Susie Tennant, the record executive and promo representative who helped launch Nirvana's career and championed countless other bands and artists over the years, passed away in January from frontotemporal dementia. She was 61 years old.

On Friday her friends and family will gather at the Paramount to celebrate her life and love of music, and, in true Susie style, everyone's invited.

There will be performances from Christy McWilson, Rusty Willoughby & Rachel Flotard, the Fastbacks, Chris & Ella Swenson, and Chris Ballew, and the night will end with a dance party deejayed by Marco Collins.

I'm not being hyperbolic when I say there would be no music scene in Seattle without Susie Tennant. Yes, in the 1990s Susie's magnetic enthusiasm helped put Nirvana's Nevermind (and therefore Seattle) on the map, but she also championed the city's all-ages music scene and built relationships between her peers and colleagues that often fused into sturdy foundations in what could so often feel like an otherwise shaky or cutthroat industry.

Susie also used her platform and connections to help organize vital social movements. Megan Jasper, CEO of Sub Pop, credits Susie for being the “Paul Revere” during the early stages of the Music for Marriage Equality campaign. The campaign raised tons of money and put Washington State's fight for marriage equality in the national spotlight.

“It would NEVER have happened if Susie hadn’t rallied the troops,” said Jasper. “She was so good at that.”

Ahead of tomorrow's party, and with the help of Susie's husband, Christopher Swenson, I gathered up some stories from some of Susie's friends and colleagues over the years. I hope you'll read them and feel inspired to put a little of your own Susie magic into the world. 

Susie Tennant, happy warrior. LANCE MERCER

There was the infamous Nirvana record release party that Susie threw at Re-bar, that the band got kicked out of for starting a food fight. I catered it, because Susie and I thought it would be funny to cater a Re-bar party (also, we wanted to order a realistic Nevermind cake from Remo Borracchini’s bakery). Somehow the story’s been told that the band started throwing tamales and guacamole, but it was actually grape leaves and green goddess dip. Anyway, once Re-bar’s Steve Wells rightfully ushered everyone out to not risk his liquor license, the party moved to Jeff Ross’s loft downtown and then Susie’s house for the rest of the night for a party for the ages. 

The band was suspicious of most of the major label grossness thrust on them, but of course they adored Susie and stayed for hours raiding her closet for dresses to wear and Nelson gold and platinum records to deface. 

Susie could party with the wildest of us without a hair falling out of place, but she was a protector as well, like when cops came or people passed out in blackberry brambles, she would somehow handle it and also spearhead brunch the next day. She was an incredible champion of her friends and colleagues, and excelled wildly at her jobs, but more than that was just a boundlessly open and loving person that made everyone around her try to be the same way.

—Nils Bernstein, author and journalist 

In spring 1992 I was looking for work, hoping to keep working with music people. I had been laid off from Sub Pop a year earlier and Susie was as busy as she'd ever been with Nirvana's meteoric rise. I had never written a resume and the thought of doing so was daunting. 

Susie took me under her wing. She edited and reshaped my resume, printed multiple copies, and gave me a list of names and numbers to call. I didn't know most of them but they all took my call. 

After many phone calls and a handful of interviews, I got a job as the northwest sales rep for Caroline Records. I was so psyched. 

I shared the good news with Susie and thanked her for her help. I made her a batch of chocolate chip cookies and headed over to her apartment. She gave me a hug and asked me what the cookies were for. When I told her that they were a “thank you,” she said, “That’s not necessary. Just do the same thing for somebody else.” 

That was Susie. Always helping, always paying it forward, and teaching us to do the same.

—Megan Jasper, CEO of Sub Pop

Susie (second from right) with daughter Ella, husband Christopher Swenson, and son Eli. COURTESY OF Christopher Swenson

Susie was more than a promo person. She loved the artists she worked with and they loved her back. She was an ambassador for the Seattle music scene, she knew everyone and connected so many people. When I first moved to Seattle, it was Susie who introduced me to the scene. She invited me to parties and shows (whether it was her bands playing or not). Because of her, I felt accepted by the scene in a way that just wouldn't have happened to a California transplant. She and I became very close over the years and I love her to the moon. 

What I really loved about Susie is she genuinely LOVED what she did and it showed. When she came to play you some new records, she got up and danced! Not to hype me, but BECAUSE SHE WAS FEELING IT. 

One of my favorite things she ever did was when she was promoting Sebadoh's Bake Sale record for Sub Pop—she held an actual bakesale outside the station entrance with a little table, construction paper with prices, baked goodies, and lemonade while blasting the Sebadoh record on a boombox! So clever. 

Her level of enthusiasm was contagious. I can hear her scream my name from across the club and beeline into my arms. I'll never forget what she did for me then, and the way she made me feel about music.

—Marco Collins, radio DJ

It's hard to imagine anyone in the history of local promotion people more in sync with their artists and popular with all the music people in their city than Susie Tennant. You'd have to look to Motown, Liverpool, Seoul, or similar points of inception—and find the Mayor. That was Susie Tennant in Seattle during "the grunge era." Her irrepressible enthusiasm for her bands (actually all bands) was on full blast whether it was a dressing room, radio boardroom, convention center, or her living room. "Whattaya mean you never heard of The Posies?!?!" while giving a friendly shove to a regional sales manager from Uni at the annual distribution conference. It didn't matter—we were all equals on her team, all fans lucky to be in the profession. Think of all that could have gone wrong as Nirvana made their historic ascent... it was simply not a factor with Susie Tennant at the center of the scene. As Liam Clancy told a young Bob Dylan, "No fear, no envy, no meanness." Susie Tennant embodied that ethos. We were all invited to her party… and so what if the band destroyed the place?

—John Rosenfelder, music and data analyst, and formerly National College, Metal and Alternative Promotion at Geffen/DGC

One of the things I loved most about Susie was her good cheer. And that ran far deeper than just a sunny disposition. When some adversity came her way, large or small, she didn't lose her temper or feel defeated, she just shrugged her shoulders and made a little but quietly devastating joke about it, then rolled up her sleeves and dealt with the situation. She was a happy warrior. I'm sure that skill earned her a lot of professional respect, and I know it's a big reason why so many people loved Susie so much: she was inspiring.

—Michael Azerrad, music journalist and author of Come as You Are: The Story of Nirvana and Our Band Could Be Your Life

Susie Tennant. Where to even begin? I was so lucky to meet her, and that would've been in 1989 when I invited myself along to a weekend of shows in Victoria and Vancouver, BC with the Young Fresh Fellows. She was also along for the ride. Weird to think we had never met before, but by the end of that weekend, we were best friends. Not too long after that, she asked me to move into her apartment, which became ground zero for all things DGC Records, who she was working for, but especially Nirvana. I think I lived there maybe two years? Within that time the after-show parties that would take place at our apartment were loud, fun, and our downstairs neighbors hated us. Anytime Nirvana played in Seattle they would come over and rage with us well into the night. Kurt running around in one of Susie's dresses, all of us destroying various items in our place, and just having the time of our lives. Susie was always an eternal ray of sunshine, no matter what the situation. She gave so much to this community and to me, as her really dear friend. I will miss her forever, but thankfully I will always have the memories of those times. I suppose thanks are in order to the Young Fresh Fellows and the universe for bringing us together. I was lucky to meet her.

—Kim Warnick, musician (The Fastbacks, Visqueen)

Susie introduced me to Mick Ronson. The Hunter Ronson Band were playing in a Tacoma venue and Susie organized a caravan of fans to descend upon the gig. Only a few of us even had access to a vehicle so the amount of planning required to make this happen was dizzying. This was pre-internet and pre-cell phone. The gig was absolutely fantastic, but the kicker was seeing Susie's smiling face pop out from the backstage door as she literally grabbed us by the sleeve and pulled us into the room where I found myself standing next to Mick Ronson. If he had only ever played guitar on The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, he'd be my hero. But his playing and arranging on so many classic songs is legendary. We shake hands, a smiling Susie introduces us to one another and a smiling Mr. Ronson turns to the bowl of fruit next to us, picks up a banana, and offers me the ripe snack. I eagerly accepted as I gawked at my hero. A situation that could only happen with Susie around.

—Rusty Willoughby, musician (Pure Joy, Flop)

Susie was steeped in a love for music and people that made her radiate from within. It was easy to get addicted to the glow you felt when you stood in her orbit. She was generous with me when I was a young punk kid trying to wiggle my way into Beck's touring band and she was a Geffen rep here in Seattle. We planned shows together for kids and families at Town Hall and we had a monthly breakfast summit in more recent times at Easy Street Records in West Seattle. (We both always ordered the James Browns with sausage and corn tortillas instead of bread in case you were wondering.) Those meals together were so nourishing both because of the food and the positivity that Susie was so generous with in conversation. We would end up trading too many recommendations to ever actually listen to or watch and we laughed about the old days and all the characters that have passed through our lives. I feel very privileged to have had those times with her and her passing has left a soundless hole in me and in everyone that loved her.

—Chris Ballew, musician (The Presidents of the United States of America, Caspar Babypants)

Susie Tennant was my supervisor at EMP (now MoPop) back in the early 2000s. She’s the one who saw potential in me and helped to have me transferred from the Membership department to the Public Programs department, where I learned to be a talent buyer and to book shows. It’s no exaggeration to say that Susie taught me damn near everything I know about booking bands, working with artists, and navigating the music industry as a woman. It’s not that my other co-workers weren’t important in my path as well, or that they didn’t mentor me, but Susie made TIME for me, always. She was just never too busy to help. In both her work and her personal relationships, she was fearless. She was a straight shooter, but also soft. She saw my first band play and she told me the whole truth about what she saw and heard. She always gave feedback lovingly, but truthfully. But of all the things Susie taught me, the bit that has stuck with me for my whole career (and that I’ve quoted her on many times) was when she said, “You know, Earl, all that matters in any of this at the end of the day are the relationships. Not as the means to the end, but as the actual end.”

—Shelby Earl, musician

Tickets to Friday's celebration are free but organizers ask that people RSVP here.

If you'd like to make a monetary donation in Susie's name, her family recommends SMASH Seattle's Susie Tennant Memorial Fund, Seattle Musicians for Children's Hospital, MusiCares, the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration, and the UW's Brain Aging and Dementia Research's BRaIN Lab Fund.