B i o g r a p h y

Todd PotterPlays the guitar like ringing 'The Bell'

BY GREG BEETS,

 

     More than two decades after leaving the Austin music scene behind to raise a family, guitarist Todd Potter is back driving his solo project, “The Todd Potter Band”. Once upon a time, Potter was the whiz-kid guitarist for Bubble Puppy, the Austin-based psychedelic hard rock quartet that gave Houston's International Artists label their biggest commercial hit with 1969's "Hot Smoke and Sasafrass" ("Hot Smoke & Sasafrass," Music, May 7, 2004). While "Smoke" went to No. 14 inBillboard and established the communally living, constantly rehearsing group as a regional concert favorite, it wasn't enough to sustain a career. After moving to California, signing with ABC/Dunhill, and changing their name to Demian, the Puppy broke up in 1972. Potter returned to Austin in the mid-Seventies and played guitar for Rusty Wier's Fabulous Filler Brothers as they toured halls across the country, opening for big-name acts like the Marshall Tucker Band, Outlaws, Charlie Daniels and Heart. Potter later reunited with fellow Bubble Puppy guitarist Rod Prince in Sirius, a hard rock quartet that released 1979's Sirius/Rising before disbanding. A brief Bubble Puppy reunion followed in the mid-Eighties, but Potter found his priorities had shifted with marriage and impending fatherhood."I made a conscious decision that I wanted to be around," he says today. "I'd had so many years on the road. From the time I was 14 until I was 31, I was a full-time musician. I was gone a lot, and I didn't want to raise kids from a distance. I wanted to be around for them on a full-time basis, so I decided to change careers."For years, Potter's neighbors in the hills west of town knew him as a homebuilder and youth-league basketball coach, not a musician.   After 17 years in the music business, he was ready for a clean break."I just moved out here and became a different person," Potter says. " I had sought out that anonymity, and I viewed it as an accomplishment. Now I could approach life from this new direction and see who I could become, but all the while, I knew I'd come back to it at some point." Potter's return to music began 10 years ago when the Fabulous Chevelles asked him to sit in one night. Though reluctant at first, Potter eventually became the oldies cover band's permanent guitarist and discovered his passion for music was intact. Armed with a wellspring of songs dating back to the Seventies, along with a strong collection of new compositions, he began working on  "The Todd Potter Band project. The Band, comprised of Neil Pederson on Keyboards, BB Morse on Bass, and Steve Meador on drums, is a highly skilled unit capable of enourmous feats of musical prowess.  Potter covers a wide range of stylistic tangents.  It's all a long way from "Hot Smoke and Sasafrass  "There was an era where I was trying to write pop songs that I thought were 'cool.' Now I don't do that. I just write things I'm passionate about." With the passing of years and the stability of family life, Potter is more at ease in his approach to music than he was as a younger man."I'm much more confident with my voice in maturity," he says. "I listen to the stuff I recorded in my 20s and early 30s, and I can hear that I wasn't a confident vocalist. Now I am. I realize I'm not a great singer, but I'm confident and can deliver the message lyrically and vocally."Despite that newfound ease, Potter isn't taking it easy. As someone who used to play guitar all day, every day, he knows what it takes to "tighten it up until it squeaks." "There's a point you reach where your dexterity is not an issue," explains Potter. "Anything you think, you can play. There's this channel where you close your eyes, tilt your head back, and just let it flow through you."

 

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