Bill Potts Dies

Composer, arranger and educator Bill Potts died of cardiac arrest Feb.16 at the age of 76 in Plantation, Fla.

Potts is perhaps best known for his score of The Jazz Soul of Porgy and Bess (1959) and his impromptu work with Lester Young that produced songs like “A Foggy Day” and “I Can’t Get Started.”

Potts wrote Jazz Soul when he was 30 as a jazz interpretation of Gershwin standards. The piece featured artists like Harry Edison, Zoot Sims, Charlie Shavers and Billy Evans. Potts wrote the arrangements for Jazz Soul while recuperating from a car accident that left him in a body cast for months.

Over his long career, Potts also collaborated with artists like Paul Anka, Ella Fitzgerald, Quincy Jones and Buddy Rich.

Born on April 3, 1928, Potts was largely a self-taught musician who began playing music after his father gave him a Hawaiian guitar. After switching to accordion, he won a talent contest at 15 for playing “Twilight Time.” When he was in high school in Arlington, Va., he heard Count Basie on his house radio, which he described as his musical awakening.

By the early 1950s, Potts had been on the road as a professional musician and began to seriously study composition while transcribing musical charts for the Army Band in Washington. Potts also became a part of THE Orchestra.

Potts is survived by his daughter Christi Desky, sisters Virginia Stafford and Janet Potter, brother Robert Potts and two granddaughters.