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Tedeschi has always been musically inclined, and made her debut public performance as a six-year old understudy in a Broadway musical. Also, she sang for family members and listened to her father’s record collection of old vinyl recordings, like Mississippi John Hurt and Lightning Hopkins. Raised as a Catholic, she found little inspiration in the church choir, and so attended predominantly African-American Baptist churches, feeling the music was “less repressed and more like a celebration of God.” She has played in bands since the age of 13. At the age of 18, she formed her first all-original group, The Smokin’ Section, in the nearby town of Scituate, Massachusetts.
Tedeschi attended the Berklee College of Music where she sang in a Gospel choir. She performed show tunes on the Spirit of Boston and received her Bachelor of Music degree in musical composition and performance at age 20. During that time, she began sitting in on blues jams at local venues and immersed herself in the Boston music scene.
Tedeschi formed the Susan Tedeschi Band in 1994, featuring Tom Hambridge and Adrienne Hayes. In 1995 her then boyfriend, Boston musician Tim Gearan taught Tedeschi how to play blues guitar. It was then she really began to hone her skills on the instrument.
In 1999, Tedeschi played several dates in the all-woman traveling festival, the Lilith Fair, organized by Sarah McLachlan. Throughout 1998 and 1999 she toured extensively throughout the United States and drew larger crowds.
Eventually Tedeschi was opening for John Mellencamp, B.B. King, Buddy Guy, The Allman Brothers Band, Taj Mahal and Bob Dylan. In 2000, Just Won’t Burn reached Gold record status for sales of 500,000 in the United States, rare for a blues production. She recorded two tracks with Double Trouble band members Chris Layton and Tommy Shannon for their album.
She opened for The Rolling Stones in 2003 and played in huge venues, gaining national exposure. Somewhat surprisingly, the gig wasn’t financially lucrative. According to Tedeschi,
“They pay, but it’s not great. I don’t make any money ’cause I’ve got to pay all my sidemen. I’ll be lucky if I break even.”
In 2004, Tedeschi was featured on the PBS show Austin City Limits, flanked by William Green, on Hammond organ, Jason Crosby, playing keyboards, violin, and vocals, bassist Ron Perry, and Jeff Sipe, on drums. The performance was extremely well received.
Susan Tedeschi’s voice has been described as a blend of Bonnie Raitt and Janis Joplin, which she maintains is not surprising given that both have been her influences. Her guitar playing is influenced by Buddy Guy, Johnny “Guitar” Watson, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Freddie King and Doyle Bramhall II.
In 2001, she married Allman Brothers Band slide guitarist Derek Trucks, who is bandleader and lead guitarist of The Derek Trucks Band.
Tedeschi, with her powerful vocals and Trucks on guitar complement one another, and have toured together frequently under the name “Soul Stew Revival”. This includes the members of The Derek Trucks Band, the members of Susan Tedeschi’s band, and other musicians who travelled with them, including Trucks’ younger brother, drummer Duane Trucks. In 2008, they added a three-piece horn section.
In 2010, both Susan Tedeschi and her husband Derek Trucks announced a hiatus for their respective solo bands, and formed a new group called Tedeschi Trucks Band. The group performed at a number of festivals including Eric Clapton’s Crossroads Guitar Festival, Fuji Rock Festival and others. Unlike their previous collaborative project – Derek Trucks & Susan Tedeschi’s Soul Stew Revival – the Tedeschi Trucks Band focuses on writing and performing original material, and is the focus of both Trucks and Tedeschi for the foreseeable future.
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