Jim Messina is best known for the duo Loggins & Messina, which gave us songs like "Danny's Song," "House at Pooh Corner" and "Your Mama Don't Dance." But by the time he and Kenny Loggins got together, he had already acquired quite an impressive musical resume, including the following highlights.
He was the recording engineer for the album Buffalo Springfield Again, which ultimately led to him joining the band and producing their final album, Last Time Around. Then, with Richie Furay from Buffalo Springfield, he co-founded the seminal country-rock band Poco, whose classic first albums he also produced. Next up was Loggins & Messina, which has been described as the most successful pop/rock duo in the first half of the 1970s.
Messina, who now lives in The 805, will perform at the Lobero Theatre this Saturday, and as a special treat he will be joined by his former Buffalo Springfield and Poco bandmate Furay. This is a sold-out show, but it's worth checking with the box office by clicking here to see if any tickets become available.
Messina spoke to Noozhawk about the upcoming show and some of his past musical endeavors. The full interview, which includes more on Buffalo Springfield, Poco and Loggins & Messina, is available by clicking here.
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Jeff Moehlis: What can we look forward to at the upcoming show?
Jim Messina: More than likely this will be the last year I do this particular set. I have a DVD out [Live at the Clark Center for the Performing Arts] that has a sequence of songs that takes us from the beginning of Buffalo Springfield to Poco, Loggins & Messina and, of course, the stuff that I've kind of been doing lately. I thought this would be a great opportunity because Richie's coming in to actually fill in some of the performances from that DVD, which would be having him sit in on "Kind Woman," "Child's Claim to Fame." I did the songs that I either produced or performed, or have been involved with.
Since I was involved with both Buffalo Springfield and Poco, I bring those in for people to get a chance to hear them. I'm especially looking forward to having Richie sit in on those two songs.
And then, I also put in "You Better Think Twice," which is a Poco song. I'm thinking I'm probably going to save this one for the very last, and invite Richie to come out and join us for the closing of the show. I think the show will have that element to it, which is a very nice thing for the audience and for me.
I'm also going to be bringing in John McFee from the Doobie Brothers, who will be sitting in for that part of the set, and then I'm going to have him stay and do a couple of Loggins & Messina country songs, "Listen to a Country Song" and "Holiday Hotel."
JMo: Sounds great! One of the cool things about this show is that Richie will be joining in. Going way back, when and where did you and Richie actually first meet each other?
JMe: I think it was 1966. I was working at Sunset Sound Recorders as a recording engineer. David Crosby had booked some time in there, and I was assigned to work with him. In those days, I mean I was probably 19 years old, I didn't know who David Crosby was. I'd moved out from the Inland Empire, and of course I'd heard The Byrds but I didn't know the names of the people in it. At first I thought it was Bing Crosby's son, you know?
At any rate, he came in and he had a young woman with him that he wanted to record some demos on. I took that session, and at the end of that session I asked who the producer was, and he said, "That'll be me, David Crosby." "What's the name of the artist?" "The artist is Joni Mitchell." I recorded all of the original stuff that she did prior to making her deal with A&M Records, I think it was.
David really liked my work and passed it on to the Buffalo Springfield. The Buffalo Springfield originally had gotten somebody else and that wasn't working out, and so then they assigned me to the project. That's the first time I actually met Richie and Neil [Young] and Stephen [Stills] and the whole group, working on their Buffalo Springfield Again album.
JMo: After Buffalo Springfield broke up, you and Richie co-founded Poco. My understanding is that at the time Poco was described as "too country for rock, and too rock for country." Do you have any thoughts on that particular description?
JMe: Well, I think that's pretty accurate because of what was happening with radio. You have to understand that that phrase, for me, came from the standpoint of us going to a rock station with our record company. They'd listen to it and say, "This is a little too country for our station." And then we'd go to the country stations, and they'd say, "That's just too rock and roll." That was sort of the metaphor for why we didn't seem to get any airplay. And yet, we sold out every show that we ever did. People loved to come and see us.
But the radio stations were not eager to put us on the stations. You know, there's a lot of reasons for that. You go back in time and look at how records get played. They happen naturally or organically, or [laughs] whatever happens, but we certainly didn't get any of that radio support at all.
JMo: How did you and Kenny Loggins get together?
JMe: When I first met Kenny, he was a very mild-mannered, eager, excited songwriter. He had a pocket full of songs, much of which was pretty folky. When I first was asked to meet with him through CBS, he came to my house. He didn't own a guitar. I met his brother first, and his brother said he was going to bring a tape over for me to listen to, but he didn't have the tape, and he didn't own an instrument. I kind of felt, "Whoa! What am I gonna do with this one?"
So I said, "I tell you what, I have a Sony tape machine," which was a stereo machine and two mics. I went into the closet and I said, "What do you prefer, a steel string or gut string" [guitar], and he said, "Gut strings are good." "Here you go." I turned on the tape and microphone, and I said, "Go ahead, sing your songs." So he came over and he sang a number of songs, one was "House at Pooh Corner," one was "Danny's Song" and all that stuff.
So we had dinner, and afterwards we chatted. I was married at the time. I said, "Thank you very much. Let me listen to this and we'll think about it." I remember telling my wife, "He's a lovely songwriter. I love the songs that he's doing," especially "House at Pooh Corner" and "Danny's Song," and I said, "But what am I going to do to get him to become a performer?" [laughs] I just wasn't sure that it was there.
I needed to find some musicians and try to put a band together for him to see, first of all, whether we could get the energy that we needed I think to compete at that time, with what was going on. So I brought the guys together, and I said, "Let's take some of these tunes and go through them and see how they feel, and see what's going on with them." And suddenly I could see it. It was there. It was just a question of getting the arrangements right, getting the songs right, rearranging much of what Kenny was doing. The key with Kenny, for me, was to have him be able to appeal to a greater audience. I think I was able to do that.
— Jeff Moehlis is a Noozhawk contributing writer and a professor of mechanical engineering at UC Santa Barbara. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his web site, music-illuminati.com. The opinions expressed are his own.