Poco guitarist Paul Cotton dead at 78

Paul Cotton
(Image credit: CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images)

Former Poco guitarist Paul Cotton has died at the age of 78. The news was broken in a post on Cotton's Facebook page, which revealed that he'd passed away unexpectedly but peacefully. 

The news was also shared by Poco founder Jim Messina, who posted, "I woke up this morning to very sad news. Paul Cotton was a special musical kindred brother. We spent time together before he joined Poco and indeed gave me a great honour when he filled my position. 

"He came back into my life once again around 1995 when my son was three years old and we had a chance to spend some gracious moments together. I am now so very grateful I had a chance to meet up with Paul in 2009 when we performed together once again. 

"I last heard his voice on the evening of Rusty Young‘s Radio Memorial that was hosted by John Cowan. The sound of his voice is now forever imprinted in my mind and in my heart. May he, this very kind hearted soul, Rest In Peace."

Cotton was born in Alabama but raised in Chicago. He formed the Illinois Speed Press in 1965, who released two albums for Columbia Records at the turn of the decade, before joining Poco in 1970 to replace founding member Messina. After singer/guitarist Richie Furay left the band in 1973, Cotton became co-leader of the group alongside singer/pedal-steel player Rusty Young. 

Among the songs Cotton wrote for Poco was one of the band's biggest hits, Heart Of The Night,” which reached #20 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1978. Inspired by his love for the city of New Orleans, Cotton claimed to have written the song in 20 minutes.

"I’m just drawn to the south," Cotton told Sounds Waves in 2000. "Hey, I spent 25 winters in Chicago. I’m just like those snowbirds. I want to go south. I like anything with, well, some ‘lust’ in it. It puts people on vacation, it’s like an instant postcard."

Cotton left Poco in 1987 but rejoined the band four years later and continued to play with them until 2010. He also released five solo studio albums. The most recent, 100% Paul Cotton, came out in 2014.

Poco frontman Rusty Young died in April

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.