Best known for her beehive-wearing stint with blues diva Candye Kane in the '90's, Sue Palmer has been making her mark in the last decade with her high energy band, the Motel Swing Orchestra, and her flashy boogie woogie stylings. Wearing a couple of pounds of big cocktail rings on each hand, she wails through a very complete blues keyboard vocabulary like the veteran she is. She has performed with many of the legends of the boogie genre, playing double piano with Marcia Ball, Hadda Brooks, Sonny Leyland, Steve Lucky, Jeannie Cheathem, Ricky Nye, Mr. Boogie Woogie (from the Netherlands), Mike Seeley, Caroline Dahl, Wendy Dewitt, Lisa Otey, Doña Oxford, Deanna Bogart, Silvan Zingg (Switzerland), Janie-Noele Helies (France), Elena Tourbina (Russia) and Jan Preston (New Zealand). Sue, known widely as San Diego's Queen of Boogie Woogie, has been honored by her city for her cultural contributions by having a day named after her (March 25th, 2008), played at the Arches Piano Stage in Cinncinnatti (2008), won the International Blues Challenge in Memphis for Best Self Produced CD 2008 ("Sophisticated Ladies") from the Blues Foundation, won numerous San Diego Music Awards for her albums and bands, including Best Blues Album 2010 for her first solo piano album "After Hours," and in December 2010, won the "Jim Croce Award for Excellence and Dedication to Music, 2010," from his widow, Ingrid Croce. Jan/Feb 2010 brought her a stint as Musical Director for the world premiere of Candye Kane's play, "Toughest Girl Alive," at Moxie Theatre in San Diego. The show played to sold out crowds and rave reviews, and included one of Sue's own compositions (with Kane), Highway of Tears (vocal version of Blue and Tan).
For ten years, Sue was the musical partner of singer/recording artist Candye Kane. They toured France and most of Europe, including Scandinavia, Greece, and Turkey. Their travels also took them to Reunion Island, Canada, Australia, and all over the U.S. Under the moniker Sue "Beehive" Palmer with Candye Kane and the Swingin' Armadillos, she appeared on the Penn & Teller Show and the Roseanne Show, where Sue acted as the talk show band leader (1999). Sue is a featured artist on all four of Kane's CDs under the Antones and Sire labels. Sue's instrumental composition "Beehive" was featured on Kane's "Diva La Grande" CD, and Sue and Candye co-wrote the title tune on Kane's CD "Swango." "Swango" is also featured in the documentary "The Girl Next Door," a biography of porn star Stacy Valentine produced by National Public Radio's Christine Fugat in 2000.
Sue has appeared onstage and/or recorded with Lou Ann Barton, Sue Foley, Teddy Morgan, Lavelle White, Kim Wilson, Marcia Ball, Toni Price, The Paladins, Roy Gaines, Rosie Flores, Big Sandy and the FlyRite Boys, Dave Alvin, Cesar Rosas (Los Lobos), Earl Thomas, Del Rey, Lea Delaria, Pussy Tourette, Buddy Blue, Rod Piazza & the Mighty Fliers, Walter Wolfman Washington, and the Subdudes. Sue backed up Floyd Dixon on a compilation album to Tom Waits, "New Coat of Paint." She has been included in the "Queens of Boogie Woogie" Show in Berkeley, CA, at the Freight & Salvage, in 2001-2004. Sue Palmer & Her Motel Swing Orchestra appeared in the San Diego Blues Festival 2002, Sacramento Jazz Jubilee, Mammoth Jazz Jubilee (2005-2010), San Diego Thanksgiving Jazz festival (2008-2010), Ocean Beach Jazz festival (2007) and numerous festivals throughout the years in San Diego. Highlighting her lifetime favorite performances was a Boogie Woogie Extravaganza honoring the original Queen of the Boogie, 85 year old singer songwriter pianist Hadda Brooks... who joined Sue, along with Bay area favorite Wendy Dewitt and Frenchman Philippe Lejeune at San Diego's Dizzy's. That was Hadda's next to last performance. She died November 21st, 2002.
Called "intoxicating and illuminating," Sue's new solo piano album "After Hours" won for Best Blues Album at the San Diego Music Awards, September 2010. Sue performed with the Queens of Boogie Woogie at the Ocean Beach Music Festival 2010, with Lisa Otey, Doña Oxford, and Wendy Dewitt (pictured here with Marcia Ball), to an SRO crowd. In 2011, Sue toured for 2 months to Paris, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands, with the great Candye Kane Band and was again musical director for her play "Toughest Girl Alive," at the Manhattan Fringe Fest. Sue's crack band had the honor of backing up the great blues singer, Tracy Nelson at the San Diego Blues Festival and continues to make the dancers in San Diego, and wherever else they perform, "slaves to the dance floor." 2014 has included Boogie Woogie tours to the Bay area in California, Silvan Zingg's International Boogie Woogie Festival in Lugano, Switzerland, and a tour to Georgia for the Motel Swing Orchestra for the Americana Blues Festival on Saint Simon's Island. Sue was also the band leader for a 10 piece all woman blues revue for San Diego's Gator by the Bay Festival: "Ladies Shoes Blues Revue." This show, featuring Deanna Bogart on sax and Carmen Getit on guitar, was the highlight of the whole 4 day festival. Sue Palmer & Her Motel Swing Orchestra were also privileged to play at the 2014 Jazz Festivals in Sun Valley and San Diego, 2014.
2015 was a stellar year for the Motel Swing Orchestra with a new album "Bricktop," some great performances at the Gator By the Bay Festival, San Diego Blues Festival, Pismo Beach Jazz Festival, and the Thanksgiving San Diego Jazz Festival, as well as many others. The Orchestra continues to be "a brick wall of swingin' sound." In Sue's capacity as a DJ for San Diego's award winning jazz and blues station, KSDS Jazz 88.3FM, www.jazz88.org, she snagged a great interview with San Diego's jazz icon Jeannie Cheatham. Sue continues to rock the boogie woogie world with her court of Queens of Boogie Woogie (this year with Deanna Bogart, Wendy Dewitt, and Lady Bianca).
2016 has proved to be an exciting year professionally, with another live album, "The Thunderbird Sessions," showcasing the Motel Swing Orchestra, both aurally and visually, with a CD and eight videos. Sue also travelled to the Netherlands to play for Candye Kane's longtime project, United By Music, working with developmentally disabled young adult musicians for their 10th anniversary.
Sadly, Sue's longtime music partner and friend, Candye Kane, passed away in May, 2016. R.I.P. Candye Kane. Read more and listen to some of Sue's favorite Candye Kane songs.