Script for October 2002, QMH:

Dirdy Birdies Jug Band - masculine women feminine men (2001)

Hello, welcome to Queer Voices on KPFT, and this segment is called Queer Music Heritage. I'm JD Doyle. This is kind of a special edition of the show, as the theme is Gender Benders. The whole show will feature the music of both drag artists and transgender artists, and also a couple of songs by straight artists about the subject. And I'll have a special interview at the end.

The song you heard as the intro is called "masculine women, feminine men" and it's by the Dirdy Birdies Jug Band, and is from their album from last year. It's the newest version of this song that I know of, but it's an old song, and has been recorded at least a dozen times over the years, but it was most popular in the 1920s in England where it was apparently somewhat of a hit, as I know of at least six versions that came out around that time. I want you to hear what I think is the oldest version. It was recorded on January 29, 1926. And in my opinion it's also one of the best, as it also gives all of the verses. It's by Frank Harris, so here is his version of "masculine women, feminine men."

Frank Harris - masculine women, feminine men (1926)

That was Frank Harris, well, actually, it wasn't…as I've recently found out that was not the artist's real name, but just one of the many names used by a prolific singer from the 20s & 30s named Irving Kaufman. And, I want to mention that if you're interested in the history of the song "Masculine Women, Feminine Men," I've set up a special page of my website devoted to it.

Okay, that was by far the oldest song you'll hear on tonight's show, as I'm jumping to the 70s for the next one. It's by Bill Amesbury. Now unless you grew up in Canada you may not have heard of this artist, as he's had almost all his success there. In 1974 he had a top twenty hit in that country with the song "Virginia, Touch Me Like You Do." In 1976 he moved to a larger label, Capitol, and released an album called "Can You Feel It." The title track, with it's disco flavor, also made the Canadian charts, but I prefer this track from the album. It's called "A Thrill's A Thrill."

Bill Amesbury - a thrill's a thrill (1976)

Bill Amesbury's "A Thrill's A Thrill," which has also been recorded by Long John Baldry and Mitch Ryder. Now while that song's lyrics has gay references, the reason I'm playing Bill Amesbury on this show is that he later had a sex change and became Barbara Amesbury.

The next song is so bad it's kind of fascinating. It's from a very rare album from 1968 called "Come To Me At Tea-Time." The artist is a female impersonator named Minette, which was her real last name. Her album is different from most of the drag artist albums of those years, as it was not comedy, and the songs, all written by her, were very topical. This was 1968 and all over the news was the hippie movement, psychedelic drugs and the Vietnam war, and she dealt with all those subjects. So I picked the song with the most out lyrics, and it's probably the only queer song you'll ever hear about Lyndon Johnson. It's called "LBJ, Don't Take My Man Away."

Minette - LBJ, don't take my man away (1968)

Minette's career spanned over 50 years, and in the 70s she was very involved with Charles Ludlam's Ridiculous Theatre Company, and was known to be a mentor to younger drag queens in that community. She died last year in New York at age 73.

I mentioned that many of the drag artist albums of the early years were comedy albums, and you may be familiar with names like Charles Pierce, and Rae Bourbon, but I'm going to share with you some of the more obscure artists. I'm going to give you a sample, in the form of brief excerpts, from several of their albums. I'll start off with one from Ty Bennett, who was one of the most popular female impersonators of the 60s. His only album was called "Queen For A Day." And I'll go from there right to a clip from an obscure album from New Zealand by a drag artist called Diamond Lil. First, Ty Bennett.

Ty Bennett - excerpt from 'Queen For A Day' (early 60s)
Diamond Lil - excerpt from 'Listen, Listen' (1976)

That was Diamond Lil, certainly the only female impersonator I know of from New Zealand, with a clip from her album from 1976.

I've got a side comment about the Bette Davis sketch from the Ty Bennett album. I'm currently reading a new biography of Charles Pierce, and it contains the script for that same Bette Davis routine, almost word for word. Only Pierce and a collaborator wrote it in the mid-50s. Ty Bennett stole the whole routine for his early 60s album, but then stealing material was and probably still is common among drag artists.

I'm sure you're finding that some of the humor on these albums is a little dated, which will probably be the case for this next one. It was recorded right here in Houston, around 1968. The artist's unlikely name is Effie Dropbottom. The album was called "Effie Dropbottom Tells It Like It Is," and it was released on a small Houston label called Ovide.

Archie Bell & Drells - tighten up (1968, clip)

I have a theory that one reason this album got released at all is that it was the same year that the owner of the label hit it big with another act, Archie Bell & the Drells, whose album was quickly picked up by the Atlantic label, and the song "Tighten Up" became a #1 hit. [song clip] You get the idea. So I think that probably gave the producer the money to release something a little more esoteric, like the Effie Dropbottom album.

Effie Dropbottom - excerpt from 'Tells It Like It Is' (1968)

This next artist stands alone. She was born Rubin Elkins and started working as a female impersonator under the name Lee Leonard in the 1940s. She got a sex change very late in life, in her 60s, and was one of the oldest persons to do so. After that she billed herself as "The Naughty Liz Lyons," and I've got her only album, from 1975.

[Note: since I wrote this script, in October 2002, I (happily) discovered (and now own) a second album by Liz Lyons, and you can see photos of it, and many other pics of her, on my special Liz Lyons page]

Her act was very raunchy and she got banned from quite a few clubs; and I had to put a lot of effort into editing some clips that I could play on the air. Also, I've heard from more than one source that she had no modesty at all on stage when it came to proving that she had become 100% female. Here's Liz Lyons.

Liz Lyons - exerpts from 'Up Your Ass!' (1975)

The incomparable Liz Lyons. Due to her leanings toward raunchy material, I'm choosing to not even tell you her album's title, for that same reason, but you can see it on my website, at www.queermusicheritage.com. In fact, I encourage you to visit the site to see all of these drag artist album covers, because they visually complete the picture of their acts. Also at my website you can view the playlist and see photos of all the artists and recordings, and listen to the show anytime. 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 is Georgie Jessup. She's a transgender artist from Maryland who has become a passionate singer, songwriter and champion of the plight of Native American Indians, and the preservation of their culture. She's been a student of various aspects of Indian culture, especially with the tribes around Wounded Knee, South Dakota, where she learned of the tradition of the Winkte (win-tay). That's spelled winkte, but pronounced win-tay. A winkte embodies the traits of both man and woman, and this is a historic tradition that has been recognized by many cultures. Georgie Jessup based the name of one of her albums on this, one called "Winkte & Crazy Sacred Dogs." From that album I'm playing a song of hers called "Post-Op Freeway."

Georgie Jessup - post-op freeway (2001)
Georgie Jessup - drag city (2002)

After "Post-Op Freeway" by Georgie Jessup I played another song by her called "Drag City." It's not yet been released and is from a demo tape she was nice enough to send me.

Now, on to a New York City artist who's got a brand new CD single. She's Lisa Jackson and her 4-song CD shows a lot of promise. From it here is one called "Fabulously Done."

Lisa Jackson - fabulously done (2002)

Lisa Jackson singing "Fabulously Done."

Interview with Yolanda (June 2002)

I had the pleasure to meet my feature artist for tonight's show last June in New York City, and she is a delight. She's a talented and versatile performer, and then when you meet her, you like her immediately. Her real name is Roger Mapes, but now she goes by Yolanda and I got this interview with her at a party, so from time to time you'll hear a little background noise. I had just seen her, Scott Free and Alix Dobkin give a wonderful concert at Sun Music Company.

Who is Yolanda?

Yolanda! Well, Yolanda is…it's really, Yolanda really is my Roger Anthony Mapes larger than life, I mean, there's not an awful lot of difference between Roger and Yolanda except that Yolanda is…larger than life, and has the freedom to do a lot of things that Roger doesn't have the freedom to do.

How would you describe your music to someone who's never heard it?

I would describe it as soul, pop, with a definite influence of gospel. It also depends on how I'm presenting it. If I'm presenting it in an acoustic manner it tends to have a lot more country and gospel edge to it. When I'm with my band it has sort of a funky, soul sound, pop sound.

For the benefit of those just hearing this interview, would you describe your costume, your presentation?

Well, (laughs) I usually think of my presentation as somewhere as a mixture between Dolly Parton, my mother and Mae West, on acid. (laughs) those are big influences

Do you write your own material?

I do indeed. Everything that I write…I've only begun to do covers, but even when I do do covers I update them, rearrange them, add my own…like just tonight I was doing a cover of "Lola," the Kinks song, but changed it to Yo-yo yo yo landa. So, I've always been a songwriter, I mean, that's where I totally come from. What I'm trying to do is really communicate from my heart what it's like for me to be a drag queen in this world.

So, you have a different message than the normal acoustic guitar singer?

I think so. I mean I really think it's a voice that's not really heard. I mean, even in other famous drag queens, or whatever. I mean I'm not necessarily about mindless, bubblegum poppy things. I'm really about expressing to you, the audience, what it is like from my perspective to be a third gender person in this world. What I find is that there are a lot of differences, but there are a lot of similarities and people from all walks of life come to my shows, and buy my CD and relate to what I have to say.

Who are your influences?

Oh, boy, Aretha is my number one. Number One influence…Aretha, and Annie Lennox and Cyndi Lauper are big big major influences for me. I love Cyndi Lauper, love, love, love her. Finally had the opportunity to see her live. She opened for Cher, which was really funny. She just blew the whole audience away. You know, it was an incredible, incredible show.

What gay or lesbian artists do you admire?

Oh, god, there are so many. I have to say this, and I'm not just saying this because we were all playing together tonight, but that Alix Dobkin and Scott Free are two really important people to me. They just say things that are so true and so from the heart, you know, and that's really powerful to me. Another current favorite of mine is another tranny, transperson by the name of Lisa Jackson. A really really terrific singer, and beautiful beautiful presentation. I love her an awful lot.

Of what song that you've recorded are you the most proud?

I have to say "Angels" is my most favorite…"Angels" and "Right To Surrender" are my two favorite songs, the songs that I'm most proud of. I guess because they mean so much to me personally. I never tire of singing either one of them. And they are the two songs that people most identify with me, and write to me most often and say that they've played or sung at weddings or funerals or important occasions in their lives, and stuff like that. In fact, I just this month went to a funeral, I was invited to come to a funeral. A fan of mine's father died, and asked me to sing "Right To Surrender" at the funeral, and I had to go. It was really an amazing thing for me. It was really powerful.

Am I correct in that song's about someone who's died?

Yes, I wrote it…I'm HIV positive and you know I lived in New York in the beginning of the AIDS crisis and, you know, watching people drop right and left in my life was really scary, really scary to me, and, you know, it's such a devastating thing that we have all gone through, so it was just…it's my AIDS anthem.

It's a very powerful song, It's just so good!

Thank you so much.

Let's hear "Right To Surrender"

Yolanda-right to surrender (1999)

That was "Right To Surrender," by from her album from a couple years ago, called Yolanda & the Plastic Family. Who's the person behind the music?

(laughs) Ah, Roger Anthony Mapes Yolanda. I have a very strange, vulnerable approach to living in the world, and, I get tossed about, and I have a hard time sort of living in the world on a day to day basis. And all of that creates my art. And Roger is just as sensitive as Yolanda is, but somehow Yolanda has the strength to express it, ah, a little more outwardly, a little more forcefully.

What's your favorite interview question?

(laughs) my shoe size. No, I'm just teasing. My favorite interview question is, you know, why do I do what I do. I mean, I'm 45, I'm not a spring chicken, and I've been an entertainer since I was really young. I started entertaining in my early 20s. The first thing I did was, I was an Elvis impersonator, at Liberty Land, in Memphis, Tennessee. Ah, you know, a lot of times people lose their dreams and by the time they become their mid to late 40s, you know, they've totally given up on their dreams. And I just can't give up. I just feel that I have something to say and I wanna say it. It's taken me a long, long time to feel that what I do is important. Now, I've gotten a lot of feedback in my life that if you're not famous or whatever. If you're an entertainer your goal is to be famous and if you're not famous by your mid to late 20s, then you're a has-been. And you don't have any value, you know? And my work has never been about the glitz and glamour, even though I am a drag queen. My work is from a sincere place. It's something, I have a message, something I want to say, and that's been really difficult for me to believe in that.

Is there any question I should have asked?

Well, people usually ask me about my love life, which is strange and difficult, but you didn't ask…so, (laughs) so, you just did? Um, actually I talk about it a lot of times because I feel that, you know I describe myself as a third gender person. I feel that it's important to talk about coming from this perspective because, you know, many times men don't know what to do with me. I mean, I love men, and so many times they just don't understand where I'm coming from. Even gay men I'm speaking of, like can't embrace who I am as a feminine man. So it's a very strange thing. My dating life has been very very difficult and really hard, and I'm just sitting here going, well, eventually, I'll find the guy who can appreciate who I am. He's out there.

Can I get you to do a show ID for me?

A show ID? Oh, absolutely! Oh, absolutely. This is Yolanda, and you're listening to Queer Music Heritage.

Well, I've really enjoyed doing this show, and I've got one more song to play by Yolanda. But before I play it I want to thank you all for tuning in, and I want to thank Yolanda for the very special interview. If you have questions or comments about any of the music I've featured, please write me. And, again, my website, with more info about all the songs you heard, is, logically enough, at www.queermusicheritage.com. And, if you've enjoyed this show, and if you have a high speed internet connection, you might want to check out my Transgender Music Special, that aired in August of 2000. You can stream it from my website right into your computer. 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.

Closing the show, from a brand new CD single I just got from Yolanda is the song I think is simply stunning. It's called "Freedom."

Yolanda - freedom (2002) 6:18

 

{no, Yolanda is NOT pictured below, on this rare 60s matchcover}

below, pic from the Club 82, NYC, from maybe the 50s (pass cursor over to see flip)