Born Susan Kay Quatro on June 3, 1950, in Detroit, MI; married Len Tuckey (a musician), 1978 (divorced, 1992); married Rainer Haas (a concert promoter), c. 1993; children: two. Addresses: Office--British Broadcasting Corporation, Radio 2, Broadcasting House, London W1A 1AA, England. Website--Suzi Quatro Official Website: http://www.suziquatro.com.
American-born singer, songwriter, and bassist Suzi Quatro was one of the first female musicians to front her own band. Diminutive and blond, she sang and played a bass guitar nearly as tall as she was. "I was the first rock 'n' roll successful female who led a band of men and seriously played an instrument," she told Jennifer Selway in a 2002 interview for London's Express. "It hasn't been done since either." During the 1970s she was a massive success in Britain and Europe, enjoying a string of glam-rock hits that sold 45 million copies in all; three decades later she still had a cult following. Quatro, asserted Jane Hall of the Newcastle, England, Journal, "forged the standard to which all electric guitar-wielding females aspire to [sic] today."
Quatro was born Susan Kay Quatro on June 3, 1950, in Detroit, Michigan, and grew up in Grosse Pointe, a posh suburban lakefront community. Her father, Art, a jazz musician who led his own trio, gave Quatro her stage debut at the age of eight as a conga player with his act. She soon took up the piano, and by age 14 was part of the all-female band the Pleasure Seekers with her sisters Arlene and Patti. The group played at a Detroit-area teen club called the Hideout (which also gave fellow Detroiter Bob Seger his start), and recorded a 1966 single, "Never Thought You'd Leave Me" b/w "What a Way to Die," for a label launched by the club's owner. The single did well and attracted major-label interest. Signed to Mercury, Quatro and her sisters recorded "Light of Love," toured the United States, and even played for American troops in Vietnam. When Arlene dropped out of the band after having a baby, she was replaced by another Quatro sister, Nancy, and the band continued under the name Cradle.
The fifth Quatro sibling, Michael, became Cradle's manager, and he convinced legendary British music producer Mickie Most to see one of their shows. Most, in Detroit to work with the Jeff Beck Group at the legendary Motown Studios, had discovered the Animals and had produced hits for Donovan, Lulu, and Herman's Hermits (which included Rod Stewart at the time). He liked Quatro's energy and offered her a contract with his own recently launched label, RAK. Elektra Records was also interested at that point, but for Quatro the choice was clear. She told Hall, "According to the Elektra president, I could become the new Janis Joplin. Mickie Most offered to take me to England and make me the first Suzi Quatro--I didn't want to be the new anybody."
Quatro left Detroit and moved to England in late 1971. Her career took off slowly, and in her interview with Hall she described the first few years as "probably the hardest time of my life. I came over with one of my sisters but, after she went home, I felt very, very alone. I had no money ... and I was writing at the studio every day. I came home every night and cried myself to sleep because I was so lonely." Her first single, "Rolling Stone" tanked everywhere but in Portugal, where it rose to number one in 1972. Then Most teamed her with songwriting duo Nicky Chinn and Mike Chapman, who would go on to craft a number of bubblegum glam-rock classics of the era, including Sweet's "Ballroom Blitz." They wrote Quatro's first number-one British hit, "Can the Can," which also topped the charts in Europe, Japan, and Australia. It was included on her 1973 debut Suzi Quatro, along with her second hit, "48 Crash."
Chinn and Chapman wrote nearly all of Quatro's hit songs of that era, including her signature tune, "Devil Gate Drive," from 1974's Quatro. She recorded "The Wild One," and other classic Quatro gems for the LPs Your Mama Won't Like Me and Aggro Phobia. Her next effort, 1978's If You Knew Suzi, showed a more mature, soft-rock sound, and also yielded one of her few American chart successes, a country-tinged duet with singer Chris Norman called "Stumblin' In."
Quatro's American profile was boosted immensely, however, when she did a stint on Happy Days, one of the era's top-rated sitcoms. On the popular show, set in the 1950s, she played "Leather Tuscadero," a tough-talking, leather-catsuit-wearing character who proved so successful that ABC offered her a series of her own. She declined the offer. By then married to Len Tuckey, a guitarist in her band, Quatro instead settled into a sixteenth-century manor house in Essex, England. Their daughter was born in 1982, followed by a son two years later. She continued to record and tour, and appeared in two British television series. In 1986 she starred in the London stage revival of Annie Get Your Gun. Although her marriage to Tuckey ended in the early 1990s, a few years later she married Rainer Haas, a German concert promoter. In 2000 she became the host of a weekly radio show, Rockin' with Suzi Q on Britain's BBC Radio 2.
Quatro still tours occasionally, and compilations of her past hits, including the 2003 EMI release, What Goes Around, attest to her enduring appeal. In her later years Quatro claimed to have mellowed considerably from her tough rock-chick-persona days. "Sure, I've wrecked the odd hotel room and I can tell you I made a bloody good job of it," she confessed to Selway in the Express, "but that was years ago when I was under a lot of pressure."
by Carol Brennan
Suzi Quatro's Career
Began playing at age 14 with her sisters in a Detroit-area band called the Pleasure Seekers, c. 1964; released the single "Never Thought You'd Leave Me" b/w "What a Way to Die," 1966; signed to EMI; reformed band as Cradle, 1969; signed with British music producer Mickie Most's RAK label and recorded a string of U.K. hits, including "Can the Can" and "Devil Gate Drive"; had top-five U.S. hit in 1979 with "Stumblin' In"; appeared on the ABC sitcom, Happy Days, 1977-79; made London stage debut as the lead in Annie Get Your Gun, 1986.
- Selected discography
- Suzi Quatro Beat Goes On, 1973.
- Quatro Bell, 1974.
- Your Mama Won't Like Me Beat Goes On, 1975.
- Aggro Phobia RAK, 1977.
- If You Knew Suzi RSO, 1978.
- Suzi and Other Four-Letter Words RAK, 1979.
- Rock Hard Dreamland, 1980.
- Main Attraction Polydor, 1983.
- Live & Kickin' Alex, 1991.
- What Goes Around (compilation) EMI, 2003.
- Daily Mail (London, England), March 2, 1996, p. 46.
- Express (London, England), November 21, 2002, p. 28.
- Herald Sun (Melbourne, Australia), April 22, 2000, p. 110.
- Journal (Newcastle, England) December 31, 2003, p. 34.
- Sunday Herald Sun (Melbourne, Australia), January 5, 2003, p. 71.
- Times (London, England), September 11, 1999, p. 16.
- "Suzi Quatro," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (February 5, 2004).
- Suzi Quatro Official Website, http://www.suziquatro.com (February 2, 2004).