BMHOF Class of 2013
Ed Supple is a musician who, partly through circumstance and partly by design, has had a long career “under the radar” in the music business.
At a very young age, Ed was teaching himself to play guitar. Times being what they were, there were very few resources for a young man to learn to play guitar. Supple never had the benefit of what is available today. Facebook, Myspace and YouTube didn’t exist. You couldn’t tape a TV show and watch a guy’s hands over and over, or go find it on YouTube. He learned how to play from watching people onstage and meeting and talking to other performers around him.
Ed’s older brother also loved music and had a paper-route that funded their ever-growing record collection. Living in Niagara Falls, New York he and his brother would walk across the bridge to Canada with their paper route money and buy British imports not available in the US. Even in his early years of listening to music he was hearing the connections between types of music rather than the differences.
Ed and his brother also went to see as many live shows as they could. One moment that Ed will be forever grateful was getting to meet Jimi Hendrix after a show. Ed spoke with him for a few minutes and shook his hand. When Ed currently talks with young players he tells them this story and shakes their hand, which makes for some wide-eyed, happy and inspired kids.
Ed took lessons at different times from truly great players. He began developing formidable right and left-hand techniques by the time he pursued more formal training with Lenny Breau, Tony DiCaprio and Ted Greene, among others. They inspired him to develop these unique approaches further, including the five-finger, right-hand “Suppling” technique named for him.
During the 1960’s, Niagara Falls and the surrounding Western New York area produced some really fine guitar players, many of whom left the area for successful careers in Los Angeles. One of those players was Tommy Tedesco; a studio player and member of the group of session players known as the “Wrecking Crew”. Ed met Tommy through family and friends at a time when he was young and forming his own ideas about his musical career. Through Tommy, Ed learned that there was a side of making music that didn’t involve the high profile andpressure of being a front man. Tedesco also taught him the art of survival under the microscope of an LA studio long before Ed had made his move to LA.
Wanting to learn as much as he could about the financial and marketing side of the music industry, Ed took a job in the retail end that gave him access to all styles of music.On the upside, he often heard records that were either very limited in their release or never officially released to the public. On the downside, he saw that the people making the decisions were destroying the music itself in favor of creating “stars”. Along with the lessons learned from Tommy Tedesco, this experience influenced his decision to pursue music in a low-profile way. He didn’t want to be a “rock star” if it required him to work under the terms he saw before him in the business.
He would make the move to LA and become a full-time musician.Once there he forged his own path and became an accomplished and sought-after session player.His ability to master different musical styles and learn songs quickly allowed Ed to join a largely unknown sub-set of players who did “ghost sessions” in the studio for well-known acts. These guitarists tend to be unheralded heroes who ply their trade behind a curtain of anonymity. If you listened to the radio from the eighties through the present you have heard his work.These ghost sessions also went as far as live performance. If a player couldn’t make the call onstage,and if Ed resembled the player closely enough, he would be called to make the gig happen.
After so much behind the scenes work, Ed decided he needed to begin building a body of work under his own name. Something Tommy Tedesco told him years ago still rings true. He said “You look like Led Zeppelin, but you can play like Joe Pass.” Even those closest to Ed didn’t know about his ghost work. Just as he was starting to embark on his own career he had to put it on hold to provide care for a seriously ill family member. What was initially going to be a short hiatus of a year or two, turned into almost a decade. For all practical purposes, Ed Supple had disappeared from the music business.
Ed is currently working on several projects and bringing his playing to the forefront. Few people have heard the songs he has written or have had the privilege of seeing him perform his “Suppling” technique live. He is looking forward to changing that. When asked about his induction in the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame, he responded“It’s great, I’m pretty happy to be put in with all these people who inspired me. To be thrust in among them is quite an honor.”
Editor's Note: Ed Supple was in a major car accident and suffered injuries as reult of the crash. A fundraiser for Ed will be held on November 15, 2015 - please click here for more information
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