VALE ROB POTTS - ALTRUSTIC PIONEER
“My first best friend was a 6 string/ took him with me everywhere I go/ when I was 18, bought a Dodge van/ found a drummer and made the road my home/ I wouldn't change a thing/ it made the man I am today/ my roots always keep me grounded/ roots, remind me where I'm from/ even when I'm a thousand miles away from my roots.” - Roots - Zac Brown-Niko Moon-Ben Simonetti-Coy Bowles.
Altruistic country music promoter, indie record label operator and manager Rob Potts died tragically on October 27 doing what he loved - escaping to the wilderness of his home state Tasmania.
Rob, 65, perished when his red Honda motor bike hit a patch of gravel on a sharp corner 31 kilometres west of Tullah on the island state's West Coast Ranges.
Potts, a major benefactor of Nu Country TV with fellow Tasmanian born promoter Michael Chugg, told me he often retreated on hikes through the wilderness as an escape from pressures before major festivals and tours.
Ironically, Tullah is on the banks of Lake Rosebery about 111 kilometres south of Burnie where I operated the Launceston Examiner news bureau as a teenage cadet journalist in the sixties.
I frequently wrote about Launceston musical ventures of Chugg and fellow promoter Jim Cox - my latter Burnie disc jockey flat-mate and dual Logie winner TV host and Minister For Police.
But Rob, who recently lived in Sydney suburb Mortlake, was still at school then before a stellar career here and in Nashville.
“I'm lost for words, I'm heartbroken,” Chugg revealed when he learned of Rob's death on a holiday with three fellow motor cycle riders.
“Rob came to me more than 35 years ago as a fellow Tasmanian with a passion for music, he wanted to do great things. He was without question, the most passionate supporter of country music in Australia . Rob was at the top of his game and all his dreams were coming true. The country music world and the global music industry has lost a pioneer. I have lost a great friend'.
Rob was a pioneer of the country music industry and single-handedly opened the door for the biggest international country artists to find a welcome home in Australia.
He spent many years in Nashville as both an artist manager, festival director and successful concert promoter and understood the artists and the industry better than anyone in this territory.
While the rest of the industry wasn't paying attention to one of the biggest genres of music in the United States , he forged a new path.
Rob brought country music artists to Australia to sell out major arena tours when most of the local industry hadn't heard their names and some artists couldn't have found Australia on a map.
In a career spanning more than 30 years, Rob was a booking agent to Lee Kernaghan, Tommy Emmanuel, James Blundell and Keith Urban.
Most recently, he managed Morgan Evans, who signed to Warner Music in Nashville at the start of a successful international career.
This month Rob launched his indie record label Fangate with Sony.
West Virginia quartet Davisson Brothers Band's single Po ' Boyz was the first release.
The band, whose music is released in the U.S. through prolific Grammy winning producer and songwriter Keith Stegall's Dream-lined Entertainment , perform CMC Rocks Queensland festival in Ipswich from Thursday March 15-Sunday March 18, 2018.
The festival sold out its 18,000 tickets in record time - a bitter-sweet tribute to the tenacity of Potts whose debut CMC Rocks The Snowys festival was at Thredbo 11 years ago before moving to the Hunter Valley and Ipswich .
This year the festival, headlined by Luke Bryan, features major international artists Darius Rucker, Luke Combs, Old Dominion , Kelsea Ballerini, Dustin Lynch, Brothers Osborne , Dan & Shay, Brett Young, Randy Hauser, Ryan Follese, Dean Brody, Russell Dickerson, High Valley, expat Australian Gord Bamford and many local stars.
Potts and Chugg also staged major tours with artists who appeared at their previous festivals.
They included prolific Grammy winners Zac Brown Band , Brooks and Dunn, Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, Alan Jackson, Florida Georgia Line , Taylor Swift, Toby Keith, Jason Aldean, Dixie Chicks, Old Crow Medicine Show , Kip Moore, Lee Brice and many more.
Potts also recently announced Winton's Way Out West four day festival April 19-22 to celebrate the rebirth of the $23 million Waltzing Matilda Centre that was destroyed by fire in 2015.
Headlining artists include Lee Brice, Kip Moore, Busby Marou, Jessica Mauboy, John Williamson, The Living End , Sheppard , Russell Morris, The Black Sorrows, Pierce Brothers and more.
“He was a lion, we were our father's pride but I was defiant/ when he made me walk the line, he knew how to lift me up and when to let me fall/ looking back, he always had a plan, my old man/ feel the callous on his hands and dusty overalls/ my old man now I finally understand I have a lot to learn from my old man/ now I'm a giant got a son of my own/ he's always trying to go everywhere I go/ do the best I can to raise him up the right way/ hoping that he someday wants to be/ like his old man.” - My Old Man - Zac Brown-Niko Moon-Ben Simonetti.
Rob was the only Australian to sit on the Country Music Association Board in Nashville and was an integral and respected voice within the Nashville and broader U.S. music industry.
This year the CMA awarded Potts the Jo Walker Meador International Award that recognised his achievements in advocating and supporting Country Music's development outside the United States .
Expatriate Australasian superstar Keith Urban, whom Potts managed with close friend and colleague Kerry Roberts earlier in his career, led the flood of tributes.
“Just heard of the passing of Rob Potts, stunned. Deepest condolences to Sally, Jeremy & Rob's family & friends. Peace be with you all.” Urban, 50, wrote.
Potts and Roberts brought Taylor Swift to Australia in 2009 before her career took off.
She played to a few hundred people at the Factory Theatre in Sydney after CMC Rocks The Snowys at Thredbo with Old Crow Medicine Show , Joe Nichols and Deanna Carter.
Beccy Cole, Adam Harvey and Tommy Emmanuel, who toured here for Rob in September with Steve Wariner, also paid tribute to Potts.
Tommy said Rob was a strong character who never judged harshly.
'I'll miss him, I'll miss our talks, our fun together but most of all I'll miss his love,' the guitarist wrote.
'Rob, your friends and family will be gathering together to say farewell, I send my love out to you all, and wish there was a way to say I love you now.'
Adelaide hills raised Beccy Cole, who recently released an album with former Geelong truckie Adam Harvey, said of Rob “my agent for many years and one of my first true believers.”
Harvey added: “Very sad to hear about the passing of Rob Potts. He was my booking agent for many years and a great mate. Rob was the driving force behind the CMC Rocks festivals and instrumental in bringing American country music stars Alan Jackson, Brooks and Dunn and Tim McGraw to Australia . It's a sad day for our industry.”
Matthew Lazarus-Hall, CEO of CMC Rocks Queensland added:
“It has been an honour and a privilege to have worked with Rob in delivering his dream of a sell-out country music festival in Australia . Rob's passion and determination was never ending. The industry has lost a great man and I have lost one of my dearest friends.”
Rob is survived by his former wife Sally and their film maker-video director-journalist son Jeremy Dylan.
Ironically, our Saturday October 28 Nu Country TV show featured Potts recent superstar tourists the Dixie Chicks followed by Sydney singer-songwriter Imogen Clark's video for Collide - one of several directed for her by Dylan.
Jeremy, like his dad, started his music career in his teens.
“In high school I directed a concert film for a local rock band and became a self-taught cameraman and editor,” Dylan revealed on his web page.
“After an off the cuff joke from film critic Mark Kermode and my online response to it took on a life of its own, I find myself writing and directing my feature film debut Benjamin Sniddlegrass and the Cauldron of Penguins , narrated by comedy legend Stephen Fry.
“BSATCOP was released in 2011, two months shy of my 21st birthday.
“Several months later a conversation with Americana music icon Jim Lauderdale at the Beatles museum in Liverpool sparked a journey that would see me devote the next three years directing the definitive document of Lauderdale's unconventional career Jim Lauderdale: The King of Broken Hearts , shot on location in California, Tennessee, North Carolina and Tamworth, and features interviews with Elvis Costello, John Oates, Buddy Miller and Gary Allan.
“After successful screenings in the US and Australia , the film aired on Foxtel's Country Music Channel and was released in September 2014.
“While making the documentary, I learned the valuable lesson that the most compelling insights to an artist can often be found by engaging them about the art that inspired them.
“So while in post-production, I started the weekly music interview podcast My Favourite Album , in which guests discuss their all-time favourite record and its impact on them.
“The show is now past 150 episodes and still going, and has afforded me the chance to make connections with heroes of mine from Crowded House's Neil Finn to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers ' Benmont Tench.”
“I've worked behind the scenes in the music industry. I have been a member of the Americana Music Association Australian Advisory Group and part time member of the team at concert promoters Rob Potts Entertainment Edge, working on the massive CMC Rocks festival since its inception and as part of the management team for country star Morgan Evans.”
As Hank Williams Jr sang - “it's a family tradition.”