Script for November 2002, QMH:
Richard Thompson - woman or a man (1984)
Hello, welcome to Queer Voices on KPFT, and this segment is called Queer Music Heritage. I'm JD Doyle. On last month's edition of the show I did a special feature called Gender Benders, and when I finished I realized that I had so much fun doing it, and had sooo many recordings I wanted to use, but couldn't, that I decided for this month's show to do Gender Benders Part 2.
So, on tonight's show you'll get to hear more drag artists and transgendered artists, and a few things that appeal to my twisted sense of humor; it won't be boring. The song I played for the intro is another one of those straight-man-faces-gender-confusion songs. It's called "Woman Or A Man," and was by folk artist Richard Thompson and is from 1984.
Musically that song seg-ways nicely into this next one. It's from 1998 and is by Ruthie & the Wranglers. It's called "He's a honky tonk man who wants to be a honky tonk woman."
Ruthie & the Wranglers - he's a honky tonk man who wants to be a honky tonk woman (1998)
From Ruthie & the Wranglers, I'm jumping back to 1974 to a folk song I think is pretty neat. It's by an English folk artist named Richard Digance. Here is "Drag Queen Blues"
Richard Digance - drag queen blues (1974)
That was Richard Digance. In the mid-sixties in the US the Beatles struck the music world in 1964 and the hippie movement wasn't far off. All this contributed to long hair for men, and this was commented on in a song from the fall of 1965 by the Barbarians, called "Are you a boy or are you a girl." I'm going to play for you the first verse of that song and then jump about 20 years to a hard rock version of the same song by probably the leading transsexual rock artist.
Barbarians - are you
a boy or are you a girl (1965, clip)
That was by Jayne County & the Electric Chairs. Jayne's been a hard rocker for a long time. In the mid-70s she was attracting attention under the name Wayne County, but changed the name to Jayne after her operation in the mid-80s. She's still releasing records and had one last year called "man, I feel like a woman."
notfunny.wav [clip of Bette Davis from an old movie, saying "that's not funny"]
Yes, that was the voice of Bette Davis, and if you stick around in the second part of the show I'll be featuring a sort of Battle of the Bette Davis impressions, all done by drag artists.
There are a number of songs in my collection about cross-dressing or about a man having an operation to become a woman, but this is the only one I can think of that is about a FTM, a female to male transition. It's from the point of view of her boyfriend, who doesn't like it. From 1996, the group Undercover SKA sings "My Girl Became A Dude."
Undercover SKA - my girl became a dude (1996)
And now, talk about another abrupt transition
Kinsey Sicks - gay straight or bi (1999)
That was the Kinsey Sicks, who bill themselves as America's favorite dragapella beautyshop quartet. And I love that group, they've just released their third album and they're all wonderful. That song was called "gay straight or bi" and was from their "Boyz 2 Girlz" album.
Okay, here's a very stale plot for a Hollywood movie. An aspiring young rock star, Bryan and his manager, Reggie, win a trip to Hollywood, it seems to be their big break at last - or is it? Rules of the contest demand that the winners must be a couple, so Reggie becomes "Regina," and the farce goes on. The movie was called "He's My Girl," and was from 1987. One reviewer said the movie was all cross-dressed up with no where to go. The aspiring rock star was played by David Hallyday, who really was an aspiring rock star. He's also the son of Johnny Hallyday, who in France in the 60s was a real rock star. Anyway, David Hallyday got to, or had to, sing the title song for the flick, here's "he's my girl"
David Hallyday - he's my girl (1987)
Rupaul clip 56: hey, this is RuPaul and this music is making my hair curl.
Okay, that was the real voice of RuPaul,
but I fudged, she was not commenting on that last song. I got that
from an interview CD that was made available to DJs in 1993, around
the time of her album "Supermodel of the World." So with
that interview CD, I could pretend to be asking her, RuPaul, what
does your name mean?
Oh, the magic of editing. Okay, time for a little PR. On my show I play lots of obscurities, and as I realize you're not likely to hear most of these anywhere else, I want to mention that I set up a special web page of my site for each show. In addition to being able to hear the show at any time, on the page you can see photos of the artists and recordings and view the playlist. And for some of the artists in the second half of the show this will be even more interesting, because I'll be featuring a number of drag recording artists, and the album covers themselves are part of the enjoyment of hearing them. My website, logically enough, is at www.queermusicheritage.com. And, this is a good time to remind you to be sure to listen to After Hours with Jimmy Carper, every Sunday morning from 1 to 4 am, on KPFT. It's Queer Radio, with attitude.
Next I've got a demo recording of a commercial for Lux Radio Theatre, from March of 1939. This was a practice recording for a commercial to be read later by the two young actresses in a popular radio series called The Brownings. But, here it's read by two men, and the result, I think, is very funny.
Lux radio ad (1939)
Next up is a gender bending song I've just discovered. It's from last year, by a group called Lord of the Pants. I kinda like that name. From their CD "Wit Happens" here's the song "She's A Guy."
Lord of the Pants - she's a guy (2001)
That was "she's a guy" by Lord of the Pants.
Now, for the Old Drag part of this show. I guess I should mention that when I picked these artists, it wasn't necessarily because they were the funniest or gave the best impressions, but it could also have been because they had long careers and were very popular appearing in clubs around the country. And, as one of my missions is to preserve our culture, this is about the only place on radio, or on the internet, that you'll hear it.
One of these popular female impersonators was Jimmy Callaway. He was a staple at the famous Club My-Oh-My in New Orleans. He only had one recording, and it was a 45, and is very rare. It was probably from the 60s. It had a picture cover that on one side shows him in drag hanging from a milk truck, with the caption "show me a milkman that wears high heel shoes, and I'll show you a Dairy Queen." You can see this cover on my webpage. Oddly, that joke is not included on the record, which is titled Jimmy Callaway on Stage. Here's Jimmy Callaway.
Jimmy Callaway (60s)
From Jimmy Callaway and New Orleans in the 60s, we're staying in the 60s but jumping to New Zealand. Female impersonators were by no means an American phenomenon. England had a number of them, and on last month's show I played another New Zealand artist known as Diamond Lil. This time I'm playing Noel McKay, and I tell you, if you go to my website and see the photos, you'll agree he does not make a pretty woman, but his singing isn't bad, and I love that he didn't beat around the bush about using the male to male pronouns. So, here's Noel McKay singing "A Good Man Is Hard To Find."
Noel McKay - a good man is hard to find (60s)
Now I've got something you've likely not heard before...it's kind of a battle of the Bette Davis impersonators. On last month's show I played a clip by Ty Bennett, doing a sketch in which he played Bette Davis. This time I've got four more, and they are among the best in the history of that genre. I'll give a little info about each of the four before I start. First is Arthur Blake. He was from England and was one of the leading impressionists of the 40s & 50s, and also did wonderful versions of Noel Coward, Jimmy Stewart and Talullah Bankhead. Bette Davis was said to have preferred his impressions of her. He recorded an album on his own in 1957, and in 1967 appeared on a Jayne Mansfield album, where he did the voices of various stars.
Blake will be followed by T C Jones. He also was very popular in the 50 & 60s, appearing in a couple of Broadway revues, the most famous being "The New Faces of 1952." That was the same show that gave Paul Lynde his start. Jones appeared in the movies "Promises, Promises," and the Monkees movie "Head," and on television on Ed Sullivan, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and even on the Wild Wild West. He recorded two albums in the late 50s, called "Mask and Gown" and "Himself," and both included Bette Davis impressions.
After TC Jones will be Charles Pierce. Pierce is one of the most famous of the female impersonators, although he preferred to call himself a male actress. He was perhaps the leading impersonator of the 70s & 80s. He appeared in the movie "Torch Song Trilogy" and in numerous TV shows, like "Designing Women," the Dick Cavett show, and many variety shows. He released only two albums, but there were several videos of his shows recorded. I featured him on my May of 2001 show, and you can go to my website and hear another very funny Bette Davis-Joan Crawford sketch by him there.
And finally the last Bette Davis impression is done by a current artist. Jimmy James has been doing her act for a number of years, and is famous for her Marilyn Monroe persona. She's appeared on a number of talk shows, and in the 90s recorded several dance records. The sketch you'll hear is from her 1999 album, "The One And Many Voices of Jimmy James."
So, are you ready? For about the next 12 minutes you'll hear our most noted female impersonators DO Bette Davis, from recordings ranging over 40 years. You can decide which one wins my Battle of the Bette Davis Impressions for you. First up, Arthur Blake, from his 1957 album "Curtain Time," followed by TC Jones, from his 1959 album called "Himself."
- from "Curtain Time" (1957) [sings "how did he look?"]
That was Arthur Blake and TC Jones, now here's Charles Pierce, from his 1971 album, "Live at Bimbos, San Francisco."
Charles Pierce - from "Live at Bimbos, San Francisco" (1971)
Finally, here's Jimmy James, who starts out by making fun of Bette Davis' singing voice.
- from "The One & Many Voices of Jimmy James" (1999)
Well, I think Jimmy James is right, as long as there are drag queens, there'll be Bette Davis impressions. I don't know which one you liked best, but I think I'm partial to Charles Pierce.
Before I play my last song, I want to thank you all for tuning in to this special show, Gender Benders, Part 2. If you missed Part 1 last month, you can still hear it at my website, at www.queermusicheritage.com, and if you have any questions or comments about any of the music I've featured, please write me. At my website you may also want to check out my August of 2000 show, which was my Transgender Music Special. This is JD Doyle for Queer Voices on KPFT in Houston, and I'll be back on the 4th Monday of next month with another installment of Queer Music Heritage. And the 4th Monday of next month happens to be December 23rd, so that will be my annual queer xmas special, and I've got lots of surprises lined up for it, including another visit by Bette Davis.
Back to tonight's show. I usually try to end my shows with something a little upbeat, but I'm making an exception this time, in order to play a song about being a drag performer, that is perhaps in terms of pure artistry, the best one ever recorded. Charles Aznavour wrote and sings it, and in it he gives a gripping, melancholy look at the social alienation of the world of a drag artist. The song is called "What Makes A Man A Man?" He recorded it in 1972, and it became one of the staples of his act over the years. For those of you who haven't heard of him, Charles Aznavour is one of France's most celebrated singers. Few artists have attempted to record this song, although Marc Almond did a very decent version of it in 1993. It perhaps got more exposure during the 70s and 80s in drag shows, because a lot of the impact of the song is to see the visual part of the performance that Charles Aznavour created. In it he starts out on stage in full drag, and begins singing the lyrics of the song while sitting at a makeup table facing the audience. He proceeds to remove fake eyelashes, wig and makeup and scrubs his face clean. He dons a dress shirt and slacks. He puts on his eyeglasses, quietly stands and greets the audience as the superb actor and man behind the illusion. So all this transpires slowly during the song, and you are left with the stunning impact of the transition between genders. I hope you can picture in your minds some of this as you listen to Charles Azvanour's "what makes a man a man"
Charles Aznavour - what makes a man a man? (1972)