Bridge to Nowhere
photo by Danny O'Bryan
‘Jazz Showcase’ reunites singers Judy Marshall and Jo Ann Hale
There was a special musical meeting in the Greenstreet Tavern in Howard Johnson’s 100 E. Jefferson St., during last Wednesday night’s “Jazz Showcase.” It was between two Louisville singers who normally get to work together only once a year.
That’s once a year for the last 25 years on the “WHAS Crusade for Children” telethon and radio show.
The two singers Judy Marshall and Jo Ann Hale, have a lot more in common than the crusade. Both women were staff singers at different times for WHAS in the early days of Louisville television.
Greenstreet’s house band, Chameleon, was playing its opening song and getting ready to bring Hale up to the bandstand when Marshall stopped at my table to talk about her singing career. The plan for the night was that each woman was to sing a couple of songs solo and then they would sing together.
“I first started singing on WHAS television’s “High Varieties” when I was 13 years old. Don’t ask me what year that was,” Marshall joked.
In the early 1950s, between her junior and senior years in high school, Marshall was featured on Jim Walton’s “Fun Fair” radio program on WHAS. After she graduated, she became staff vocalist for WHAS, the same job that Hale would take in 1960.
It was a very busy schedule that started early in the morning with radio shows such as “Fun Fair” and live evening telecasts of variety shows like “Hayloft Hoedown.”
“I loved working on the Hoedown.” Randy Atcher and ‘Cactus’ Tom Brooks were so congenial and easy to work with,” Marshall said.
Hale was in front of the band now, singing “Our Love is Here to Stay.” She caressed the lyrics with her smooth, creamy voice and inventive phrasing.
Hale is an experienced singer and knows how to “play” a microphone, holding it close to her mouth for soft passages and moving it away when she reaches for the high notes.
After she finished she pointed to the two microphones on the bandstand and said to Marshall, who was seated at a table. “We’re going to take a vote on who gets the best microphone!” Then after singing the standard “Just Friends,” a song that was more than appropriate for the occasion, Hale invited Marshall up to sing a duet with her.
Marshall, who had complained earlier of having a cold that affected her voice, was in surprisingly good form. She and Hale swung through an unrehearsed rendition of “I Go For That,” an old jazz vocal duet by singers Jackie and Roy Kral. It blended their voices perfectly.
Then Marshall took the solo spot and sang “Just in Time,” proving that she hasn’t lost any of her magic.
Hale said later, “It’s been like old home week tonight. Judy has been a big part of my life ever since we started doing the Crusade for Children together in 1961.”
The reunion of the two performers was the beginning of a new series of inventive “Jazz Showcases.” Everett Hoffman, who has been producing the “Showcase” at Greenstreet Tavern since last fall, said the project has been very successful. “We’re very happy about the way the Wednesday night jazz has been received,” he said.
This coming Wednesday the “Showcase” will feature the nine-piece band Pendulum. On Feb. 19, singer Gail King & Indigo will perform. Feb. 26 will be jam session night, with area jazz musicians welcome to sit in with the house band - Chameleon consists of pianist Glenn Fisher, bassist Tyrone Wheeler and drummer Darryel Cotton.
Soundchaser will play March 5th and on the 12th there will be a reunion of entertainers and musicians who used to perform in the back room of the Captain’s Quarters restaurant before it was purchased two years ago by John Y. Brown Jr.
“We’ll have all the old band members that performed there, like clarinetist Scotty Mac Laury, pianist Danny Miles, and guitarist Jack Brengle, plus a lot of other people who used to come out and sit in with the group. All their old fans are welcomed to come join us that night,” Hoffman said.
Louisville Times - SCENE magazine
February 8, 1986
From the up-coming book “Derby City Jazz”