Financially, Rusty Young has always landed on his feet.
His country-music-loving parents had him studying steel guitar at age 6, and by 14, he was so adept on the instrument he was teaching it professionally at a popular Denver music store.
"I answered an ad and talked to the guy over the phone, but I don't think he realized how young I was until I got there," he recalls. "But I could read music, and he saw that I could teach. So I ended up selling guitars and giving lessons after school."
Soon he formed the group Poco with Jim Messina and Richie Furay, a country-rock trailblazer that has lasted for 45 years and several incarnations.
Currently, Young's lineup includes drummer George Lawrence, bassist-vocalist Jack Sundrud and newcomer keyboardist-vocalist Michael Webb (longtime mainstay Paul Cotton recently left to pursue a solo career).
Poco has just released "All Fired Up," its first new studio album in 11 years, which the group will tout in The City this week.
On tracks such as "Hard Country," "Rockin' Horse" and the title song, it stays true to the quartet's traditional twang-inflected sound, defined by such classic discs as "Legend" and "Rose of Cimarron."
But Young has several more tricks up his entrepreneurial sleeve.
With his manager Rick Alter, Young maintains Poco's own indie imprint. The Missouri-based player is also taking full advantage of the digital age via a Nashville, Tenn., company called Studio Cats. In the old pricey-studio days, commissioning him for a one-song session would cost roughly $2,000.
"But now, anybody who wants me to play on their CD can send in an MP3. I overdub onto it and send it back to them, in a reasonably short amount of time and at an extremely affordable price," he says.
With studio whiz Sundrud, Young has another, even stranger side project: providing the soundtracks to Scholastic DVDs used in schools.
"Because nowadays," he says, "award-winning books are made into animated DVDs, and they're just like miniature movies — they need a score."
Their weirdest assignment was when, he says, "a producer emailed us and said, 'Listen — at minute 2:12 to minute 2:20, I need eight seconds of music that sounds like an anxious rabbit. On banjo.' I can't sing it to you, but we did it."
But Young, who has been inducted into St. Louis' Steel Guitar Hall of Fame, isn't considering teaching music again.
"That was torturous," he says. "Being locked in a room with an 8-year-old who hasn't practiced and is only there because of their parents? Both of you just sit there, staring at the clock, watching that second hand tick. That is not fun."
IF YOU GOPoco
Where: Great American Music Hall, 859 O'Farrell St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Thursday
Contact: (415) 885-0750, www.gamhtickets.com