Artist of the day: Judy Tampa and Bunko Squad
Judy Tampa – the name is a cheeky knockoff of feminist artist Judy Chicago – is indeed a native of her namesake town. She graduated from Plant High School, designed clothing for Betsey Johnson, performed in “new wave bands” and held a number of eclectic jobs such as “clam shucker.”
Her current music is quirky, jazzy alt-Americana that comes through crisply and cleanly on Tainted. Click here to listen to Blue Sink Blues from the new CD. And after the jump, get Julie Garisto's full profile of Judy Tampa and her band, Bunko Squad...
Folk-pop squadron: Judy Tampa (born Judy Hargraves) on vocals, acoustic and electric guitar; John McEwen, acoustic guitar, Irish bouzouki and vocals; George Pappas, vocals, acoustic guitar and harmonica; Harry Hayward, drums; Anne VanAtta, acoustic bass; and TJ Weger, slide dobro and bass.
Bay area to big apple to bay area: Judy Tampa – the name is a cheeky knockoff of feminist artist Judy Chicago – is indeed a native of her namesake town. She graduated from Plant High School, designed clothing for Betsey Johnson, performed in “new wave bands” and held a number of eclectic jobs such as “clam shucker.” Her residences have triangulated the U.S. “I was in NY in the early ’70s for a couple of years,” she says, “traveled with a guru for a while and ended up in San Francisco in 1975. I moved back to Tampa around 1998-99, with a bit of back and forth during that time.”
What brought her back to Tampa: “My mother was having surgery and I missed the weather. I didn’t see my arms or legs for over 20 years. I missed the water so much that I got a wet suit and learned to bodyboard with the sharks in that freezing northern California Pacific.”
Her writing style: “I try to take things from physics books and combine them with cartoons and then make them rhyme. I trust that all things that are meaningful to me are somehow connected, and randomly putting one thing up against another works better for me than starting with a ‘concept.’”
In good company: Ms. Tampa has collaborated with some of the bay area’s most respected musicians. For instance, Ronny Elliott and Rebekah Pulley perform on her new CD, Tainted, and when asked how she went about attracting such heavyweights, she demurs, “I’m just plain lucky.”
“Everyone on this record is a heavyweight – no pun intended,” she says, “and they’ve all been very generous with their time and attention. They have even allowed me to carry their equipment and give them foot massages after every session.”
Recording at the Springs Theatre: “John Stephan really makes the best and most creative use of the analog and digital world; the sound of the room is as good as it gets, and his equipment is unusual and outstanding. More important, he uses his ears more than his eyes. It’s unusual for a talented musician to be equally effective as an engineer, producer and storyteller. I rest my case.”
Why ‘Tainted’? “Most of the songs are about things that are a bit off kilter. Some might describe the members of Bunko Squad in the same way.”
Cute and twisted: She looks young for an, ahem, over-50 woman, and it’s not just the pigtails and whimsical fashion. There’s a bit of dark truth to her youth. “Well, my parents gave me those small person genes, and I like to think that’s a fair excuse for my lack of success in becoming a grown-up. Also, I just say ‘no’ to serotonin reuptake inhibitors. This keeps me generally dissatisfied and a little bit antsy and makes me want to dance.”
Hear her and the Squad: 5 p.m. Sunday at the Springs Theatre, 8029 N Nebraska Ave., Tampa, with My Little Trotsky and Harry Hayward’s Magic Act. (813) 915-0074; $10 suggested donation includes CD; myspace.com/judytampamusic.
-- Julie Garisto, tbt*