Tupper Saussy

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Frederick Tupper Saussy III (July 3, 1936 – March 16, 2007) was an American composer, musician, author, and artist. He was born in Statesboro, Georgia; grew up in Tampa, Florida; and graduated from the University of the South at Sewanee, Tennessee, in 1958.[1] His jazz combo there put out a university-subsidized album, Jazz at Sewanee, which included several original compositions.[2] Thereafter Saussy taught English at Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville, Tennessee, co-founded an advertising agency, McDonald and Saussy, and kept his musical career alive with recording dates and club sessions. With the Nashville Symphony, he composed a work called The Beast with Five Heads (1965/66), based on "The Bremen Town Musicians", designed to replace Peter and the Wolf as a work to teach schoolchildren about orchestration, which continued to be used for the next fifteen years.[3] For its 1968/69 season, the Nashville Symphony commissioned him to write a piano concerto for Bill Pursell; it was performed by the Symphony on January 14, 1969, with Thor Johnson conducting.[4]

Popular music[edit]

Tupper Saussy was perhaps best known as the songwriter and keyboardist for the psychedelic pop band The Neon Philharmonic, whose vocalist was Don Gant. The Neon Philharmonic's single "Morning Girl" rose to Top Twenty status and was nominated for two Grammy awards in 1969. Earlier in Saussy's career, Monument Records had released several albums of his jazz compositions: "Discover Tupper Saussy," "Said I to Shostakovitch," and The Swingers' Guide to Mary Poppins (this last featuring songs from the Disney movie). In the 1960s and 1970s, he composed works for the Nashville Symphony Orchestra and the Chattanooga Symphony. Saussy also composed two pop songs for The Wayward Bus, "The Prophet: Predictions by David Hoy" and "Love Hum". He also worked with Chet Atkins and Ray Stevens, and wrote arrangements for Mickey Newbury's Harlequin Melodies, as well as arrangements for Boudleaux Bryant, Bobby Bare, and Roy Orbison. The Neon Philharmonic's two albums, The Moth Confesses and The Neon Philharmonic were released by Warner Brothers in 1969. The group disbanded in 1972, but producer David Kastle bought the name and used it on recordings until 1975, even recording one of Saussy's songs, "Making Out the Best I Can".


Saussy was the great-nephew of the Savannah painter Hattie Saussy. His first exhibition of watercolors was given in 1972 at Cheekwood in Nashville, Tennessee and his works can be found in the permanent collection of the Tennessee State Museum.[5]


In 1972, he published the play, To Watch a Beautiful Sunrise, through Samuel French Inc., a comedy concerning a radical anarchist with the House of the Rising Sons who is assigned to kill his own stepfather. Saussy first acted by replacing an actor in a regional production of Cactus Flower at The Circle Theater in Nashville after the original actor got pneumonia. A friend was playing Stephanie and recommended him for the role.[6]


Between 1980 and 1987, Saussy edited The Main Street Journal, advising and reporting on political action aimed at restoring the gold and silver monetary system established in the U.S. Constitution.[7]

Legal problems[edit]

His activism won him the notice of the Internal Revenue Service, and in 1985 he was found guilty of willfully failing to file a tax return[8] for the year 1977. For the years 1978 and 1979, the jury decided that his failure to file returns was not willful, and he was found innocent.[citation needed] For the single conviction, he was sentenced to serve one year in Atlanta Federal Prison Camp. Saussy remained free for 2 years while his conviction was appealed.

James Earl Ray read of Saussy's defense in the Tennessee newspapers. Ray inquired by postcard if Saussy would be interested in helping Ray write and publish his autobiography. Thus began a collaboration that resulted in the publication, in 1987, of Tennessee Waltz: The Making of An American Political Prisoner.[9]

Saussy's appeal was denied by the Supreme Court. James Earl Ray's book appeared at about the time Saussy was to begin serving his sentence. Fearing possible retaliation for the revelations made in Tennessee Waltz, Saussy went into hiding for over ten years, not resurfacing until 1997, at which point he served a 14-month sentence at Taft Correctional Institute in Taft, California. Saussy was given the job of chapel music director and piano instructor to prisoners.[10] Saussy was released from prison on May 12, 1999.[11]

Later years[edit]

During his fugitive years, Saussy patronized libraries from coast to coast, researching the religious element in the origins of American government. In prison, he collated his research and prepared a final manuscript. This work was published in 2001 by HarperCollins under the title Rulers of Evil: Useful Knowledge about Governing Bodies.[12]

After many years of neglect, Saussy's Warner Brothers albums were reissued in 2004 under the Rhino Handmade label.

In April 2006, Tupper Saussy resumed his composer/pianist/performer persona with the Nashville debut of "The Chocolate Orchid Piano Bar," a cycle of new and vintage songs.[13] His first new musical release in 37 years, the CD was recorded in Nashville and produced by Warren Pash.[14] To date, it has not been released on CD, but is available for download on iTunes.

Saussy was first married to Lola Haun, a Nashville socialite, whom he met during his tenure as a teacher at Montgomery Bell Academy. The pair, who divorced in 1972, had a son, Caleb Powell Haun Saussy, and a daughter, Melinda Cavanaugh Saussy. By his second wife, Frederique Louise Blanco, the musician had two more sons, Pierre Philippe Saussy and Laurent Amaury Saussy, and a stepdaughter, Alexia Camille Vallord.

Tupper Saussy died on March 16, 2007, at his home in Nashville, Tennessee of a heart attack, two days before the release of "The Chocolate Orchid Piano Bar" on CD. He was 70 years old. Saussy's death occurred one day after the 20th anniversary of Don Gant's death.


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ Andy Zax. "A Conversation with Tupper Saussy." Brilliant Colors: The Complete Warner Bros. Recordings. Liner notes. Page 5.
  3. ^ Zax, 6-7.
  4. ^ Zax, 7
  5. ^ Tennessee State Museum
  6. ^ Zax, 8.
  7. ^ The United States Constitution - The U.S. Constitution Online - USConstitution.net
  8. ^ E. Thomas Wood, A Belle Meade renegade, a Nashville original, March 19, 2007, Nashville Post, at [2].
  9. ^ News & Opinion: The Missing Link (Memphis Flyer . 05-04-98)
  10. ^ http://www.tuppersaussy.com/html/about/abouttupper.html
  11. ^ See prisoner # 09999-074, Federal Bureau of Prisons, United States Department of Justice, at [3].
  12. ^ rulersofevil.com
  13. ^ (story)
  14. ^ nashville recording studios-news and projects from nashville recording studios

External links[edit]