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Groovy Judy: An eye and an ear full

By Joelle Sylva Clark

A luxurious purple velvet hat with golden stars on it simply can’t top Groovy Judy’s bubbling personality.

Her legal name, Judy Gascoyne, merely appears on her birth certificate – most people prefer using her popular nickname.

The San Francisco resident, 36, entertains people with her funky guitar and a smile. She plays mostly original compositions of positive gospel-inspired funk, R & B, rock and pop music.

During the day, she brings her fun-loving spirit to work at the Serena software company in Burlingame. Her collection of psychedelic 1960s clothing, hats and glasses make an occasional appearance at the office.

“They’re really accepting of my funky hats,” says Gascoyne.

…Her latest CD, “Groovy Judy,” is available at amazon.com, CDBaby.com, liquidmusicnetwork.com and MP3.com. For more information, visit www.groovyjudy.com.

Q: How long have you been performing?
I’ve been playing the guitar for over [20] years and I’ve been in bands since 1989. My first band was an all-female group called The Tourists in Distress. It was formed the day after the huge San Francisco earthquake. I guess that’s how we came up with the name. After that, I was in Psycho Betty, which is on the Peninsula, and Psychotic Melod[ic]. They were mainly rock and pop bands.

Q: Where have you studied guitar playing and music?
When I was 15, I took private lessons at a little local music store in Livermore, where I grew up. I’ve studied music at the Blue Bear School of Music, which is a pretty well-known nonprofit music school in San Francisco, the College of San Mateo and [Las] Positas. On the side, I’ve also taken music business seminars. It’s important to understand how the music business works. Then, I’ve also been in “The School of Hard Knocks,” which is learning while playing live.

Q: What do you do at Serena?
I’m a North American sales administrator. When people ask me who I work for I tell them that I work for NASA. It’s a great place, but my goal is to become a full-time musician. My friends ask me “Do you want to be a rock star?” I tell them that I don’t think I do, but I definitely want to spread some peace, joy, love and humor.

Q: How do intend to do that?
I try to make a difference in people’s lives by doing things like playing for nonprofits. One of my favorite gigs was one for the Leukemia Society in 1996. My dad recently passed away from multi-myloma, a form of leukemia. Since he couldn’t win the battle I decided that I would help others fight it. I played the benefit with Janis Joplin’s first group, Big Brother and the Holding Company. I’ve also played for the Samaritan House, the Red Cross, Food Not Bombs and the Haight Ashbury Free Clinics.

Q: Who has inspired your work?
Jimi Hendrix has been my greatest influence. I’m a big ’60s aficionado. I like him mainly because of his guitar playing style. He was the first person I knew who used a wahwah pedal. I am also really attracted to his vibe and his whole persona. He was a very gentle and kind person.

Q: Do you have your own wahwah pedal?
I have a purple Jimi Hendrix wahwah pedal. I love it. In some circles, I’m known as “Judy Wahwah.” Purple, which was Jimi’s favorite color, has become my favorite color – next to red that is.

Q: What creates your signature groovy style?
My hats, socks and tights that I wear while performing are really bright, psychedelic and funky. I haven’t taken inventory of my hats in a long time, but my “guesstimate” is that I have over 30. I buy hats and people give them to me, but I haven’t made any hats yet.

Q: Do you plan to make some soon?
I don’t plan to make any in the near future, but I would like to create my own line of hats. There aren’t any concrete plans in my head. Ideas just circle around in the back of my mind.

Q: Where do you get the hats in your collection?
I buy most of them from the Elope company. They make crazy, colorful and fun hats. I started my collection one day at Macy’s when I was shopping for clothes for a gig. I bought a short, maroon felt hat by Morgan Taylor. People really complimented me on it. I thought “Hey, I should start picking up hats.” I have been ever since.

Q: How much do the hats cost?
They are as cheap as $5 and as expensive as $50. My husband thinks they’re cool. He buys me a hat when he sees a nice one or, sometimes, he gets me a cool pair of socks. I have socks with music notes, stars, peace signs and smiley faces.

Q: Do you wear your hats to work?
First, I had to test the water with my hats. Any place that will allow me to wear my hats is OK with me. One of my nicknames is the “Crazy Hat Lady.” One of my friends still exclusively calls me that.

Q: What inspires your collections?
I think in a lot of ways I’m like a big kid. I have a serious side and a goofy one. My attitude is that you either you like me or you don’t. So, I’m not especially concerned with what people think.

Q: What is your favorite composition?
“Hey Dad” is a tribute to my dad. When he was going through his illness, I [sang] it for him. It really meant a lot for him. The song reminds me of how much I miss him. He was very supportive of me and my music. I think it’s important not to forget family. Sometimes remembering them is not always easy to do. I try to put reminders in my songs. Some people think that I’m being preachy and that’s fine. I need a little reminder and that’s why I do it. We can all use a little reminder now and then.

Q: What was your father’s reaction when you played the song for him?
I only tried to play it for him once and I cried through most of it. He was living in a little community outside of Sacramento called Rancho Murietta. He seemed to be very touched by it, even though he tried not to show any emotion. My dad wasn’t big on showing his feelings because he tried to remain strong and positive. He truly wanted to live.

Q: Have you won any awards for your music?
My song, “Forgive,” won an award for being the “Best Gospel Inspirational Song” from the Northern California Songwriters Association on the Peninsula. I also receive a stipend from [ASCAP] to help support my music.

Q: Have you signed any recording deals?
I signed one with a company in Los Angeles called Musicepicenter. They liked my songs [“I Need Your Help, Jesus”] and “Peace and Love.” They’re trying to get them into film and television productions, such as soap operas and dramas.

Q: Is there any other way that you try to spread happiness?
I send a spiritual moment through e-mail to subscribers. You can get a positive insight for the day by signing up on my Web site. I got the inspiration from a desk calendar that I have. I try to share positive things when I see them. That’s the motto that I live by – groove on.

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