Michael Chugg remembers Rob Potts ahead of APRA Awards: "I'm sure he's up there watching"
Written by Lars Brandle for THE INDUSTRY OBSERVER on Apr 29, 2019
When the Australian music industry gathers Tuesday night (April 30) for the APRA Music Awards, the man of honour won’t be in the house. But he’ll be there in spirit.
Rob Potts, the promoter, manager and country music authority who championed Keith Urban, Lee Kernaghan, Troy Cassar-Daley and many others, will posthumously receive the Ted Albert Award for Outstanding Services to Australian Music, some 18 months after his untimely death in a motorbike accident, aged 65.
Potts’s legacy can’t be measured.
He planted the seeds for a country revolution which he sadly isn’t around to observe, recounts Michael Chugg, his longtime friend and business partner.
“It’s incredible what’s going on over there (in Nashville) for Australian music, and he had a lot to do with it,” Chugg tells TIO. “With Rob being on the CMA (Country Music Association) board all those years, what a lot of people don’t realise is when Australian music started to slowly break over there, he also was riding people in England and the U.K. Country music meant nothing seven or eight years ago in the U.K. and Europe, now it’s one of the hottest growing genres of music. Rob Potts had a lot to do with that through all the work he did on the international side of the CMA.”
Potts was the only Australian-based member of the CMA board and only the second Aussie to have served since its formation in 1958. “There’s been more country crossovers on Australian radio in the last two years than there’s been in the last 20,” explains Chugg. “He had a lot to do with that too. There’s no doubt about it.”
Potts’ life and career will be remembered with a special APRAs tribute during the ceremony at Melbourne Town Hall. Chugg will be watching on, as will Potts’ son Jeremy, who helps guide the late music entrepreneur’s brainchild, the CMC Rocks Qld festival, the most recent edition of which was headlined by Luke Combs, Thomas Rhett and Florida Georgia Line and was the brand’s biggest yet.
When the CMC team assembles the show, Potts is never far from their minds. “Rob comes up a lot,” Chugg admits. “We do think, ‘What would Rob do?’”
Chugg recounts meeting Potts for the first time nearly 40 years ago. “Someone told me there was a guy from Tasmania and I wanted to have a rave. Five hours later we were still having a rave,” he says with a laugh. “He got into rock ‘n’ roll. But there were certain evil empires around at the time which basically wiped out any opposition and he was one of them, then he got into country music. He did an amazing job.”
As a promoter and CEO of Entertainment Edge, Potts orchestrated Australian tours for some of the leading lights in U.S. country music including, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Alan Jackson, Florida Georgia Line, Toby Keith, Jason Aldean, Dixie Chicks and Zac Brown Band. “The big one was the first Brooks & Dunn tour,” notes Chugg. “We put it together and it was a monster. That started everything rolling.”
Potts also had the foresight to bring out a pre-superstar Taylor Swift for her first shows here back in 2009. “We were quite bummed when we didn’t get to do the next tour,” Chugg recalls, “but that’s another story.”
Through his long running partnership with Chugg Entertainment, Potts established the CMC Rocks festival brand across the CMC Rocks The Snowys, CMC Rocks The Hunter and now the CMC Rocks Qld event, which celebrated its 12th edition in March.
“When we came together to do CMC Rocks, we hung in and hung in. Country music was getting bigger.” Today, country music is a “very solid audience, a fast growing audience,” notes Chugg. “The amount of people in Australia under 25 now that go to concerts, it’s quite amazing. It’s just sad he’s not here to be a part of it.”
With the Ted Albert Award, Potts is elevated into an elite music industry circle that includes Michael Gudinski, Denis Handlin, the late Slim Dusty and Chugg.
“For me, I’ve had awards from around the world, just about every award you can win,” says Chugg, who was inducted in 2005. “The Ted Albert Award one was probably the most important one I ever received. It commemorates a guy who was really one of the formative characters of the Australian music industry and what Ted Albert did against the wishes against his family was incredible.
“For Rob to receive that award is really, really special. He would have received it sooner or later, but unfortunately he’s not here to enjoy it. It’s a pity he’s not here. But I’m sure he’s up there watching and he’s been covering our arses the last couple of years, that’s for sure.”