Paul Cotton, mainstay of country rock band Poco, has died at the age of 78.

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Paul Cotton, lead guitarist and frequent lead singer and songwriter of the country rock band Poco, died near his summer home in Eugene, Ore, on July 31. He was 78 years old.

His wife, Caroline Ford Cotton, said he died unexpectedly, but did not give a reason. It came less than four months after his death. rusty teenageris Poco’s longtime steel guitarist.

Mr. Cotton joined Poco in 1970, replacing founding member Jim Messina, and the band’s third studio album, “From the Inside” (1971), came out just in time. Produced by Steve Cropper, guitarist for the Memphis R&B combo Booker T. & the MGs, the project signaled a new artistic direction for the band, perhaps out of nowhere. As many as three songs that Cotton wrote.

It was more rooted in rock and soul than country and bluegrass, and one of the band’s primary influences until then, Mr. Cotton’s energetic, blues-toned guitar work and thoughtful baritone vocals in songs like the ballad “Bad Weather” greatly expanded Poco’s emotional and stylistic side. palette.

“There was no doubt that he was the man to replace Jimmy,” Richie Furay, who co-founded the group with Mr. Messina and is the lead singer of the band, said in an interview with soundwaves.com in 2000 about Mr. Cotton’s influence on the band. . “We knew it gave our voice a bit of an edge, and we wanted to be a bit more of a rock ‘n’ roll sound.”

Referring to Mr. Furay and Poco’s longtime drummer, George Grantham, in the same sound waves piece, Mr. Young said: “You have to remember, we had very loud singing voices back then. Paul had a much deeper voice and he had that rock voice.”

Poco made a huge impact on West Coast country rock bands like Linda Ronstadt and the Eagles, and a generation later on alternative country bands like the Jayhawks and Wilco.

Formed in Los Angeles in 1968, the band originally consisted of Mr. Messina and Mr. Furay, both formerly of the influential rock band Buffalo Springfield, along with Mr Young, Mr Grantham, and bassist Randy Meisner, as well as future members. Your eagles. (Timothy B. Schmit, another future Eagle, replaced Mr. Meisner when he left the band in 1969.)

Mr. Furay left in 1973, especially when compared to the band’s former bandmates at Crosby, Stills & Nash, and the Eagles, “A Good Feeling to Know” (1972) and “Crazy Eyes” (1973), which were critically acclaimed but commercially disappointing.

The remaining members of Poco continued without Mr. Furay, with Mr. Cotton doing most of the singing and songwriting, until the group took a break in 1977 and he and Mr. Young entered the studio to record as the Cotton-Young Band.

In 1978, the duo’s record label ABC released recordings with British musicians who accompanied pop hitmakers such as Leo Sayer and Al Stewart, but insisted that the band be credited as Poco.

The resulting album “Legend” brought an unexpected double hit, the group’s first and only Top 40 single: the glittering “Crazy Love”, which was written and sung by Mr. Young and reached #1 on the adult contemporary chart. and the similarly polished “Heart of the Night” written and sung by Mr. Cotton. The album was certified platinum for sales of one million copies.

Poco continued to tour and release recordings well into the 2000s, anchoring the series with Mr. Cotton, Mr. Young and Mr. Grantham.

The eldest of five children, Norman Paul Cotton was born on February 26, 1943, in Fort Rucker, Ala., in the southeastern part of the state. His father, Norman, owned a number of grocery stores. His mother, Edna, kept the notebooks for the family business. Young Norm started playing the guitar at the age of 13, as it was then known.

At the age of 16, Cottons moved to Chicago, where she attended Thornton Township High School. While there, he formed a band that eventually became known as Rovin’ Kind, which released several singles and appeared on “American Bandstand.”

In 1968, after seeing them perform at a club in Chicago, producer James William Guercio, best known for his work with the jazz-rock band Chicago, signed the band to Epic Records. Mr. Guercio advised them to change their name and move to Los Angeles, where they renamed themselves Illinois Speed ​​Press. Mr. Cotton started billing himself as Paul instead of Norm.

As the twin lead guitarists of Mr. Cotton and Kal David, Illinois Speed ​​Press released a double root-rock album for Epic with little commercial impact. Mr. Cotton was invited to Poco in 1970, shortly after the release of the band’s second and final album, “Duet.”

Besides his wife of 16 years, Mr. Cotton is survived by his sons Chris and James; two brothers, David and Robert; two sisters, Carol and Colleen; and a grandson.

Mr. Cotton spent three decades with Poco and released a handful of solo albums between 1990 and 2014. An avid fisherman and sailor, he moved to Key West, Fla. in 2005.

Poco has gone through countless lineup changes over its 40-plus years of existence, but one of the things that remained constant from Mr Cotton’s arrival in 1970 to his retirement in 2010 was his partnership with Mr. Young.

“There’s always been something there,” said Mr. Cotton about his relationship with Mr. Young in 2000.

Mr. Young added: “He never lost his voice or great guitar playing. I can trust him. I wouldn’t want to do this without him.”

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