Tom Susala (Blue Watusis)

Wire gig Sept 2015 (004)_opt.jpg Wire gig Sept 2015 (004)_opt.jpg

By Joe Gagliardo

For some reason, the sound of bass always resonated with Tom as a kid, especially after he heard the Booker T & The MGs groove classic “Green Onions,” and was further driven home when he saw The Beatles. When he asked his parents if he could get a bass guitar, his mom suggested he would be better off with a 6-string guitar so that he could play chords and accompany himself, so in 1966, that’s what he did!

Fast forward to 1980, and a geographic move to the far North Side of Chicago which landed him in the proximity of the legendary blues club Biddy Mulligan’s, and that all changed.  Inspired by the blues, Tom went immediately purchased a 1974 Fender Precision Bass with a maple neck and a Peavy bass amp, and in short order, was the bass player in the group that rehearsed at the club.

That fateful decision to buy the P-bass drove Tom’s music career. Tom got his biggest boost working with Glenn Davis and the Blues Commission at various clubs in the Midwest. He became a staple of the Chicago Blues clubs, at jam sessions held at Blues Etc. on Chicago’s North Side as a member of the house band (which was Glenn Davis and the Blues Commission).

Glenn Davis and Blues Commission Glenn Davis and Blues Commission

Glenn Davis and Blues Commission

Tom has played with many Chicago blues luminaries including Hubert Sumlin, Son Seals, Studebaker John and the Hawks, Shirley King (BB’s daughter), Eddie “The Chief” Clearwater, Jimmy Dawkins, Jimmy Johnson, Rockin’ “Johnny” Burgin, Joe Moss, Liz Mandeville, Byther Smith, Dave Weld, and Brewer Phillips and Ted Harvey from Hound Dog Taylor’s Band.

Tom also did a tour with Blue Watusis, a group made up of veterans of the Chicago music scene. That band had one release with Tom on bass – Welcome to the House of Blues (1992).  That release is available

The Blue Watusis 1992… The Blue Watusis 1992…

The Blue Watusis 1992…

In the years 2005-2010, Tom was a member of the rock band Beatnik Turtle- a six-piece band that played original material. With Beatnik Turtle, Tom added his bass to two major projects. The first major undertaking was “The Song of the Day” – wherein the band wrote, recorded and uploaded to the web an original tune for a total of 365 compositions.  The second project was “Song of the Week” – where 52 original tunes were crafted weekly. Beatnik Turtle also recorded 20 CDs of original material featuring many tunes from the aforementioned projects. Information is available at:

Along with gigs in the Midwest, Tom has also worked at the 1995 Festival di Torino in Turin, Italy, 1995 Amsterdam Blues Festival, 1995-96 Tampa Bay Blues Festival, 1994 King Biscuit Blues Festival, and the 1995 Montreal Jazz Festival.

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Tom’s bass influences start with Duck Dunn. Tom considers Duck Dunn the “Gold Standard” and the template for his style. Other influences include:  James Jamerson, Hutch Hutchinson (Bonnie Raitt), Jerry Jemmot, George Porter and Ray Brown.

Tom’s “go-to” bass is a Fiesta Red Fender ’62 Precision bass American Reissue, with a Rosewood neck. He also has a 2017 Candy Apple Red Fender American Professional Precision bass, also with a Rosewood neck, a black-on-black Tony Franklin Fender Precision bass and a 2020 Fender American Professional Jazz bass. His amps of choice are Fender Rumble 500 or a Yorkville 200 Watt head run through a 1×15 and/or 4×10 cabinet – depending on the venue.

These days Tom is a part of the Blue Monday Band, and works on various projects in the Northern Illinois/Central-Southern Wisconsin area.

Check out Tom’s rock solid in the pocket bass playing:

Blue Watusis – “Chicago Breakdown” from “Welcome to the House of the Blues”

Beatnik Turtle – Live performance (June 9 2009 – Gallery Cabaret) of the song “Sick of Sandwiches” from the “All in a Day’s Work” CD

With Li’l Davy Max (David Janke) live performance of Long Distance Call at the Indian Crossing Casino, Waupaca, WI – 10/06/2017

Lil’ Davy Max Lil’ Davy Max

Lil’ Davy Max