The Rocks Off 100: Walter Suhr, the Straw That Stirs Mango Punch!
Welcome to the Rocks Off 100, our portrait gallery of the most compelling profiles and personalities in the far-flung Houston music community -- a lot more than just musicians, but of course they're in there too. See the entire Rocks Off 100 at this link.
With his signature panama hat and a wide smile, Walter Suhr adds rhythm and joy to any venue that is lucky enough to host his multifaceted band Mango Punch! Equal parts Latin rock, pop, and tropical, the lovely sounds of this band are as diverse as Houston itself.
photos courtesy of Walter Suhr/Mango Punch
Who? Suhr is originally from Guatemala, and came to Houston to study music. He graduated from the University of St. Thomas with a degree in Music and Computer Science.
"Although I started to study music relatively late in life (when I was 20), my love of music started at an early age," Suhr says. "I've heard a story that on my first Christmas -- when I was 11 months old -- my grandmother gave me three 45 rpm records as a present. They say that I completely forgot all the other toys and presents and even went to sleep holding my the records."
Around that time, Suhr says he began getting to exposed to Afro-Cuban artists that his dad was listening to: Tito Puente, Tito Rodríguez, Orquesta Aragón, Bola de Nieve, etc.
"In my teenage years I listened almost exclusively to American and British pop and rock: Elton John, James Taylor, etc.," says Suhr. "When artists like Juan Luis Guerra and Gloria Estefán exploded into the music scene, I was once again fully drawn to Latin music."
When he formed Mango Punch!, "I was certain that I wanted a band that would integrate the influences that I had been exposed to," he adds. "My record collection can be labeled as 'eclectic' or 'schizophrenic.' I'm OK with either label."
Home Base: "Houston!"
Why Do You Stay In Houston? "Although it may sound cliché, Houston has been the land of opportunity for me," explains Suhr. "I was able to carve out a niche for Mango Punch! because we developed a personality that celebrates many of the diverse backgrounds and cultures of the people living in the city.
"In return, this city has kept me consistently employed for over 21 years!" he adds.
Also, although Suhr says he's proud of his Guatemalan heritage, "I now consider Houston my home."