Paul Cotton, the legendary singer, lead guitarist and songwriter for the country rock band Poco and a Key West resident, passed away recently, according to his wife, Caroline Cotton.
Cotton died July 9 in Oregon at 78. The cause of death was not announced by the family.
Cotton was best known for his timeless songwriting, guitar riffs and work with Poco, which scored its biggest hit, “Heart of the Night,” in 1978. Cotton penned the song, as well as other Poco hits such as “Indian Summer,” “Ride the Country” and “Bad Weather.”
After leaving full-time band touring in 2010, Cotton performed in Key West with the Paul Cotton Band, performing many of his songs mixed with hits from his previous bands.
According to his wife, Cotton, who was born in Alabama in 1943 and raised in Chicago, received his first guitar at 13 and taught himself to play. His first record was released in 1959, while he was high school. In Chicago, he co-founded the group Illinois Speed Press with blues musician Kal David before going on to join Poco.
Cotton joined Poco, considered by many to be one of the founders of the country rock sound, in 1970, after Jim Messina left to form the group Loggins and Messina with Kenny Loggins. Over the next 40 years, Poco recorded more than 20 studio albums.
Through numerous lineup changes, the band found limited success. In 1977, however, Cotton and multi-instrumentalist and singer Rusty Young dubbed the remaining members the Cotton-Young band, which was the heart of the Poco release, “Legend.”
“Legend” produced two hits for the band the following year, Cotton’s “Heart of the Night” and “Crazy Love.”
Throughout his long career, Cotton’s talent was recognized with multiple gold and platinum albums, as well as numerous other awards, while Poco’s unique harmonies provided the inspiration for other bands such as the Eagles, America and Crosby, Stills and Nash.
Cotton also shared the stage with a wide variety of musicians, including Eric Clapton, the Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Willie Nelson, Jefferson Airplane, Beach Boys, Allman Brothers and Bonnie Raitt.
Cotton released four solo albums: “Changing Horses,” “Firebird,” “Coast is Clear” and 2014’s “100% Paul Cotton.” He was inducted to the Alabama and Colorado halls of fame, but once told his wife his greatest honors were Nov. 15 being declared by Key West city officials as “Paul Cotton Day,” as well as being named an honorary Key West Conch and receiving the Keystock Lifetime Achievement Award.
Cotton’s death comes just four months after Poco co-founder Young, who died April 14 at 75 of a heart attack at his home in Davisville, Missouri.
According to Cotton’s wife, there will be numerous private and public celebrations of Cotton’s life, as well as a Second Line Parade the last of January in Key West. Additionally, information on contributing to Cotton’s Music Trust Scholarship for low-income students can be found at http://www,venmo.com/u/PAUL-COTTON-8.