Phoenix Music Scene Raises Funds For ‘Help Angel’ In Need
Terri Sussman tends to be the person who helps others on the local scene.
It all started in 2006 when Sussman hosted a charity event to help Al Casey’s family lay a headstone at his grave.
Casey had launched his career here in Phoenix as producer Lee Hazlewood’s go-to guitarist, lending his talents to such iconic records as Sanford Clark’s “The Fool” and all those early hits Duane Eddy carved out at Audio Recorders.
“It upset me so much that a major talent like him, and so famous, didn’t have enough money for a headstone,” Sussman recalled.
“We raised money for it, and I never stopped. I could never say no when someone asked for help.”
For two years, Sussman lined up musicians for a weekly homeless dinner held in Tempe in conjunction with a local church group.
She has organized benefit concerts for Share-A-Meal, Sick Musicians, and the Arizona Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame, a nonprofit organization of which she served as president for several years.
Sussman fractured his spine last summer
Now, due to myriad life-threatening complications from a spinal fracture she suffered in August, Sussman finds herself at the mercy of that same giving spirit.
And it took some getting used to.
“It was very difficult for me to accept people’s help,” she says. “I’m used to helping others and I’m a very private person. But I finally decided I had to accept it.”
In a video drawing attention to Healing aid for Terri’s fundraising page on GoFundMeLiz Boyle, DJ at Radio Free Phoenix, calls Sussman “a pillar of Arizona’s music and entertainment community and a helping angel to those in need.”
“You can still feel the love in the room”
Danny Zelisko, who is fast approaching his 50th year of promoting concerts in the Valley, says he was impressed with the talent she was able to field for the benefits she hosted.
“She’s done a lot of good things for a lot of people here,” he says.
For Sussman, helping others is his own reward.
“These perks all take on a life of their own and are all special in their own way,” she says. “You can still feel the love in the room. And that’s why we never stopped making them.”
Dan King, a musician friend who brought Sussman’s health issues to The Arizona Republic’s attention, said, “She’s done so much for others in need. Now is the time to help her.”
Waylon Jennings taught him to play the guitar
Along with helping musicians in need, Sussman has been something of a unifying presence on the stage, bringing people together who might not necessarily have known each other.
“I never really pushed the boundaries of my little rock ‘n’ roll radio until I got to know Terri,” Boyle says.
“And then I made friends in so many other areas of the Phoenix music community. She’s the one who brought us all together in one great melting pot of music and entertainment in Arizona.”
She is also an accomplished singer-songwriter.
Taught to play the guitar, at age 9, by Waylon Jennings, who had his first recordings played on country radio at age 22, Sussman was inducted into the United States Country Music Hall of Fame. Arizona in 2018.
She and Jennings were neighbors.
“He lived a stone’s throw from my house when I was growing up,” she says. “And I was the curious little girl who was always hanging around.”
It made him want to play the guitar.
“One day I showed up with my brand new Green Stamp Store guitar and he laughed his big laugh and we were fast friends,” Sussman said. “And he had the patience to teach me.”
“We still don’t have many answers”
Since fracturing her spine, Sussman has undergone a blood transfusion and three surgeries, which required an extended hospital stay, skilled nursing, and home care without her medical issues not affecting her. are clearly resolved.
“We still don’t have many answers,” Sussman says.
Boyle didn’t know Sussman had hurt herself until mutual friend Candyce Tracy approached her about setting up a GoFundMe campaign.
“Terri had no qualms about reaching out to me when she needed help with the Share-A-Meal benefit concert or any number of benefit concerts we’ve put on,” Boyle said.
“But she kept me in the dark and didn’t even let me know she needed help for herself.”
The organizers of Healing Help for Terri plan to hold music events to raise more funds for Sussman.
As of January 21, the GoFundMe page has raised $2,565 of its $25,000 goal.
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