BREAKDOWN (BY POCO) A Colorado Song

  1. Louis, it is really interesting to follow the rather incestuous family trees of the early folk/country rock bands. Your mentioning of Boenzee Cryque reminded me of more than a few nights sitting in Tulagi’s listening to them play. I remember a pedal Steel player who would, as part of an extended jam, play Purple Haze by Jimi Hendrix. I also remember sitting in a bar on Baseline with you listening to Gram Parson with Emmylou Harris. We were treated to the unexpected harmonies of Chris Hillman and Ritchie Furay who had gone to the bar to hear Gram and joined in on the old songs. Ahhh, those were the days.

  2. For some reason that reminded me of the Lee Hays quote, “The good old days aren’t what they used to be and they never were.”

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