Script for August 2000, QMH:
Welcome to Lesbian & Gay Voices on KPFT and this segment is called Queer Music Heritage. I'm JD Doyle and I'm here on the 4th Monday of each month to bring you an hour devoted to our culture's music. I plan to cover a lot of territory in terms of years and types of music. Mostly, I just don't think gay and lesbian music of the past should be forgotten, and I try to give a little information about the music and artists as I go. I also slip in songs from the present as well.
You're probably wondering why I'm playing classical music in the background. Well, it does fit in with the theme of tonight's show. This show is a special one. Its entire focus is on Transgender music. It covers music by and about transsexuals and cross-dressers. The music in the background is from the million-selling album from 1969, "Switched On Bach" where Wendy Carlos performed using a Moog Synthesizer. Carlos is a transsexual, which I certainly didn't know at the time, and probably few of the record buyers did either. But that's enough the classical music for this show.
Most of you are probably familiar with the song "sweet transvestite" from Rocky Horror Picture Show it has the following line: "if you want something visual, that's not too abysmal, we could take in an old Steve Reeves movie." Well, I've got something visual for the listeners of this show. Since there will be so many obscurities heard, I thought those of you on the internet would like to be able to see photos of the artists and recordings, and view the playlist.
Most of the music I found dealt with the subject of transgender with humor, or at least admitting confusion. The first two songs are examples of this. The first is by an English actress and comedian named Hermione Baddeley. She starred in movies such as "Room At The Top" and "Mary Poppins," but was more known for her role as Mrs. Nagautuck on the TV show "Maude." In her stage appearances she sang many comedy songs, such as the one I'm playing from her 1961 album "A Taste Of Hermione Baddeley." The song is called "I changed my sex a week ago today," and I'm following it with a song from the 50s from the album "Calypsos From The West Indies." The song is sung by an artist billed as The Charmer, and who that person is today is someone you'd never expect.
- I changed my sex a week ago today (1961)
The last song was called "is she is or is she ain't", by The Charmer, and who is The Charmer? He's Louis Farrakhan, head of the Nation of Islam, and is known for his Million Man March in 1995 in particular and for his inflammatory rhetoric in general.
My next set includes two songs by female
artists who say that their guys should've been gals. Both artists
are known for their party records. The first is by Nan Blakstone from
1947 and is called "he should've been a wac," and the last
song of the set is by Ruth Wallis and is called "he'd rather
be a girl." In between them is a bit of a comedy routine. Now,
I'm purposely not playing music by female impersonators because that
is a different subject from transgender music. But I found a female
impersonator doing a comedy bit that mentions Christine Jorgensen.
Jorgensen received the first major media attention for her sex change
operation in 1952. The female impersonator doing the bit is Lynn Carter
from her 50s album "She's A He."
That was Nan Blakstone, Lynn Carter, and Ruth Wallis. The source of Wallis' song was her 1958 album "Hot Songs For Cool Knights," but fortunately it is also on her greatest hits CD, issued last year.
Well, I played a bit of a comedian talking about Christine Jorgensen. That leads up to a special treat I've got. Here are a couple of minutes from a very rare interview album from 1958 called "Christine Jorgensen Reveals", where she answers questions, so you'll get to hear her own voice.
Christine Jorgensen - excerpts from the '58 interview LP "Christine Jorgensen Reveals"
I'm going to jump into the 70s now, from Christine to Lola. Many of you are familiar with one of the Kink's biggest hits, "Lola," but here's a refresher: ["Girls will be boys, and boys will be girls. It's a mixed up, muddled up, shook up world, except for Lola. Lo lo lo Lola. Lo lo lo Lola. ]
Kinks - lola (short clip)
The song ends with the line "." Well I'm not the world's most masculine man, but I know what I am and that I'm a man, and so is Lola." That was from 1970, but they had another song about gender in 1978 on their "Misfits" album. It was called "out of the wardrobe."
Kinks - out
of the wardrobe (1978, from "Misfits")
Rude Girls -
rufus and beverly (1990)
The Howie Nave song was from his aptly titled CD "I Can't Believe I Sang That"
Now it's time for my spotlight artist, Billy Tipton. Tipton was a jazz musician who achieved only modest regional success in the 40s and 50s. His career included live radio shows with Big Bands and evolved into jazz quartets and trios playing in night clubs. In his 74 years, in addition to being a band leader and a booking agent, he was a husband 5 times and adopted 3 children. After he died in 1989 in Spokane, a coroner revealed that he was much more, and the mysterious story ran wild on the wire services: Billy Tipton was a woman.
It seems that Tipton's decision to adopt
a male disguise was likely motivated, at least at first, by practical
reasons: It was the depression, people were desperate for work, and
it was especially difficult for women to get work playing in jazz
bands. So, at 19, Dorothy Tipton began cross-dressing to get a job
in a band. She cut her hair, put on men's clothing, bound her breasts
and re-christened herself Billy Tipton, eventually fooling 5 wives
and the world for more than 50 years. Tipton left no letters of explanation,
so we can only speculate on what drove her, but we can learn much
of what there is to know from a biography by Diane Wood Middlebrook
called "Suits Me: The Double Life of Billy Tipton."
The liner notes on the back state: Billy Tipton is the lad pictured on the cover between the gorgeous gals. There's nothing highbrow about Billy or his superb musicianship on the eighty eights. He's an Oklahoma boy, Oklahoma City, to be precise, who was born in 1919.
And the liner notes go on, completely referring to Billy with male pronouns; so from the album "Billy Tipton Plays Hi-Fi On Piano" here's "marie", and please pay close attention to what follows the song for a different side of Billy's act.
Thanks to the power of the internet, I was able to track down the clip you heard after the song "marie." The clip was Billy accompanying himself on piano doing a novelty act, with a falsetto version of "rubber dolly". This was taken from a 1949 radio broadcast he did in Oregon.
This would be a good time to take a break and remind you that you are listening to Queer Music Heritage, a part of Lesbian & Gay Voices on KPFT, Houston, 90.1 FM. Also, be sure to listen to KPFT every Saturday night at midnight for After Hours with Jimmy Carper. It's Queer Radio With Attitude.
I'm going to play a bit of country comedy now. Country music has always been a rich ground for poking fun. Here is a collage I put together of 4 songs doing just that.
- all my exes change their sexes
You've just heard parts of "all my exes change their sexes" by Mac MacDonald, "where's the dress" by Moe Bandy & Joe Stampley, the Reverand Billy C. Wirtz singing "honky tonk hermaphrodite" and Rodney Carrington singing "dancing with a man"
But perhaps one of the very best comedy songs about cross-dressing was this next one from 1993. It's Bob Rivers' version of "walkin' round in women's underwear"
Bob Rivers - walkin' round in women's underwear (1993)
From comedy we're going to jump to rock & roll. This artist started out recording as Wayne County, and then had a sex-change in 1979 and became Jayne County. The hard-driving sound didn't change. From her "Deviation" album from 1995, here's "transgender rock & roll"
Jayne County - transgender rock & roll (1995, from "Deviation")
I wish I had time to play more transgender rock , so I could play artists like Temptress or songs from the off-Broadway show "Hedwig & the Angry Inch." But I think you'll forgive me when you hear the next song. It's by a transgender artist named Veronica Klaus and is from her album called "All I Want." That album was good enough to get her a nomination for best female artist at the 1998 GLAMAs, the Gay & Lesbian American Music Awards. The album is excellent and I've met her, she's a very classy person. Please notice the subtle transgender lyrics to her song, "Black Diamond Days." Here is Veronica Klaus.
Veronica Klaus - black diamond days (1998, from "All I Want")
Next up is something very different.
I'm going to play a song by transgender activist Jessica Xavier. Jessica
just this year has released a CD, called "Changeling" and
I think it's very good. When I realized I was going to play one of
her songs on this show I wrote to Jessica. I told her that I especially
like the CD because it's the only one I know of where all of the songs
are coming from the perspective of a transsexual herself. The songs
are lyrically Out from both personal and political standpoints.
Terrific ! I sorta knew I was writing
about something that hadn't really been written about before. Most
of us are too ashamed to write about our trans experience. I've hung
out with lots of gay and lesbian people -so I have some "out
and proud" role models, like SONiA of Disappear Fear.
So, I'm closing tonight's show with a song called "the same new me" by Jessica, but before I do I want to thank you for listening to Queer Music Heritage. If you have questions or comments about any of the music I've featured, including maybe where to track them down, I'd be glad to help, so please email me. This is JD Doyle for Lesbian & Gay Voices on KPFT in Houston, and I'll be back on the 4th Monday of next month with another installment of Queer Music Heritage, and as promised, here's Jessica Xavier and "the same new me."
Jessica Xavier - the same new me
Below, Veronica Klaus has done some modeling work, as seen in these prints from TerranceWorks