Waiting on Texas Scratch - Jim Suhler with friends Buddy Whittington and Vince Converse
from Buddy Magazine - April 2013
Waiting on Texas Scratch
Jim Suhler’s collaboration with friends Buddy Whittington and Vince Converse is due for release later this year.
by Dana Jones, photo by Chuck Flores
I’VE GOT LOTS OF IRONS IN LOTS OF FIRES. It’s hard to say ‘no’; sometimes it’s hard to find balance and make room for things I want to do. But I love to play and I love to work and get to do both.” Dallas blues mainstay Jim Suhler’s longevity in the music business indicates he’s doing something very right.
The Dallas native has been a fixture in and all over the national
blues scene for years. He has worn and still wears many hats in the Blues industry, some with his own projects, some with others. Besides years of touring, writing and performing with his own band Monkey Beat, since 1999 he’s handled the lead rhythm guitar duties with George Thorogood & the Destroyers, and has just finished another tour with him.
He will be making a return appearance at the 36th Annual Dallas International Guitar Festival, to be held April 19, 20, and 21, 2013 at Dallas Market Hall.
His guitar collection includes: 2006 Fender Stratocaster Custom
Shop Red Sparkle Stratocaster, a 1975 Fender Stratocaster (slide). 1972 Fender Telecaster Thinline (slide), 2002 Charley’s Custom Telecaster, 1931 National Duolian Resonator (slide), 1965 Harmony, 1952 Regal Milwaukean Lap Steel (slide), 2000 Gibson SG (slide), 2010 Gibson Les Paul Custom Gold Top, 1995Epiphone Riviera, and a 2000 Gibson S-J 200 acoustic.
Suhler is content with his very busy life, whether touring with band mates, or just doing his own thing. He seems to thrive on mentoring, collaborating with and helping along quality fellow and up and coming artists.
Suhler is always happy to appear at the annual guitar show, and thoroughly enjoys being able to act as a liaison of sorts for new artists and for those who have been “under the radar.” “There are some really outstanding newcomers out there. There’s Eric Gayles. There’s also a young band from Irving called The Peterson Brothers who are really great.” The Peterson Brothers were awarded winners of “Best Blues Group” in the 18 and Under category at Austin’s South by South West. It’s not surprising that Suhler would be so interested in helping others. He’s grateful for the help and encouragement he received along the way.
Suhler grew up in the Lakewood area, and began playing guitar at 14. He knew then without a doubt that exposure to music, in which the top 40 music being played at the time was heavily featuring the British Invasion bands. Next came the more southern rock type influences, and finally his immersion into hear Texas guitar talents such as the Vaughan Brothers, Bugs Henderson and Anson Funderburgh. He played in a variety of cover bands and backed others artists for a time. But, it was seeing and meeting legendary artist Son Thomas for the first time that cemented his decision to be a bluesman.
He played in several more bands, during which time he also did a three-year stint as DJ with a three hour Tuesday night blues show at KNON. In 1991, while playing with The Homewreckers, blues/rock icon George Thorogood heard him for the first time and their longtime friendship was born. After The Homewreckers split up, Suhler formed Monkey Beat with drummer Paul Hollis and bassist Carlton Powell. They recorded and released their first
and second CDs with Thorogood’s producer/engineer on Lucky Seven records. The band did several tours opening for Thorogood and the Destroyers, with Thorogood really helping promote Monkey Beat with shared interviews and record store appearances. And, while keeping Monkey Beat intact, in 1999 Suhler joined the band and continues with the Destroyers as lead/rhythm guitar as well as often a co-writer.
Another of his more recent favorites is Jason Elmore, who along with Carolyn Wonderland, Ray Benson of Asleep at the Wheel, and Kim Wilson will all make appearances on Suhler’s newest project. “We’ve recorded enjoying playing together. Jason and I have a really nice synchronicity between the two of us. We’ve been doing some writing together and I really like what we’re coming up with.” There isn’t really a projected date on this one “It’s a busy year, but I’m always happy if I’m busy.”
Folks like Elmore, Hunter Hendrickson, and Mothership inspire Suhler to stay on his toes. There are a lot of bands out there, but not a lot of places to play. Suhler feels he was lucky to get started in the era he did. There were lots of venues, especially in the Dallas area, to hone the craft and make some money while doing it. “I got into this on the gravy train, when there were lots of places to play and money to be made. But I still believe that the cream will always rise to the top. It really takes determination and a lot of hard work. Back then the economy was better, and there was no internet to hear live music on. The audience is different now.” Suhler has seen his audiences grow older and more responsible, especially with the changes in the drinking and driving laws as the years have continued on. “ T h e y ’ r e choosing to spend their dollars more wisely, and not drinking and driving so much any more. It’s not a bad thing, in fact, that’s a good thing, but it means you have to work that much harder to earn their time and money.”
Suhler feels his longevity and success have much to do with his work ethic, modeled after an icon he admired who became his friend, the late Bugs Henderson. “His work ethic and approach were that of a musician’s musician. He worked hard, never compromised, and always did things his way.” It seemed to work well for Henderson, and Suhler has found it to be a key to his own success.
Besides the current project, a new release is on the horizon. Texas Scratch is a completed CD project slated for release this year. Suhler, along fellow artist friends Vince Converse and Buddy Whittington completed the collaboration sometime back. “It’s a great record, I’m ready for it to be out, I want it to be heard.”
It wasn’t the normal experience when heading to the studio for this one. Suhler will never forget their eclectic and unique location. They recorded Texas Scratch at Showplace Studios in New Jersey, which was located in the back of a building. The front was a strip club called the Showplace Go-Go Lounge. Russian dancers were bussed in to perform each day, giving it sort of a “mob feel” Suhler decided to take a break from the recording one day and grabbed a
drink at the lounge. He was immediately approached by working girls. He didn’t stick around long, but left the lounge with another good story under his belt.
After recording was completed, the trio headed to Canada for a few festival dates together. They’d hoped to have the disc to the public while together, but Suhler is just glad it will release this year. He won’t be hard to find to grab one when it does. Between the Destroyer tours, Monkey Beat (which now includes keyboardist Shawn Phares and drummer Beau Chadwell) shows, festivals, local gigs across the country, sitting in with or just listening to some of his local favorites, Jim Suhler will continue to be a player and promoter of blues at its finest.