All the catchy songs

There was no bigger or better Texas band in the 1980s than The Judy's, who are long gone but not forgotten

And over the past three years, the Seattle-based indie-pop band Tullycraft has covered the Judy's on three separate releases: In 1995, the band remade "Guyana Punch" for the compilation When I'm Hungry I Eat: Songs About Food, then recorded "Mental Obsession" on 1996's Old Traditions, New Standards, and issued "She's Got the Beat" this year on a Japanese-only vinyl single.

"People send me tapes all the time," says Tullycraft's Sean Tollefson, "and someone in Alaska sent me a tape of Washarama. They said, 'I listen to your band, and this sounds like the same stuff you're doing.' Well, the tape sat there a few weeks, and then I popped it in and was just amazed. Since then, I've been looking all over for [The Judy's] records. I've had to go to the Web site, and I've downloaded all the songs and have them on cassette. I mean, they were just so stripped down--the bass and drums are the whole backbeat. And David Bean is just a really great songwriter."

Or was: Bean has long since abandoned music, having become a water shiatsu massage therapist, a hobby that turned into a rather successful career once The Judy's disbanded for good. He has not recorded since 1991, when he took a bastardized version of The Judy's into the studio (bassist Jeff Walton and drummer Dane Cessac were long gone by then) and recorded Land of Plenty. The album, the lone Judy's record available on CD, came and went, which is perhaps just as well: Where the band's earlier recordings were angular gems, Land of Plenty is Big Pop, a thin Joe Jackson record that trips over its own conventionality. Songs such as "Riding in a UFO" and "Superman" are far less charming than their lunatic predecessors; listening to them is like watching an old friend grow up, get fat, and break out in a rash. Perhaps it was inevitable that a career with such promise would end without much fanfare--always seems to happen to the great ones.

"Trying to get the album done was a nightmare," Bean recalls. "I was growing more and more distant. I thought, even if I made it big, I'd be miserable so, why am I doing this? The last show was a horrible frat fest, and beer got thrown all over our equipment. The band got pissed off, and I had trouble collecting the money. It was like the universe was saying, No."

The Judy's began as most teen bands did in the late 1970s, a punk-rock hobby playing to the lawn mowers and other junk stored in the garage. But after Bean spent a summer in Austin and heard The B-52's playing over a record-store speaker, he returned to Pearland and told his buddies of a new, terse sound that left plenty of room for the punch lines. So The Judy's were born, taking their possessive name and their sound from the Athens, Georgia, band that, even now, refuses to die. (The B-52's play with the Pretenders July 25 at Starplex.)

"It wasn't like we said we were going to be The B-52's," says Bean, "but we were struck by the minimalism." Indeed, when second guitarist Sam Roush (who appears on Teenage Hang-Ups) died in a car accident in 1980 (the week before the EP's release, no less), the rest of the band decided not to replace him--fewer musicians to clutter up the sound. "We were scheduled to play before the school dance in the cafeteria the week he died, so we had to cancel the show," Bean says. "It was a big blow. We never performed live with him."

The band sold copies of the three-song Teenage Hang-Ups (with a full-band version of "All the Pretty Girls," Bean's vocals reverbed to death) in the school cafeteria, and recorded The Wonderful World of Appliances not long after. George Gimarc recalls getting the album at the Zoo in March 1981 and playing the hell out of it from the get-go. A few months later, at Christmas 1981, "Rerun" became the first of a handful of songs from Washarama to make it into regular rotation on "Rock and Roll Alternative."

"When I got the first tape, I thought, 'We got a local B-52's here,'" recalls Gimarc, who's currently hosting an oldies specialty show on KRLD-AM on Saturday nights. "I was a big fan of The B-52s, and here was a Texas band doing the same goofy stuff." Gimarc became so enamored of the band, he eventually sent out letters to record-label A&R reps, trying to get the group signed to a deal. "Remember these guys when you need new life round your label," Gimarc wrote in the missive, which he still keeps in his estimable files.

For a short time, rumors did circulate about a pending deal with Warner Bros. Records, but they proved to be nothing. Gimarc says he had arranged to have a representative from Polydor come out to see the band play in Dallas--only to have the band break up on him just before the scheduled concert.

But Bean insists The Judy's never sought out a record deal or, for that matter, a manager. They were content enough releasing records on their own label and touring the regional circuit, playing just seldom enough to make every show seem like An Event--the last thing they wanted was to be a club band, making the scene in hopes of getting noticed by someone looking to buy their souls for a few thousand bucks.

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