Judy Henske

Judith A. Henske (born December 20, 1936 in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin) is an American singer and songwriter, once dubbed "the Queen of the Beatniks" by producer Jack Nitzsche.[1]

Judy Henske
Judy Henske, early 1960s
Judy Henske, early 1960s
Background information
Birth nameJudith A. Henske
Born (1936-12-20) December 20, 1936 (age 84)
Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, United States
Occupation(s)Singer, songwriter
Associated actsDave Guard and the Whiskeyhill Singers
Jerry Yester
Craig Doerge

Life and recording careerEdit

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.[2]

After the Whiskey Hill Singers disbanded, she returned to Hollywood. She got a big boost when given a guest shot on ABC-TV's Hootenanny. 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".[3] She also performed "God Bless the Child" on an early episode of The Judy Garland Show, and was offered a regular role on the show but turned it down.[4]

Through her manager, Herb Cohen, 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,[5] and shared the stage with Woody Allen, among others. Her relationship with Allen is said to have informed the script of Annie Hall, a character from Chippewa Falls like Henske.[4]

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,"[6] as well as singing at many New York and East Coast clubs. Henske said: "I liked when people were engaged, and they show it with laughter and not just clapping. It didn’t sound like people just sitting lifeless in their seats, admiring you. It was alive."[4] 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. Together they wrote "Yellow Beach Umbrella," the lead single from Doerge's debut LP, also recorded by Three Dog Night on their 1976 LP American Pastime and by Bette Midler on her 1977 LP Broken Blossom.[7]

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 have continued to write and record.[4]


Henske was noted by music writers for her strong, bluesy voice and emotive facial expression.[8][9] 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")
  • The Original Hootenanny, 1963 (Crestview CRS-7806) Crestview was a Division of Elektra Records. One track : Wade in the Water, recorded live.
  • Judy Henske, 1963 (Elektra EKS-7231)
  • High Flying Bird, 1964 (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/RS-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)
  • "Charlotte Town" / "High Flying Bird," 1963 (Elektra 45007)
  • "Til The Real Thing Comes Along" / "Lonely Train," 1963 (Elektra 45010)
  • "Crazy He Calls Me" / "Baby," 1965 (Mercury 72387)
  • "Bye-Bye Blackbird / "Let The Good Times Roll" 1966 (Reprise 0458)
  • "Road to Nowhere" / "Sing A Rainbow," 1966 (Reprise 0485)
  • "Day To Day" / "Dolphins In The Sea," 1966 (Reprise 0587)


  1. ^ An Evening with Judy Henske & Jerry Yester Celebrating Farewell Aldebaran
  2. ^ Marti Childs; Jeff March (July 13, 2011). Where Have All the Pop Stars Gone? --. EditPros LLC. pp. 130–. ISBN 978-1-937317-01-0.
  3. ^ Ronald D. Cohen (2002). Rainbow Quest: The Folk Music Revival and American Society, 1940-1970. Univ of Massachusetts Press. pp. 216–. ISBN 1-55849-348-4.
  4. ^ a b c d Alicia Yager, "Twists and turns in life enrich Judy Henske", The Chippewa Herald, May 29, 2013. Retrieved 16 March 2018
  5. ^ Nielsen Business Media, Inc. (May 11, 1963). Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. pp. 12–. ISSN 0006-2510.
  6. ^ Smith, Michael (October 15, 1964), "Theatre Post Mortem: Gogo Loves You", Village Voice, p. 13
  7. ^ Discogs: Craig Doerge - Craig Doerge
  8. ^ Kristin Baggelaar; Donald Milton (January 1, 1976). Folk Music: More Than a Song. Crowell. p. 174. ISBN 978-0-690-01159-3.
  9. ^ Greg Stott (April 4, 2009). Notes from Beyond the Fringe. iUniverse. pp. 590–. ISBN 978-1-4401-3583-5.

External linksEdit