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Jeff Spevak interviews Bat McGrath about his final Rochester show

Bat McGrath/Facebook

Over the past decade, Bat McGrath and his wife, Tricia Cast, have made twice-yearly trips from their home on a Nashville mountainside to Rochester. McGrath played house concerts here, the Harmony House, the jazz festival, the Naples Grape Festival, The Little Theatre and, for the last few years, Lovin’ Cup Bistro & Brews. He also played Kodak Hall at Eastman Theater a handful of times, including a revival of Chuck Mangione’s “Friends and Love” concert, and twice at the Rochester Music Hall of Fame ceremony, including the year he and his old music partner, Don Potter, were inducted.

On Saturday, January 26, McGrath will play what he says is his final show here, a sold-out concert at the Lyric Theatre. And it will likely be his final show, period. Cancer has spread from McGrath’s colon to his liver. He has declined medical treatments that might extend his life for another 1½ years. He is intent on living out what will be the last couple of months of his life unencumbered by drugs and hospitals.

In the late 1960s and early ’70s, McGrath and Potter were the toasts of the local music scene. Their popular blues-rock band, The Showstoppers, was briefly romanced by the legendary Columbia Records producer John Hammond. Their coffeehouse on West Ridge Road, Hylie Morris’ Alley, was the hot club, where Chuck and Gap Mangione, Steve Gadd and Tony Levin would jam until 4 in the morning.

McGrath has had Nashville success. Wynonna Judd had a big hit with one of his songs, “Come Some Rainy Day.” Kenny Rogers included another of McGrath’s songs on one of his albums. But otherwise, McGrath has kept his distance from the Nashville song machinery. He may live in Nashville, but Rochester is his true home, sometimes reflected in his music. McGrath released his first solo album, From the Blue Eagle, in 1977. The Blue Eagle, celebrated in the title track, was a bar out Naples way.

Jeff Spevak has been a Rochester arts reporter for nearly three decades, with seven first-place finishes in the Associated Press New York State Features Writing Awards while working for the Democrat and Chronicle.