That time Suzi Quatro appeared as Leather Tuscadero on Happy Days and played the classic Devil Gate Drive at Arnold's Diner

Suzi Quatro and Henry Winkler on set
(Image credit: ABC Photo Archives)

Suzi Quatro's career as a musician is long and storied. It's nearly 60 years since she joined the pioneering Detroit all-girl band The Pleasure Seekers, and more than 50 since her second solo single Can The Can became her first UK number 1. She's still going, and still seeking out pastures new: her collaborative album with KT Tunstall, Face To Face, was released in August. 

For some people, however, Suzi Quatro remains best known as Leather Tuscadero, an occasional member of the cast of US teen comedy Happy Days. Leather was the thief-turned-musician younger sister of Pinky Tuscadero (Roz Kelly), a former girlfriend of Arthur Fonzarelli, a.k.a. Fonzie a.k.a. The Fonz (Henry Winkler). And, if you're going to get Suzi Quatro to join your cast, you better find her a band, which, In Suzi's case, was Leather and the Suedes. 

"I always had in my gameplan to do everything in the entertainment profession that I felt I could be good at," Quatro told Classic Rock. "Rock’n’roll was my main thing, my security, and I couldn’t do without it. But I also wanted to act, do radio, do much more.”

Leather Tuscadero appeared seven times on Happy Days: five times in series five, and twice in series six. In her first appearances – in the first episode of two-parter entitled Fonzie, Rock Entrepreneur, broadcast on November 15, 1977 – she auditions for a gig at Arnold's, the diner that provides regular refuge for the cast, and performs All Shook Up and Heartbreak Hotel, both made famous by Elvis Presley. 

The highlight of this storyline comes in the second episode, when Leather and the Suedes – in a moment that blended fiction with reality – perform one of Suzi Quatro's own songs, Devil Gate Drive, a song that had topped the chart in The UK nearly three years earlier. 

"All right, listen, can I have your attention, please, huh?", says The Fonz, by way of introduction. "Something very thrilling happened here, and everybody is talking about it. I am talking about Leather and the Suedes. Yeah, last night, they opened here, and they are the talk of the town. 

"And it is my distinct pleasure to introduce once again that group that I launched on their merry career to stardom... Leather and the Suedes!"

Leather Tuscadero proved to be a popular character on the show, and creator Larry Marshall gave Quatro the opportunity to front her own Happy Days spinoff, but she turned the offer down, unwilling to risk being typecast in the same way that co-star Winkler had as The Fonz. 

"I did not want to be stuck into that mould," Quatro told Smashing Magazine. People would say, 'Oh, she’s Leather Tuscadero.' It was enough that I was Suzi Quatro, you know. That’s enough. That’s the image I’m going to go to my grave with, which I’m happy to have. But I didn’t want to do Leather Tuscadero the same way. 

"I wanted to do different kinds of roles. I wanted to spread my wings. I didn’t want to be boxed in. If I had done a spinoff, I would’ve been Leather Tuscadero for the rest of my days."

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.