1982 – I was excited. A bunch of cow-orkers and myself had tickets to see the B-52s. The venue for the post-punk, new wave show was a strange place called the Wintergarden Ballroom on John West Road in East Dallas. The cross street was Dilido – the worst name for a street, ever. The building is still there, it’s a factory that makes raised flooring for datacenters now. I had seen Devo at the Wintergarden a few months before. If memory serves, there were only a few rows of seats, almost everybody stood – which added an intensity to the shows.
We were all there, I was very excited. The B-52s had really meant something very special to me after I had had an epiphany while hearing Private Idaho on a car radio at three in the morning driving hell bent for leather somewhere in the vast expanse of the Kansas Flint Hills.
The warm up band came out. It was a Houston based trio named The Judy’s. I had never heard of them. They started to play.
I can’t remember anything about the B-52s that night. But after almost thirty years I think I know and remember every song in The Judy’s’ set.
They simply blew everybody away. It was incredible.
They might have seemed like a novelty act. Dressed in some sort of obscure uniforms (Milkmen?) they played strange instruments. The keyboard player used a child’s toy piano, often holding it on his shoulder. The drummer mostly beat on a string of pots and pans hanging from a stand. They made use of a static filled television to provide an odd harmony.
But they were not a novelty act. The music was unlike anything anybody had heard before (or since), but it was unquestionably great. The audience didn’t leap about or dance (much) – they stood there stunned, swaying, enthralled by what we saw on the stage.
It was special. The funny thing is, talk to anybody who saw The Judy’s back then, they will tell you the same thing.
I guess the Judy’s were the prime example of a local hit. They were worshipped in Texas. The Talking Heads opened for them in Houston.
They got a lot of airplay on George Gimarc‘s seminal radio show back in the day. I remember waiting on line at the Granada Theater for a midnight showing of Shock Treatment (the awful sequel to Rocky Horror) when The Judy’s’ Guyana Punch came on somebody’s cassette boom box. The line went nuts and made him rewind and play it over and over.
I bought vinyl copies of Washarama and Moo.
Everyone assumed they would be a big hit – but they slowly drifted into obscurity. They pretty much disappeared, except in the minds of their fans from back in the day. I guarantee that none of us ever forgot them.
And now they are on YouTube. And their music has been pressed into CDs. Now, where’s my wallet, where’s my credit card.
The Judy’s live in 1981 singing their quintessential number – Guyana Punch
My favorite Judy’s song has always been Her Wave. Here is that song from the same 1981 show.
I don’t know how I missed this: they played at SXSW in 2008. Man, I wish I could have been there.
This is truly the best of all possible worlds.