Queen of the Beatniks
 

Songs of the 60s

 

From standards to psychedelic through the lens of the great Judy Henske 

 
 
Queen of the Beatniks at The Cutting Room

Queen of the Beatniks at The Cutting Room

Meet the Queen

The legendary JUDY HENSKE is the best singer you’ve never heard of.  From 1963 when she confounded audiences with her performance of “God Bless the Child” on the Judy Garland Show, to 1966 when she riffed about whores on her Jack Nietzche-produced live album “The Death Defying Judy Henske”, and even after her psychedelic folk classic “Farewell Aldebaran”, recorded for Frank Zappa’s label in 1969, Judy was too many things to too few people to become the household name her considerable talents merited.  A singer of unparalleled power and versatility, she was large in every sense.  Standing six feet tall with a voice like a midwestern mash up of Etta James and Ethel Merman, she predated deep-throated alto rock divas like Janis Joplin, Grace Slick and Cher.

Vocalist Meredith DiMenna and band perform a tribute to Judy (dubbed “Queen of the Beatniks” by Nietzche) in the form of an overview of Henske’s recorded material, featuring songs like  “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long”, “I Know You, Rider”, “Til the Real Thing Comes Along”, and “High Flyin’ Bird" as well as other great songs by her peers from the era like Dusty Springfield, Grace Slick, and Brenda Lee to contextualize this unfairly obscure artist.

 
Judy Henske

Judy Henske

 
 

Meet Meredith

Meredith DiMenna’s supple, velvety voice – somewhat like a combination of Norah Jones, Toni Price, Peggy Lee, and Billie Holiday . . .
— All Music Guide
DiMenna is ready to slice. She’s ready to take her boots quick and sharply to all of the groins of any offending men, sending them packing, needing ice and a doctor.
— Daytrotter
... all you notice is Meredith DiMenna, a back-alley chanteuse committed to getting what she wants via enticement, or if necessary, menace.
— My Old Kentucky Blog
 
Queen of the Beatniks at The Cutting Room, NYC

Queen of the Beatniks at The Cutting Room, NYC

 

Origins

MEREDITH DIMENNA heard Judy Henske for the first time while browsing in a friend's record collection. Immediately taken by the sound of her voice, her song selection and phrasing, she wondered why she had never heard of this transcendent vocalist before.  She uncovered a treasure trove of imperfect recordings and a personal history that sent her on a journey of discovery about the nature of fame.  She was inspired to reach out to friend and collaborator, film composer Jason Binnick to develop a tribute to Judy featuring an overview of Henske’s recorded material, putting it into context with the singers she clearly influenced, those she seemed to challenge with her mere existence and those who captured the public imagination at the time in ways that Judy could not.  The show features familiar songs like  “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long”, “I Know You, Rider”, “Til the Real Thing Comes Along”, and “High Flyin’ Bird." performed in Judy's inimitable style as well as hits from other artists that provide context for this unique and underrated performer.

Ms. DiMenna, herself a genre-hopping enigma, powers through the diverse material with an athletic vocal range that manages to inhabit every relevant female vocal style of the era.  From her many recordings as front person of the band, SAINT BERNADETTE, she has drawn comparisons to an impossibly diverse list of power females like Shirley Bassey, Peggy Lee, Joni Mitchell, Grace Slick, Velma Kelly, and Billie Holiday, as well as the occasional man, like Robert Plant, Greg Dulli, Jim Morrison, and “that guy from the Scissor Sisters”.  ALL MUSIC GUIDE raves about her “supple, velvety voice”, while indie-rock staple DAYTROTTER comments that she is "authoritative and forceful . . . ready to slice".  Veteran music critic Fred Mills describes her as such: "Imagine a clandestine affair between Robert Plant and Nancy Wilson that produced an illegitimate offspring. That child would be birthed in the person of Meredith DiMenna, whose relentless wail might have been inherited from her mythical parentage." She is additionally known for collaborations with psychedelic soul band, THE STEPKIDS, neo-soul DJ and producer BLACK PANTHER, and as a vocalist and songwriter for indie folk duo,  OH, CASSIUS! 

After performances in New York City at Joe's Pub, The Cutting Room, and 54 Below, the show is now based in Nashville where it has been featured at City Winery and The Back Corner.  Expect to hear beatnik-influenced drum solos, fuzzed out guitar gymnastics, the occasional guest horn player, and improvised lyrics generated by suggestions from the crowd.  Bring your own beret.

 

Meet the Band

Emil Nomel
Guitars

Eric Kalb or Tommy Perkinson
Drums

Ben Rubin
Bass

Jon Loyd
Keyboard

 

 

Next Show

August 27th @ City Winery Lounge

Nashville, TN
Tuesday, August 27th; 7 PM show
Tickets

 
 
 

Hear the Playlist

 
 

For booking or media inquiries, please use the form.

Name *
Name