|Birth name||Judith A. Henske|
December 20, 1936 |
Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, United States
|Associated acts||Dave Guard and the Whiskeyhill Singers
Life and recording career
Henske attended Notre Dame Grade School and Notre Dame-McDonell Memorial High School, and then Rosary College, River Forest, Illinois, before studying at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. She then worked in the office at Oberlin College, Ohio, before moving to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where she worked as a cook in a Quaker co-operative.
Around 1959, she relocated to San Diego, California, where she lived on a sloop in the yacht basin. She began singing in coffee houses in Pacific Beach, San Diego, and Los Angeles, where she worked with, among others, Lenny Bruce. She then moved on to Oklahoma City, before joining ex-Kingston Trio member Dave Guard and the Whiskeyhill Singers around 1961 in Menlo Park, California, recording an album.
After the Whiskey Hill Singers disbanded, she returned to Hollywood. She got a big boost when given a solo guest shot on ABC-TV's Hootenanny, and was signed as a series regular on The Judy Garland Show. Henske was quickly dropped, however, after critics panned her and accused CBS of a cynical attempt to lure younger viewers to Garland's show. Henske appeared, as a performer, in the 1963 exploitation movie Hootenanny Hoot at the height of the folk-music craze and performed memorable versions of "The Ballad of Little Romy" and "Wade in the Water".
Moving to New York City's Greenwich Village, she gained the attention of Jac Holzman and Elektra Records, for whom she made two solo albums. The first of these highlighted the offbeat humor in her live performances with musical arrangements by Onzy Matthews; the second featured Billy Edd Wheeler's song "High Flying Bird", a minor hit later covered by many bands of the era, including Jefferson Airplane. During this time she worked extensively in New York as a solo singer, and worked with Woody Allen, among others, with whom she had a relationship.
Henske married musician Jerry Yester in 1963, and continued to work, appearing in Anita Loos' musical "Gogo Loves You" in Greenwich Village in 1964 at the Theatre de Lys, in which her performance was praised as "utterly delightful," as well as singing at many New York and East Coast clubs. After a failed attempt in the mid-60s by Mercury Records to present her as an all-round entertainer, she and Yester moved back to Laurel Canyon before returning to the East Coast when Yester joined The Lovin' Spoonful.
In 1969, she returned to music with Yester, making the baroque / psychedelic folk album Farewell Aldebaran for Frank Zappa’s Straight Records. The pair then formed a band, Rosebud, making another album before they separated and Henske returned to domestic life with musician Craig Doerge; they married in 1973.
Henske then retired from the stage, but continued to write songs. She returned to performing in the 1990s, releasing two subsequent albums Loose In the World (1999) and She Sang California (2004). In February 2007, Rhino Records issued a limited edition 2-CD compilation set of her recordings, Big Judy: How Far This Music Goes (1962–2004), covering her entire career.
She appears in the 2011 documentary film Phil Ochs: There but for Fortune, which chronicles the life and career of folksinger Phil Ochs, with whom she was part of the early sixties' Greenwich Village folk music scene.
Henske and Doerge now live in Pasadena, California, where they continue to write and record.
Crime writer Andrew Vachss is a fan of Henske and has promoted her music in some of his novels. In Blue Belle (p. 14), he says: "If Linda Ronstadt's a torch singer, Henske's a flame thrower."
- Coffee House, 1959 (Dorian 1001) various artists - 4 Henske tracks.
- Dave Guard and the Whiskeyhill Singers, 1962 (Capitol T/ST-1728) (as member of group)
- How the West Was Won (soundtrack, as member of group singing "900 Miles" and "Ox Driver's Song")
- Judy Henske, 1963 (Elektra EKS-7231)
- High Flying Bird, 1963 (Elektra EKS-7241)
- Little Bit of Sunshine… Little Bit of Rain, 1965 (Mercury SR 61010/MG 21010)
- The Death Defying Judy Henske, 1966 (Reprise R-6203)
- Farewell Aldebaran, 1969 (with Jerry Yester) (Straight Records STS-1052/Reprise Records RS-6388)
- Rosebud, 1971 (as member of group) (Reprise RS 6426)
- Loose in the World, 1999 (Fair Star Music)
- She Sang California, 2004 (Fair Star Music)
- Big Judy: How Far This Music Goes, 1962-2004 (box set) 2007 (Rhino Handmade)
- "That's Enough" / "Oh, Didn't He Ramble," 1962 (Staccato 101 and Gold Leaf 1001). Credited to Judy Hart
- Rider ! 1963 (Capitol) The Kingston Trio album Sunny Side
- "I Know You Rider" / "Love Henry," 1963 (Elektra 45004)
- "High Flyin' Bird" / "Charlotte Town," 1963 (Elektra 45007)
- "Til The Real Thing Comes Along" / "Lonely Train," 1963 (Elektra 45010)
- "Crazy He Calls Me" / "Baby," 1965 (Mercury 72387)
- "Road to Nowhere" / "Sing A Rainbow," 1966 (Reprise 0485)
- "Day To Day" / "Dolphins In The Sea," 1966 (Reprise 0587)
- Official website
- Fan site
- Discography at fan site
- Interview by Richie Unterberger
- Big Judy – liner notes by Barry Alfonso