Rockstar surprises local musician with signed guitar

Photos by Marlena Sloss/The Herald
Debbie Schuetter of Jasper holds her signed guitar from John Mellencamp outside her home on Monday. Debbie's friend Bridgette Bartley delivered the guitar. Schuetter has been performing a song on Facebook every day for more than two months while undergoing chemotherapy.


JASPER — Local musician Debbie Schuetter has received many gifts in the past few months.

Sometimes she gets cookies. Other times, she’ll come out to her front porch to find a T-shirt or a bracelet.

On May 29, the Jasper woman received a signed guitar and CD from a rock-and-roll legend.

That afternoon, when Bridgette Bartley handed her a long cardboard box with the word “Takamine” printed on the side, Schuetter knew a six-string was waiting.

“Oh my God, did this come from Blake Shelton?” she asked, jokingly, as she peeled away the wrapping and lifted the black instrument from its box.

Bartley replied: “Well, not quite. He’s a little more local.”

Think of the city of Seymour. Think 1980s. Think “Jack & Diane,” “R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A,” and “Small Town.”

That’s right. The present came from Hoosier rocker John Mellencamp.

“Shut the front door,” Schuetter said to a rolling camera when she realized she was holding a guitar autographed by one of her favorite musicians. The exchange was made possible through a friend of Bartley’s who has remained anonymous.

John Mellencamp's signature decorates the guitar sent to Debbie Schuetter.

As a girl, Schuetter was instantly drawn to Mellencamp’s classic look, Americana songs and John Cougar persona. She doesn’t often become overwhelmed or starstruck. But for the heartland rock icon to do what he did for her late last month, that meant a lot.

“I probably have more of his songs in my book than I do any other artist,” Schuetter, a respected Dubois County cover vocalist and guitarist, said of Mellencamp. “Because some of them are just easy to play, but they’re just good, classic songs that people know and love. He’s been around.”

Playing those songs is how this all came about. Since March 24, Schuetter has uploaded daily videos to her Facebook page of her covering tunes from a wide variety of artists, including Mellencamp, Blake Shelton, Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, James Taylor and more.

Dubbed “Sheetz’s Corona Cures,” the music regularly strikes a chord with community members, many of whom praise her for spreading cheer during the ongoing pandemic, and bring gifts to her home to show their love.

Schuetter’s schedule had been packed with performances at private parties and bars in recent years. But when COVID-19 concerns began to rise, those live shows came to a halt. Her music, however, lived on.

“It kind of gives everybody something to look forward to each day,” she said of the daily posts. “And that’s kind of the feedback I’ve gotten from people.”

Those uploads also give Schuetter life. Diagnosed with breast cancer in early December, she underwent surgery to remove tumors from her body in January and has received chemotherapy treatments in the months since.

She has lost her hair, and she gets tired every now and then. But for the most part, Schuetter said she feels like her normal self.

Focusing on her music — and her job as a sales solutions manager at National Office Furniture — keeps her grounded. She has picked up many new songs during the past 2 ½ months, and as she continues to post content online, people across the country continue to comment on and share her daily doses of joy.

“One day at a time,” she said in a parting message to readers. “And sometimes, when you least expect it, good things will come.”

She believes that sometimes, we get back what we throw out into the universe.

“Maybe what I’m throwing out, trying to keep the good vibes and the positive vibes, is what I’m receiving back, in terms of not just [the] guitar, but my health,” she said. “That’s first and foremost. If I can throw something good out, what I want back is good health.”

Her viewership has spiked since Bartley shared the video of the Mellencamp guitar unboxing on Facebook. Still, Schuetter isn’t sure how much longer she’ll continue the posts.

For now, though, she plans to continue making and posting music from her small town.

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