Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the band member Jim Messina replaced in Buffalo Springfield. He replaced bassist Bruce Palmer.
When Jim Messina met Kenny Loggins, his future recording and songwriting partner, he wasn’t that impressed.
“I open the door and there’s this tall, skinny guy with a beard wearing a velour shirt and jeans and worn-out tennis shoes,” recalled Messina, who performs Saturday at the Clark Center for the Performing Arts in Arroyo Grande. “I asked, ‘Did you bring a guitar?’ (He said) ‘I really don’t own one.’”
So Messina, an established recording engineer, musician and music producer who had previously worked with folk rock band Buffalo Springfield and country rock group Poco, grabbed a guitar from his closet and set up an old Sony reel-to-reel audio recorder. “I sat him down on an ottoman and said, ‘Sing. Show me what you got,’ ” he said.
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What Messina heard was enough to convince him that he and Loggins had a promising future as a rock-pop duo. Together, the two crafted a string of hit songs, including “Danny’s Song,” “House at Pooh Corner” and “Your Mama Don’t Dance.”
Messina, 67, discounts the idea that cosmic forces played a role in his success. “Luck is just a product of being prepared when opportunity knocks,” he said.
A Los Angeles native who spent his childhood in Southern California and Texas, Messina said his musical tastes were influenced by those of his guitarist father, who listened to country and Western swing artists such as Spade Cooley, Lefty Frizzel and Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, and his mother, a fan of Elvis Presley, Ricky Nelson and The Cadillacs.
Among Messina's earliest recollections is the memory of his Italian family members playing polkas such as “Roll Out the Barrels” at Christmastime.
Messina, for his part, started performing at age 12. A few years later, he was recruited to record a surf rock album, “The Dragsters,” as Jim Messina & His Jesters.
That effort captured the attention of a local radio disc jockey, who hired the teen as a music producer. “By the time I had graduated high school, I was ready to move to Hollywood” and work full-time, recalled Messina, who credits studio engineer Mike Dorrough with teaching him how to record, mix and master songs.
“I figured, “Well, I may never make it as a musician, but (I’ll be) around music,’ ” Messina said.
Then Buffalo Springfield, whose influential members included Stephen Stills and Neil Young, came calling. Initially hired to engineer and produce the band’s third and final album, 1968’s “Last Time Around,” Messina also replaced bassist Bruce Palmer in the band.
“It all just fell into place really nicely,” the guitarist said.
In 1968, Messina and his Buffalo Springfield bandmate, guitarist-singer Richie Furay, formed Poco with steel guitarist Rusty Young, who had played on “Last Time Around.” Hearing Young play on the song “Kind Woman” was “the first spark of inspiration I had about creating a country rock band,” Messina explained.
After two studio albums — including 1969’s “Pickin’ Up the Pieces,” featuring the single “You Better Think Twice” — Messina parted ways with Poco in October 1970 and returned to engineering and producing.
Months later, he welcomed Loggins into his living room.
Although impressed by the singer-songwriter’s abilities as a vocalist, Messina said he was initially concerned the singer-songwriter was too folky.
“I thought, ‘It’s going to take a lot of work to get him up to speed where he’s a rock ‘n’ roll player” capable of holding his own on stage, Messina recalled. He spent about a year rehearsing with Loggins in his father-in-law’s pool house before he felt the slightly younger, less experienced man was ready.
Loggins and Messina released six successful studio albums in all before splitting up in 1976 to pursue solo careers.
While Loggins found fame in the late 1970s and ’80s with a string of chart-topping hits including “Danger Zone,” “Footloose,” “This Is It” and “Whenever I Call You Friend,” Messina has enjoyed a quieter career as a solo artist. He’s also done reunion tours with Poco and Loggins and Messina.
On Saturday, Messina will perform songs from his Loggins and Messina days, as well as the rest of his decades-long music career.
“Some of the music that I really loved and enjoyed I try to bring back into my sets, whether I’ve written (the songs) or performed them,” said Messina, who will joined on stage by Rusty Young.
“He’s loose and loves to play,” Messina said of Young. “Rusty, having been there, really adds the nuances and the textures and the tones that many people remember … For me, it brings the reality (into) the music.”
Messina, who has lived in Santa Ynez since 1998, said he’s excited to return to San Luis Obispo County to perform. He and Rusty Young recorded a live album and DVD at the Clark Center in 2010; it was released two years later.
“It’s a special room,” Messina said of the Arroyo Grande venue.
8 p.m. Saturday
Clark Center for the Performing Arts, 487 Fair Oaks Ave., Arroyo Grande
$42 to $54
489-9444 or www.clarkcenter.org