When Timothy B. Schmit of Poco and The Eagles headlines the Saban Theater on Sunday, Dec. 3, the show will bring together two members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to celebrate the history of California country-rock.
In a remarkable treat, the evening is one of two dates on Schmit's solo tour to be opened by Richie Furay. Rhythm guitarist and fellow singer-songwriter Furay has likewise enjoyed an incredible career as a musical trailblazer, first as a bandmate of Stephen Stills and Neil Young in Buffalo Springfield. After that group disbanded, Furay founded Poco, an endeavor he initiated with producer and multi-instrumentalist Jim Messina, later inviting Schmit to join the band.
“When I found out that Richie was going to open up a show for me, I was amazed,” Schmit said. “He was very much a mentor to me. To have him years later be opening for me is really pretty strange.”
Schmit said he hopes to bring Furay back onstage during his set for their most seminal Poco numbers, something they did at a similar show in New Jersey earlier this year, to great success.
Asked about the experience of performing onstage with Schmit again, Furay beamed, “He has a wonderful band. He communicates with the audience. It's really fun for me to share a little bit of this with him. I have a great time.”
“Richie's the one that brought me to L.A.,” Schmit recalled, speaking by phone from his home studio in Malibu. “Being asked to join Poco was a huge step for me. I had been living in Sacramento, which has a lively music scene. But I wanted more. I got this opportunity to come to L.A. with a signed band. The whole thing was exactly what I wanted to do.”
Furay, speaking by phone from Calvary Chapel in Broomfield, Colorado, where he's served as pastor since 1983, remembered Schmit's entry into Poco with loving glee. “Randy Meisner was our first bass player in Poco. He and Timothy auditioned at the same time. I remember when Randy left the band. We asked Timothy if he was still interested. He was an incredibly well-developed bass player, and one of the most dynamic harmony singers.”
Schmit agreed: “It seemed like a perfect fit. They were a country-rock band that was doing a lot of harmonies. It couldn't have been scripted any better.”
Schmit and Furay enjoyed a fruitful tenure in Poco for several years, releasing a string of albums that helped form the musical landscape that would become known as “country rock.” Of his attempt to help craft a subgenre of music, Furay reflected, “We started talking about, 'Let's make some attempt here to do country music that rock & roll people are going to embrace. And hopefully the country people will embrace it in the same manner.' We did consciously think about that.”
Poco's signature blending of Rusty Young's pedal steel guitar or banjo with the band's Laurel Canyon–esque harmonies is best exemplified by two of their songs most regularly played live by Furay, “Pickin' Up the Pieces” and “A Good Feelin' to Know.”
Furay left Poco in 1973 to become one-third of the short-lived Souther-Hillman-Furay Band, before becoming a pioneer once more as a solo artist in Christian rock. Schmit would be called to replace Randy Meisner again, this time in The Eagles, after Meisner left in 1977 following the Hotel California tour.
Schmit provided the weary superstars with a much-needed creative injection. His signature song, “I Can't Tell You Why,” jump-started the sessions for The Long Run and served as their final top-10 hit.
Schmit had been in The Eagles for less than three years before they infamously disbanded. When asked if he was aware of the growing acrimony in the band, Schmit said, “None at all. Ever. I was so enthralled with my new position as being one of The Eagles. It never occurred to me that these little conflicts or little spats that were going on was turning into something much bigger.”
The Eagles' 1994 reunion album, Hell Freezes Over, saw Schmit's voice hit the top of the Adult Contemporary chart on “Love Will Keep Us Alive,” an enduring ballad heard regularly at weddings and proms. The ensuing two-year world tour cemented Schmit's place as a mainstay in The Eagles, who have maintained their reputation as one of the best and highest-grossing live bands globally.
Furay spent about two decades primarily focused on ministry before returning to secular music with 2006's The Heartbeat of Love, 2015's Hand in Hand and, most notably, 2007's Alive, a double live album featuring Furay's exquisite touring band. The release serves as a perfect documentation of Furay's solo show, itself a moving celebration of the reach and resonance of his life and career.
While Furay's solo sets draw from his Christian music, he equally enjoys playing his beloved contributions to Buffalo Springfield, “A Child's Claim to Fame,” “Sad Memory” and “Kind Woman.”
By contrast, Schmit hopes that audiences at his shows will continue to embrace sets largely consisting of songs from his last two solo outings, 2009's Expando and 2016's Leap of Faith. Schmit explains, “I didn't really start to grow as a songwriter until the Expando album. And I didn't do my first solo show until I was in my 60s. I realized that people, they're more interested in hearing the songs they know. But my lead singing in The Eagles is fairly limited. So I take from The Eagles and Poco and sprinkle those songs through the set.”
In the decades since they worked together in Poco, Furay and Schmit have maintained a genuinely meaningful friendship. Both have ongoing musical ambitions, with Schmit currently nurturing material for his next solo record. When asked what could lie ahead, either for a possible Poco reunion or for the currently touring version of The Eagles, featuring Vince Gill and the late Glenn Frey's profoundly talented son Deacon, Schmit mused, “Hopefully we'll keep going. I've learned that everything is possible, one way or another.”
Furay, forever country rock's most delightful and charming boy-next-door, emphasizes, “Even after all these years, we're not just relying on what we did. We're trying to further things by being creative today. So that's what we do. We evolve and we grow. That's what keeps us going.”