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Steve Suffet
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Railroad Bill
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Steve Suffet performing the traditional American folk song 'Railroad Bill' at the Jacob's Ladder Folk Festival, Nof Ginosar, Israel, 2007.
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Born Stephen Lawrence Suffet in 1947, Steve Suffet is best described as an old fashioned folksinger. His repertoire is a mixture of railroad songs, trucker songs, cowboy songs, union songs, old time ballads, blues, ragtime, Gospel, bluegrass, topical-political songs, and whatever else tickles his fancy. He takes songs from whatever sources he wishes and then he sings them his own way, maybe rewriting the lyrics on the spot, flatting a 7th, or changing a major key to a mountain modal.

Steve also writes his own songs, sometimes set to the tunes of traditional folk songs, but more often set to tunes he has composed in traditional styles. Some of Steve's songs have appeared in The Folk Process section of Sing Out! magazine over the years. Others can be found in The Digital Tradition on-line folk song database.

In the 1960s, Steve appeared at several of the legendary Broadside hoots in New York City and was a guest on Izzy Young's radio program on WBAI-FM. Back then Steve also played the Interlude coffee house in Kew Gardens, Queens, the Abmaphd in Uniondale, Long Island, and various pass-the-basket houses in Greenwich Village. Steve then left the organized folk scene for nearly 30 years, playing instead at political rallies and demonstrations, campgrounds, schools, day care centers, weddings, parks, pubs, and pick-up jam sessions.

Steve returned to the folk scene when invited to appear at a Sis Cunningham Tribute Concert in New York City in 1997. Since then he has played gigs all around the New York metro area, including the Nuyorican Poets' Cafe, the South Street Seaport, Sun Music Company, CB's 313 Gallery, the Yippie Museum Cafe, the Bowery Poetry Club, the Jalopy Theatre, the Good Coffee House, and the Peoples' Voice Cafe. In addition, Steve has been featured on the Songs of Freedom and on the Horses Sing None of It cable television programs, has appeared in the Songs of the Spirit program at the Clearwater Hudson River Revival, has performed at the New England Folk Festival and at the NOMAD Folk Festival, and has led workshops for the People's Music Network, the Folk Music Society of NewYork, the Philadelphia Folk Song Society, the Folklore Society of Greater Washington, and the Richmond Folk Music Society. He has also appeared at the Jacob's Ladder Folk Festival in Israel.

From 2003 until it dissolved in 2008 following the death of its musical director Eric Levine, Steve was a member of the folk group MacDougal Street Rent Party, although he also continued to perform individually. Steve still often appears with former band members, especially with Anne Price. Steve and Anne made a whirlwind tour of the United Kingdom in 2008, and they returned for their second and third tours in 2010 and 2012. Steve has since returned to the UK three more times to tour on his own, and he hopes to continue to do so annually.

Photo credit: Jody Kolodzey
Why this name?
It's my name.
Do you play live?
Yes, anywhere I can.
How, do you think, does the internet (or mp3) change the music industry?
The new technology makes music more accessible worldwide. For example, you can purchase my CDs on line from the CD Baby website. The web address for my CD Baby page is
Would you sign a record contract with a major label?
It ain't gonna happen!
Band History:
As a little kid I carried a harmonica in my back pocket, and I took it out mostly to annoy people. I started playing guitar in high school, and about a year or two later I started to perform at coffee houses.
Your influences?
Major influences: traditional folk music, topical-political folk music, old time country music, Joe Hill, Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, Cisco Houston, plus, most important of all, musical friends throughout my life, including Pete Seeger, Sis Cunningham, and Jean Ritchie, but also including lots of less known people, such as Anne Price and the late Eric Levine.
Favorite spot?
New York City, but I also love the Hudson River Valley and almost anywhere in New England, especially up in the woods and mountains of Vermont and New Hampshire. And the United Kingdom is a great place to visit. I wish I could afford to get there more often.
Equipment used:
Martin guitar, Vega banjo, Hohner harmonicas, and an Appalachian style dulcimer manufactured in Romania, of all places. Go figure!
Anything else...?
I am proud to be a member of Local 1000, American Federation of Musicians, AFL-CIO. Solidarity forever!
Steve Suffet. From painting by Joe Matunis.
Steve at Bowery Poetry Club. NYC 2007.
Steve at El Puente. Brooklyn NY 2008.
Steve with Pete Seeger + Anne Price. NYC 2009.
Steve with Anne Price. NYC 2010.
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