In the Mix With Kevin Suto
Feb 01, 2015 06:52PM ● Published by Jennifer Neys
By Paul Cotruvo
Life is always full of surprises. A few years ago, I became acquainted with Kevin Suto, lead guitar player with the country band, The Bell Brothers. I was always impressed with his technique and virtuosity. In other words, he is a monster guitar player, and, on top of that, an extremely nice gentleman. But what I didn’t know about Kevin is he also happens to be the CEO of Zachary’s Pizza. My all-time favorite pizza! I practically lived at the Rockridge location in my 20s and 30s. Well, this news was not only exciting to me, but made me want to know more about Kevin. As this is a music column, I will stick to music questions. So let’s find out a little more about the one and only, Kevin Suto.
PC: When did you first start playing guitar and why?
KS: I took up guitar in 9th grade in San Diego. The kids in the high school that I had recently moved to were really into the guitar rock of the day - bands like AC/DC, Van Halen, and Led Zeppelin. I met a couple of friends who had just started playing guitar, and music was pretty much all they ever talked about. I got obsessed with the idea of learning guitar after seeing a couple of local bands play at the high school. I was blown away by the dude with the big hair and flying V playing "Running with the Devil"! I got my first guitar that year, took some lessons, learned a few riffs and chords, and was on my way.
PC: Who are some of your influences?
KS: From the cradle, Elvis was a big-time influence. My dad had a few Elvis albums and a console record player in the basement. He had the early Elvis RCA records with the Jordanaires. Great stuff. “Heartbreak Hotel” is an amazing recording. My mom had a great collection of 45 singles from the 50s that we used to wear out. Unfortunately I used them as targets for hockey pucks one winter, and I had a pretty accurate shot. That did not go over well with the rest of the Suto clan. And who hasn't been influenced by the Beatles? My aunts and uncles were big fans and we used to sing along with the Beatles in the car. My first guitar teacher in Berkeley, Adam Grieffer was a British blues player. He got me to listen to Jeff Beck, Cream, and Albert King, and showed me the pentatonic scale. That is when things clicked for me, and I progressed rapidly. I started taking lessons from Joe Satriani, and he blew my mind on a weekly basis for several years. Eddie Van Halen was like a god to me, but I never attempted to try to play like him. My musical influences these days are more rooted in blues, blues-rock, and country rock. Albert King and Freddy King wrote the forward in my imaginary book of guitar playing. Clapton, Hendrix, Scotty Moore, James Burton, Pete Townshend, Eddie Van Halen, and Joe Satriani have all written chapters. I am also not ashamed to say KISS was a big influence on me! I think I know all of their songs, at least the ones written in the 70s. Ha! Maybe there is a tribute band in the future?
PC: Do you have a favorite musical moment of your career so far?
KS: I had the privilege to play with the Bell Brothers as a support act for Dwight Yoakam at the Salinas Rodeo a few years ago. There have been a lot of great times, but this was the peak thus far for me. The promoter was great - they gave us the mini rock star treatment. We had our own trailer and a cooler of PBR right behind the stage! We played a great set and were well received. We had a meet and greet with Dwight and watched his set from the side of the stage and had our picture taken with him as well. I will share a light-hearted moment from that night: Dwight put his arm around my shoulder and pulled down with great force while posing for the picture. I couldn't figure out why until I saw the picture itself - he had his arms around Russ and me, and with his big hat on he was the same height as the rest of us! Russ, Scott, and I are all comfortably over 6 feet tall, and so was Dwight at that point! His set killed. Dwight is a pro's pro.
PC: If you were a song, what would it be and why?
KS: Wow, is this a Super Bowl media day question or what? That is a tough one. How about "Chicken Fried", by the Zac Brown Band? The song hits the mark on several fronts. I love to cook (and eat) great food! I wear jeans every day, though they don't always fit just right! He touches on humble roots in his hometown, the love of his family, and appreciation of our country. I also like a cold beer on a Friday night; I can sometimes be found enjoying an after-work beer at the Pleasant Hill Zachary's on Friday nights about 8pm. Stop on by, say hi, and raise your glass for a toast!
Kevin and The Bell Brothers will be a part of this year’s Come Together 5 show on February 27, at the Pleasant Hill Community Center, 320 Civic Drive. Show time is 7:30pm, $20 per person. Along with The Bell Brothers, performers include: Clambake (Ken Cooper & David Martin), Frankie G., Jim Caroompas & The Sisters of No Mercy, Dangerfall, Kymber Starmack, Colton Waters & The New Sensations, 2:am, Side Street, Dierdre Nelis & Friends. If you have ever been to one of these shows, you are already aware that this is one of the best events of the year. Plus, you just never know who might show up for a song or two. Get your tickets on Eventbrite. For more information, contact the Pleasant Hill Rec & Park.
Paul’s picks for February:
February 12: Lorin Rowan & Ken Emerson, Armando’s, 707 Marina Vista, Martinez, 8pm
February 22: The Sunday Paper, Armando’s, 707 Marina Vista, Martinez, 4pm
February 27: Come Together 5, Pleasant Hill Community Center, 320 Civic Dr., 7:30pm
February 28: Fleetwood Mask, Dan’s Bar, 1524 Civic Drive Walnut Creek, 10pm