LifeNotes: Singer, Label Founder Curtis Potter Dies

Curtis Potter. Photo: curtispottercountry.com

Curtis Potter. Photo: curtispottercountry.com

Curtis Potter, noted in Texas country music circles as a “singer’s singer,” has died at age 75.

Best known as the longtime frontman of Hank Thompson’s acclaimed Brazos Valley Boys, Potter passed away in Abilene, Texas, on Saturday, Jan. 23. He had congestive heart failure, complicated by pneumonia.

The Brazos Valley Boys won Billboard’s Touring Band of the Year award 14 times. Potter, a bass player and vocalist, joined the group in 1959 and remained with it for the next 13 years.

He also had an extensive résumé as a solo artist and record maker.

Born in 1940, Potter was given his own radio and TV show in Abilene on KRBC at age 16. As a youngster, he also performed in the road shows of Slim Willet and Bill Fox.

He began his recording career on Dot Records with 1969’s “You Comb Her Hair.” In 1973, Capitol Records issued Potter’s “Walkin’ Talkin’ Breathin’ Case of Sorrow.” This was followed by his Texas Dance Hall LP recorded with fellow Lone Star State singers Darrell McCall and Ray Sanders.

Potter was signed to Hillside Records in 1978. This resulted in his only two charted singles, 1979’s “Fraulein” and 1980’s duet with McCall, “San Antonio Medley.” He also recorded two albums for Hillside.

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In 1984, Potter helped to form Step One Records in Nashville. This became country music’s largest independent label, releasing discs by Gene Watson, Ray Price, Kitty Wells, Hank Thompson and Clinton Gregory, as well as Potter.

He and Willie Nelson recorded the Six Hours at the Pedernales album for Step One in 1995. It yielded the video favorite “Turn Me Loose and Let Me Swing.”

In 2005, Potter signed with Heart of Texas Records. He recorded five solo albums for the company, including his tribute to Ray Price, Songs of the Cherokee Cowboy. Its title tune was another duet with Nelson. He also has two trio albums on Heart of Texas, recorded with Tony Booth and Darrell McCall. He is a member of the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame and the Western Swing Hall of Fame.

Potter had heart surgery in 2006, but resumed performing in dance halls, honky-tonks and concert halls. He last performed in Brady, Texas, on New Year’s Eve.

His funeral service and burial took place on Tuesday, Jan. 26. Curtis Potter is survived by his wife Pat, sons James and Shane, daughters Sharlotte and Rozlyn, eight grandchildren and nine great grandchildren.

The family requests memorial contributions to the Heart of Texas Country Music Museum, 1701 South Bridge St., Brady, Texas 76825.

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Robert K. Oermann is a longtime contributor to MusicRow. He is a respected music critic, author and historian.

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