San Diego's Queen of Boogie Woogie, Sue Palmer, has amazed audiences all over the world with her unique style and phenomenal left hand.


The Motel Swing Orchestra, Gator By the Bay, 2018

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Sue Palmer, known world wide as the Queen of Boogie Woogie, has had a long and varied career as a piano player, but these last 2 years have shown that she is not resting on her laurels. 2017 proved to be one of the busiest of Sue's career, both internationally and at home: She performed in The Netherlands, with the United by Music group, travelled to Russia to play with The Jumping Cats, and went to Argentina with bandmate April West, as "La Reina de Boogie Woogie," to play with Tango and swing musicians. Performances in San Diego included The Gator by the Bay Festival with her own crack band, The Motel Swing Orchestra, as well as gospel star Gino Walker and Texas piano player Marcia Ball, jazz festivals in San Diego and Pismo Beach, and sold out shows with Swedish phenom Gunhild Carling. In 2018, she released GEMS volume 1, a retrospective album of her 40 year career and was chosen to be in the premier induction of the San Diego Music Hall of Fame. Her "Gems" album, as well as her Motel Swing Orchestra were both nominated for 2019 San Diego Music Awards (for Best Blues Album and Best Jazz Band). She continues to do Boogie Woogie shows with the top practitioners in the world (Sonny Leyland, Wendy Dewitt, Deanna Bogart, Steve Lucky, et al) and recently launched a podcast "The Motel Swing Happy Hour KSUE Radio San Diego". (, Spotify, Google Play, iTunes )

Best known for her beehive-wearing stint with blues diva Candye Kane in the '90's, Sue 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 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).

"Her legs bowed intently, the laughter dancing above her fingertips, like a pool shark she is right on the money. Madame Palmer sets free the walking bass and the eight to the bar so inherent in this style of music. This musician possesses all the secrets of Boogie Woogie."

Le Monde, Paris, 1997

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

Hadda Brooks and Sue. Photo by Montgomery Drysdale

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 Jubil ee, Mammoth Jazz Jubilee (2005-2010), San Diego Thanksgiving Jazz festival (2008-2017), Ocean Beach Jazz festival (2007), Pismo Beach Jazz Jubilee (2015-17),  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.

Marcia Ball and Sue

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, 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.

Candye Kane and Sue

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 aw ard winning jazz and blues station, KSDS Jazz 88.3FM,, she snagged a great interview with San Diego's jazz icon Jeannie Cheatham. (See the Links page). In 2016, Sue and the band recorded "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.


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