Jim Messina

In the mid-'60s and early '70s, guitarist Jim Messina was a jack-of-all-trades whose talent was an asset to the highly influential Buffalo Springfield, the proto-country-rock band Poco and the chart-topping duo of Loggins & Messina. Since the '80s, however, Messina, who's also a painter, has lived a less-than-busy musical life.

Messina was born 51 years ago today in Maywood, Calif. He spent his early years in Texas before moving back to California. Messina's interest in music was fostered by his father, a semi-professional guitar player.

In his youth, Messina patterned his guitar playing after Dick Dale, the Champs, and other surf-music makers. He began his professional career at 17, when a DJ heard his playing and asked him to produce albums. He spent the next few years as a producer and engineer, soon becoming an engineer at Hollywood's famous Sunset Sound recording studio, where he worked on albums by the Doors, Herb Alpert and Lee Michaels.

After working as an engineer on the second LP of pioneer country-rockers Buffalo Springfield, Messina joined the band as a bassist, replacing Bruce Palmer. He was a full member on Buffalo Springfield's final album, 1968's Last Time Around. Later that year, Messina and Springfield guitarist Richie Furay formed the seminal country-rock band Poco with pedal-steel guitarist Rusty Young (who also played on Buffalo Springfield's last LP). Weary of touring, Messina left the band in the early '70s to return to producing.

Messina soon got a job producing the music of singer/songwriter Kenny Loggins for Columbia Records. Messina helmed and played on Loggins' debut, Sittin' In (1972). He enjoyed Loggins' music and began touring with him as the duo Loggins & Messina. The pair's healthy-selling nine albums (including 1973's Full Sail and 1975's So Fine) featured country-rock, folk, classical and jazz. The duo's biggest hits were "Your Mama Don't Dance," "Vahevala," "Angry Eyes" and "My Music."

Loggins & Messina broke up in the latter half of the '70s, but remained friends. Though Loggins achieved greater success as a solo act, Messina released a number of solo albums, including Oasis (1979) and Messina (1981).

In 1989, Messina reunited with Poco for a tour behind the album Legacy. His most recent LP was the country-rock flavored Watching the River Run (1996).

Messina also created and runs the Songwriters' Performance Workshop, which provides instruction in songwriting and performing. Information is available at his web site: www.jimmessina.com.

Other birthdays: Little Richard, 66; J.J. Cale, 60; Jack Russell (Great White), 38; Nivek Ogre (Skinny Puppy), 36; Glen Graham (Blind Melon), 30; and Craig Gill (Inspiral Carpets), 27.