One night only: Bat McGrath and Don Potter

05:00 AM, Apr 25, 2013

Bat McGrath, above, and Don Potter will play together here on Sunday. (Garry Geer)/


Written By Jeff Spevak | Staff music critic

If you go

What: The concert for the 2013 Rochester Music Hall of Fame inductees.
When: 7 p.m. Sunday (April 28).
Where: Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre, 60 Gibbs St.
Tickets: Ranging from $20 to $65, available at the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra box office, (585) 454-2100, rpo.org, rochestermusic.org and Wegmans.

Together they were the toast of the Rochester music scene in the late 1960s and early ’70s. Then Bat McGrath and Don Potter went their separate ways. And even though those separate ways eventually led both to Nashville, they didn’t talk, they had nothing more to say to each other. They had become different people.

Six years ago, circumstances dictated that Potter and McGrath work together again. Chuck Mangione wanted to celebrate his 1970 album Friends and Love by reuniting much of the old gang that had played on the record, and that included McGrath and Potter. So Potter drove to McGrath’s house. They rehearsed, and McGrath liked the feel of it. He thought: Maybe there was a chance that he and Potter might work together again. Maybe even record another Don and Bat album.

Friends and Love was a big hit, three sold-out shows at the Eastman Theatre. And that was it for Potter and McGrath. “He was busy and I hide,” McGrath says. “Not a good combination.” He went back to his mountainside retreat, writing and recording songs. A black belt in karate, McGrath was also teaching songwriters how to break an agent’s collarbone with a well-directed punch to the chest. “We exchanged emails two or three times, I sent him a couple of songs,” McGrath says of Potter. “That was it. We don’t move in the same circles.”

This weekend, circumstances again dictate an opportunity for Potter and McGrath to work together. If they so choose. They’ll be inducted into the Rochester Music Hall of Fame Sunday at Kodak Hall at the Eastman Theatre.

Here’s the Hall of Fame’s second class:

Bat McGrath. A member of one of Rochester’s top bands of the ’60s, The Show Stoppers, he and Don Potter were the hub of the local scene. McGrath played on and wrote for several of Chuck Mangione’s early albums, has had songs recorded by Wynonna Judd and Kenny Rogers, and continues to release solo albums. He will be inducted by his sometimes songwriting partner, Pat Alger, who wrote many of Garth Brooks’ hits.

Don Potter. McGrath’s partner throughout the ’60s with The Show Stoppers and as co-owner of the popular music coffeehouse Hyliemorris’ Alley, Potter also was a member of the Rochester band The Brass Buttons. Potter has released a handful of solo albums, most focusing on Christian music, and was the musical director for The Judds for many years. He will be inducted by Naomi Judd.

Lou Gramm. Lead singer of the arena-powerhouse rockers Foreigner, Gramm grew up in Gates and lives in Webster today. He also will be inducted into the National Songwriters Hall of Fame in June.

Son House. The legendary Mississippi Delta bluesman was lost, and then rediscovered in 1964 living in obscurity in Rochester, leading to an energetic revival in his career before his death in 1988.

George Eastman. His role as a music philanthropist in the city included establishing the Eastman Theatre, the Eastman School of Music and the radio station WHAM.

Mitch Miller. An Eastman School of Music product, Miller worked with many of the world’s biggest music stars, including Doris Day and Johnny Mathis, while at Columbia Records. Miller, who died in 2010, had his own television show for years, Sing Along With Mitch.

Nick Nickson. Nickson was best-known as a DJ at WBBF in the 1950s and ’60s, ushering in the era of rock and roll. He had the highest ratings ever of any Rochester radio personality.

Jack Palvino. Another WBBF DJ, Palvino had the city’s top-rated morning show for nearly 20 years.

I hope it doesn’t reach the stage where honorary degrees are merited,” McGrath says. “I’d like to think I’ve still got something left.”

He does, having released a new album late last year, No Reverb.

Sunday night, Potter will do a couple of songs. McGrath will do a couple. “They asked if I wanted to play with a string section,” McGrath says. “I decided against that. I thought I’d just walk out with my guitar, stand out there by myself, which is what I do. Let people get a sense of who I am. Then I’ll spice it up a bit.”

But that won’t be the end of it. After they’d received word of their inductions, Potter emailed McGrath and said he’d be cool with the two of them playing together. “We decided it was only right,” McGrath says. So last week Potter drove in from North Carolina, where he now lives, McGrath opened a bottle of wine and made his pasta with red clam sauce. Just like that day six years ago. And the two rehearsed. Only this time it wasn’t the Friends and Love music, where they’d be sharing the stage with a handful of other musicians plus the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra. This time it was Bat and Don music. McGrath even had a surprise for Potter. He pulled out a new song, and they started working that one up. It looks like they’ll be playing that as well on Sunday night.

Don and I have not played together for probably 40 years,” McGrath says. “We couldn’t be more different, we’ve taken totally unrelated paths. But when we were playing, it was very touching. I think it’ll be more so when we do it in front of a crowd.”