Artist: Mike Potter
Featured song: “Keeping Riley B. Alive”
• Parlour at Empty Bowls fundraiser, Central Oregon Community College Campus Center, 2600 NW College Way, Bend; noon, 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. Nov. 12; neighborimpact.org/get-involved/empty-bowls/
• Parlour at The Blacksmith Restaurant, 211 NW Greenwood Ave., Bend; 7 p.m. Nov. 14; free; bendblacksmith.com or 541-318-0588
Songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and Pacific Northwest native Mike Potter has been based in Bend for the last 12 years, after stints in California and Ohio. He is best known around town for his work wit h folk band Parlour, which has been performing for about five years. Before that, he released a solo CD, “The Turning,” in 2011. Though Parlour takes up most of his time, Potter said he’s itching to perform solo again, and has written enough new material for another album — including this song, “Keeping Riley B. Alive.”
Q: What’s the story inside this song — what’s it about?
A: Riley B. is the birth name of B.B. King. This song was inspired by reading the autobiography of B.B. King, which is a great book. And there’s a lot of great stories in the book, but this song is focused on the relationship between him and his father, Albert Lee King, which was fairly tumultuous — kind of on again, off again. So the song is actually from Albert Lee’s perspective; it’s a song to B.B. King. And the secret of their relationship, I guess, is that — like a lot of fathers, especially years back, B.B. King’s father had a hard time telling him what he thought of him. No compliments in front of him, not much of that. But B.B. King learned as he grew up that his dad was always bragging about him behind the scenes, and would show up at shows and not really tell him he was there. He was very proud of him. B.B. didn’t know that for quite a while, but did find it out later.
Q: What’s the story behind this song — how was it written, recorded, etc.?
A: It helped to read that book. I didn’t read the book thinking I’d get a song out of it, but the same time I was reading that book, I was messing around with Dobro and with some blues licks, and something that I thought, wow, I’d really like to write a song around this, and what could that song be? And then I thought, well, there’s got to be something from this autobiography that’d be perfect, and I was really pretty fascinated with the relationship between his dad and him, and so the song just came out of that. There was so much material that was in my head from the book that it was probably one of the easier lyric songs to write because all that was so fresh. I didn’t have to make anything up. I think it was a lot like the relationship I had with my dad. I think maybe it’s something generational, but my dad, who’s a wonderful guy, but he did not compliment you in front of you. So as you were growing up, you weren’t quite sure what he thought of you, but as you grew up, you sort of found out from your brothers and sisters or from friends or neighbors that, ‘Oh, your dad was really bragging about you the other day,’ about something you never thought he even noticed. I kind of grew up understanding that approach he took, and so for me as a father, then I thought, well, I’m gonna make sure I compliment my kids all along the way so they don’t have to discover that.
— Brian McElhiney, The Bulletin