Thursday, November 1, 2007
Judy Henske, Queen of the Beatniks
You know you're from Wisconsin if your last name ends in a vowel. Never fails. That's how I found Judy Henske. I saw her name and head shot on an old record and thought to myself, "If she's from Minnesota I'm going to shoot myself."
Judy Henske is a one woman riot in cell block number(insert Roy Orbison growl). She's got a killer voice. She's unique, and she's funnier than a Greenpeace volunteer caught in a riptide without a lifejacket. She even dated Woody Allen. As for the title -Some early 60's publicity hack styled her as "Queen of the Beatniks" and the moniker stuck. She's from Chippewa Falls - home of the Supercomputer and Leinenkugels Beer. She arrived in Los Angeles in 1960, right in the middle of the folk music boom and embarked on a career that continues to this day. Her specialty is music from a lost time - a time when there were no rules - when music in America was transitioning from the backporch, handed down style to a more commercial sounding one geared to the then new medium of radio. That didn't stop her from recording in other styles. Her range was wide and she dabbled in many mediums. She was a regular on The Judy Garland Show, and appeared frequently on ABC TV's short lived Hootenanny! She's hilarious in HOOTENANNY HOOT, MGM's 1963 attempt to cash in on folk music. (Let's leave this era so I don't have to type the "H" word anymore.) She met the sudden changes of the mid 60's head on and became a Folk Rocker. Her live records show her off as a complete entertainer: the kind who can talk to an audience and make them laugh. For better or worse, she's always been impossible to package or categorize - and that's what I like about her. Rhino Handmade Records has just issued a great cd retrospective of her career, Judy Henske, How Far This Music Goes 1962 -2004. Amazon link coming soon.