The Judy's Come Back

Just in time for SXSW, the Pearland New Wavers brush off the mothballs

"I remember being mesmerized by that [show]," says Walton.

Shortly after the newly christened Judy's recorded their first single, "Teenage Hangups" — while the record was away at the pressing plant, in fact — tragedy struck when their fourth member, guitarist Sam Roush, was killed in a car accident in late 1979. Walton says Roush, his bandmate in the Cleavers, was a happy-go-lucky guy and talented guitarist, while Bean remembers him as part of the little group that used to sit around at lunchtime drawing mock stage plots on napkins. After he died, the group thought about bringing in another guitarist, but ultimately elected to remain a three-piece and dedicated "Teenage Hangups" to their late friend. (Ironically, the version of "All the Pretty Girls" that was the flipside of "Teenage Hang­ups" and later appeared on Washarama was the one the band elected to record without guitar.)

"At that point, I don't think we wanted to bring anybody else in," Walton says. "We felt like, 'Let's just go on and do it this way.'"

Letting the "T.V." speak for itself in 1984 at Numbers.
Photo by Ken Hoge
Letting the "T.V." speak for itself in 1984 at Numbers.
Back for the first time: the Judy's long-awaited CD catalog
Back for the first time: the Judy's long-awaited CD catalog

Shortly thereafter, the band's career began in earnest when Bean dropped off a cassette — they still hadn't gotten the records back from the pressing plant – at the Island (then known as Rock Island). Instead of politely thanking Bean and promising to be in touch, the owner offered the band an upcoming slot opening for Joe King Carrasco, the popular Texas musician who combined traditional Tex-Mex with New Wave and had several hits in the early days of MTV, on the spot.

"I remember going to school all week excited because it had been in the newspaper we were playing on Thursday night," says Bean, who with Cessac was a senior at the time. (Walton was a grade behind them.) "That was a big deal."

Word about the Judy's spread quickly. "You're at the club and somebody mentions, 'Hey, there's this really fun group — you'll never believe them, they're playing pots and pans,'" remembers E.A. Srere, who managed the Judy's for about a year and a half. "So we went down to see it and fell in love immediately, of course. They were so adorable I wanted to eat 'em up."

Srere, an attorney with the Dallas County public defender's office for the past decade, likens her managerial duties with the Judy's to being a "den mother." Besides calling clubs to arrange gigs and fanzines for interviews, when the band decided to do a show in honor of the recent Mount St. Helens eruption, she was tasked with driving around Houston looking for a suitable volcano they could use onstage. She tried to ease Bean's pre-show anxiety — "holding his hand while he threw up, that kind of thing" — and was in charge of their guest list, which led to an interesting encounter with ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons one night at the Island.

"He said, 'I think I'm on the guest list,'" Srere remembers. "I said, 'And your name?'

"'Well, my name's Billy Gibbons.'

"'Really? Oh yes, yes, you're on here.'

"I asked him, 'What brings you to the Judy's?' He told me his pigs liked the Judy's."

As befitting boys not yet out of their teens, the Judy's were fond of practical jokes. As Srere would be driving them to a show, they enjoyed tying socks around their heads as mock blindfolds and attracting the attention of passing motorists with signs that said things like "Help. Call police."

"These rednecks came by one time and showed us their rifle, and I said, 'That's enough,'" she laughs. "The Judy's were a lot of fun."

The Judy's broke up around 1982, but reconvened around 1984 to record Moo. Bean chose the title because he liked the idea of people calling record stores and saying "moo!" to the voice on the other end. (Modomusic, the solo EP he recorded in the interim, is included on the Moo reissue.) They picked up right where they left off, soon packing Numbers on successive weekends and playing for more than 1,000 people in Dallas. Bruce Godwin, owner of the much-missed Record Rack and a former partner in Numbers, where he also DJed from 1980-1990 — and who once appeared as the "Ghost of Liberace" during a Judy's show at the Arena Theater — says the band was every bit as popular as the era's biggest college-rock artists.

"They were hugely popular in Texas, right up there with the Ramones, R.E.M. [and] Siouxsie & the Banshees," he says. "The high-school kids loved them, but so did punks, nerds, gays and parents. They always sold out no matter what."

Margaret Moser, who booked the Judy's for this year's Austin Music Awards, brought New Wave producer Liam Sternberg, who discovered the Waitresses ("I Know What Boys Like") and would go on to write the Bangles' "Walk Like an Egyptian" and the 21 Jump Street theme, to a Judy's show. He loved it, telling her Bean had a "platinum voice" and including Bean's "My Imagination" on his 1984 Elektra compilation Ten from Texas: Herd It Through the Grapevine.

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