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Judy Henske

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Success is a matter of luck as well as talent. Given different circumstances, Henske could have certainly been a much bigger star than she was. Instead she's a hazily remembered figure, known if at all for some recordings that faintly prefigured folk-rock, and tangential associations with more famous performers. Her strong, bold, and versatile delivery would have been well-suited for the folk-rock era; her timing was just a bit off. Before beginning her solo career, Henske worked with ex-Kingston Trio member Dave Guard in the Whiskeyhill Singers in the early '60s. Soon she was recording under her own name for Elektra. High Flying Bird is the best of her Elektra efforts, anticipating folk-rock with full arrangements that featured drums (by top session musician Earl Palmer), guitars, and bass. Certainly someone in the Jefferson Airplane must have heard a copy, as the group recorded the title track at their first studio session in 1965. A stay at Mercury later in the '60s presented her as an all-around entertainer, capable of folk, pop, blues, and Broadway, all backed by middle-of-the-road production. Henske wasn't bad at this, but one got the feeling that her truest talents were being under-utilized. She finally got her chance to blossom on the 1969 LP Farewell Aldebaren, a collaborative effort with Jerry Yester that appeared on Frank Zappa's Straight! label (an association that probably arose because Henske and Zappa were both managed by Herbie Cohen). The album was a wildly eclectic, impressive effort that showcased an astonishing range of vocal delivery on Henske's part, and owed more to psychedelic music than folk (the Henske-Yester project and LP is detailed in a separate entry). That proved to be a one-shot, and aside from an effort as a member of the band Rosebud, Henske was not heard from again until the early '90s. She began performing around Los Angeles, and released her first album in a quarter-century, Loose in the World . ~ Richie Unterberger

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20 December 1942 in Chippewa Falls, WI

Years Active:

'60s, '70s, '90s, '00s