Suzi Quatro, Pop Rock

‘Pioneer’, ‘trailblazer’, ‘queen of rock and roll’… these are all terms that have been used to describe the icon that is Suzi Quatro.  Bass player, songwriter, singer, actor, radio host, poet; there isn’t much that Quatro hasn’t done in her career that has spanned over 50 years, and she doesn’t plan on stopping any time soon.  Famously quoted as saying “I will retire when I go on stage, shake my ass and there is silence”, we’re delighted to say that judging by her talent, energy and loyal fan base, that doesn’t look likely to happen in the foreseeable future.

Born into a musical family as Susan Kay Quatro, her father was a semi professional musician who had his own jazz band called the Art Quatro Trio.  Suzi joined the band aged around seven years old, playing percussion on the bongos, however it was aged just six years old that Quatro had seen Elvis Presley on TV and was immediately inspired to become a performer.  The likes of Billy Holiday and Mary Weiss of the Shangri-Las also provided inspiration for Quatro, in a world where there were limited female role models in the music business – and even fewer in the rock music industry.  As well as percussion, Quatro was classically trained to play the piano, but she taught herself to play bass guitar when her sister Patti asked her to join her garage rock band, the Pleasure Seekers.   Initially formed as a quasi-female version of The Beatles, the band released a couple of singles and even had a short-lived contract with Mercury Records (who helped them release their second single), but their success was limited.

Quatro’s road to success began when she was spotted by record producer, Mickie Most, when he was invited to see Cradle – the Pleasure Seekers’ new name – perform by her brother (and Cradle’s manager of sorts), in 1971.  However, Suzi’s talent and potential as a solo artist was abundantly clear to Most and he was keen to help her launch her own solo career.   She was also on the radar of Elektra Records around the same time, who had offered to make her the next Janis Joplin, (who had died in 1970). However, keen to make her own stamp on the music world, Quatro moved to London to pursue a solo career under the management of Most and his record company Rak Records, leaving her sisters and family in Detroit.

After a year of living in London, perfecting her craft under the guidance of Most, Suzi Quatro emerged into the music scene of the 1970s.  Clad in a leather jumpsuit with her bass guitar slung low around her hips, Quatro was ready to take the music scene by the horns and turn some heads.  Her sound and image were perfect for the glam rock period of 1970s Europe, however her first single Rolling Stone only saw success in Portugal.  It was only when she began working with song writers Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, and touring with the likes of Thin Lizzy and Slade, did Quatro start to see success. Her second single Can The Can was a big hit, reaching number one in the singles charts across Europe and selling over a million copies.  This earned her a gold disc, as did her following singles, 48 Crash and Devil Gate Drive.  After this initial burst of triumph, it would be fair to say that Quatro’s chart success became somewhat muted, with her later records failing to make as much impact throughout the late 1970s and 1980s.  However, her grit and determination meant that Quatro has worked throughout her career, often expanding into different areas.  As well as continuing to write and record songs, Quatro collaborated with various other artists during the mid-late 1980s, including being part of the 1986 Children in Need single – a cover of David Bowie’s Heroes – and duetting with Reg Presley (from The Troggs) on a cover of Wild Thing.  Quatro also dipped her toe into acting – and following on from her recurring guest role as Leather Tuscadero in US sitcom Happy Days – she also guest starred in the likes of Minder, Dempsey and Makepeace, Midsomer Murders and even Absolutely Fabulous.  Quatro also took to the West End stage in the 1980s – starring as Annie in Annie Get Your Gun – and has more recently hosted various rock and roll series for Radio 2.  What’s more, Quatro even released a book of poetry in 2016.

However, despite exploring these different avenues, Quatro is a bass player at heart.  One of the few bassists that we’ve discussed here who actually started on bass and not on electric guitar, Quatro’s first bass was a 1957 Fender Precision, which was given to her by her father in 1964. She initially played this during her time in the Pleasure Seekers, but Quatro still uses this bass in her studio recordings today. She clearly holds it in high regard, referring to the model as “the Rolls Royce of bass” and “the real deal”.  However, Quatro is a bassist not afraid to try different styles and sounds, so she has used a broad range of basses over the years, including Hagstrom, Ibanez, Fender and various Gibson models.  She owned a Gibson Les Paul Professional Bass when she first moved to London, which featured in the video of Can The Can, and she used a Gibson EB2 on both her first and second albums.   Quatro also tried out the Gibson Ripper and Grabber models (the Ripper being her preference as she used it for three years), however in recent years she has moved on to play Status basses – including a red Status Stealth model; enjoying its ability to stay in tune during performances and its durability owing to its fibreglass neck.

A true pioneer who paved the way for female rock stars in the 1970s, Suzi Quatro was the first woman to front a rock band, sing lead vocals, play bass and write songs. In it for the long haul and always wanting to present her authentic self, Quatro continues to make music today, with her most recent album The Devil In Me released in 2021, pushing her total number of record sales to 55 million. Inspiring women all over the world, the likes of Tina Weymouth, Chrissy Hynde, Deborah Harry and KT Tunstall (we could go on) have all been quoted as being inspired by Quatro.   Her contribution to the music industry has rightly been recognised with numerous accolades, including being inducted into the Michigan Rock and Roll Legends Hall of Fame in 2011 and being presented with the Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award by her sister Patti at the Detroit Music Awards in 2013.  More recently, Quatro was awarded the Icon Award by the Women’s International Music Network in 2020, demonstrating that she continues to inspire future generations of women across the world.



Facts and links about Suzi Quatro

  1. Watch the official video of Quatro’s first hit, Can The Can here:
  2. During the Covid-19 lockdown, Quatro made a selection of her bass lines available online for free.
  3. Check out Quatro rocking a bass solo from a live performance in 1979 here:
  4. Quatro was offered the role of Leather Tuscadero in Happy Days without having to audition after the producer saw a poster of her on his daughter’s bedroom wall. Following her various guest appearances in the show, Quatro was offered a Leather Tuscadero spin off series, but she declined because she didn’t want to be typecast.
  5. On her latest album (The Devil in Me, 2021) Quatro collaborated with her son Richard Tuckey. See the official video of the title track here: