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Rockstar Suzi Quatro gifts new bass guitar to Chelmsford Museum

Chelmsford Museum has acquired an exciting new object to add to its 20th century collection – a black bass guitar recently gifted by living legend Suzi Quatro. The guitar has been selected as Object of the Month for January 2024, alongside a pink bass guitar owned by the rockstar and previously displayed at the museum.

Suzi Quatro signing a black five-string bass guitar
Suzi Quatro signs the black five-string bass guitar gifted to Chelmsford Museum.

Chelmsford local and rock icon

Suzi Quatro is an American glam rockstar with a career spanning an astonishing 60 years. She was the first female bass guitarist to become a major rockstar; fronting her own band, achieving chart hits such as ‘Can the Can’ and ‘Devil Gate Drive’, and selling more than 55 million records to date.

Having first performed in 1964 at the age of 14, she continues to present sell-out shows and huge world tours today, at the age of 73.

In the 1980s, Suzi moved to Chelmsford and has made the district her home ever since, raising her family here and using it as a peaceful base to return to after time on the road.

Two of Suzi’s signed bass guitars have been chosen as Object of the Month for January by Councillor Marie Goldman, Deputy Leader of Chelmsford City Council and Cabinet Member for a Connected Chelmsford, after the local rockstar visited the museum last week and gifted a new guitar for its collections.

Suzi Quatro and Councillor Goldman at Chelmsford Museum
Suzi Quatro (left) and Councillor Goldman (right) stand in front of the black five-string bass guitar donated to Chelmsford Museum by the local rockstar.

Pink paisley Fender returned to legend’s personal collection

The first bass guitar, a four-string Fender with a pink paisley design, had been displayed in the 20th Century gallery at the museum since 2017. The gallery also features one of Suzi’s famed leather jumpsuits – which became her signature outfit when on stage.

Suzi Quatro pink paisley guitar
Suzi Quatro's pink paisley bass guitar, previously displayed at Chelmsford Museum.

Suzi first saw and fell in love with the pink paisley Fender at a music shop in Nashville, USA, where she’d been recording a tribute song to Elvis Presley alongside vocal quartet The Jordanaires, and guitarist James Burton. But she was unable to transport it back to the UK and so didn’t buy it. On returning to the UK just days later, Suzi came across the same model in a music shop in London and knew she had to purchase it.

Suzi Quatro pink paisley guitar signed
A closer image of the pink paisley bass, showing Suzi's signature.

Calling it her ‘good luck charm’ the guitarist made a special request to return the Fender bass to her personal collection. Chelmsford Museum agreed to this request and accepted in return a Sterling by Music Man black five-string bass.

Suzi’s black five-string bass gifted to Chelmsford Museum

Suzi Quatro's black five-string bass guitar
Suzi Quatro's black five-string bass guitar on display at Chelmsford Museum.

Suzi used the newly installed five-string bass in 2006, while recording her ‘Back to the Drive’ album. During recording of the album, a low ‘B’ note was required, which isn’t possible to produce on a four-string bass. So, producer Andy Scott acquired the five-string bass for recording the album and subsequently gave it to Suzi. The bass will remain in the 20th century collection, after Suzi permanently gifted it to Chelmsford Museum.

The neck of Suzi Quatro's black bass guitar
The head of Suzi Quatro's black bass guitar.

During her visit Suzi spoke about her long career and legacy as one of the most successful female bass guitarists of all time:

“This is now my 60th year in the business, I started when I was 14 and I’m 73 now. I’m having more fun now than I ever had – two-hour solo shows, I just did four big gigs last year. Later this year I’ve got my 38th tour of Australia. It’s joyous, I’ve never really worked as I love my job.

“Although there have been female musicians all the time, I was the first one to play an instrument and front a rock ‘n’ roll band and have success, so that’s my legacy."

Suzi Quatro

Councillor Marie Goldman says she chose the guitars for Object of the Month as they have a personal significance to her, having played bass guitar herself as a teenager. She also highlights the appeal of recent objects to visitors exploring Chelmsford’s history:

“I chose Suzi’s bass guitar as my Object of the Month as it’s the item I can honestly most relate to in the whole museum. I used to play bass guitar myself. It played a big role in my teenage years, and it still occupies a special place in my heart. So, it’s truly wonderful for me seeing rock legends and well-travelled people like Suzi choosing to make Chelmsford their home.

“I also chose this as I strongly feel that museums shouldn’t just be about very old objects – as a community, we are continuously creating new objects that play a special role in our contemporary history. History is instantaneous and constantly being created. I think it’s important that relatively new objects are treasured alongside the ancient ones – a reminder that as much as we look back, we have plenty of history yet to come. I often wonder what will come next and what future generations will choose as their favourite objects from our era.”

Councillor Marie Goldman, Deputy Leader of Chelmsford City Council and Cabinet Member for a Connected Chelmsford

The museum’s Object of the Month is posted on their social media channels, usually on the first Saturday of the month. Follow their pages to hear from staff and local people on the objects that inspire them.

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Cherelle Nightingill
Cherelle Nightingill

Cherelle writes about Chelmsford Theatre, Hylands Estate, Chelmsford Museum, the Mayor of Chelmsford and culture and events in the city.