Judy Henske

Judy Henske

Judy Henske (born 20 December 1936, Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin) is an American singer and songwriter, once known as “the Queen of the Beatniks”.

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 the likes of 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.

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; 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. There was speculation that the character Annie Hall, born in Chippewa Falls, was partly inspired by Henske, although Allen’s longtime love interest Diane Keaton, born Diane Hall, was also a prototype for the character.

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. ~ from Wikipedia

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Tracks played on Psychedelicized…

    From 1963 album High Flying Bird
    Judy Henske High Flying Bird

  • High Flying Bird