"Judy Welden's Lifetime of Country"

by Geoff Wilbur

Sponsored In Part By
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There are some special people in the world of traditional country music who are fine country artists in their own right and have also helped many others find their places in the country music world. All three musicians interviewed in this issue fall into this category. I had the great pleasure, in this case, of interviewing Judy Welden.

Judy began, "By now you probably know about my Grace album. I believe I sent you a copy. Two of the songs from that project will be on my upcoming country project called Chasing a Dream. I had not released a Christian album since 1994, so I wanted to get that one out first. Many folks, including DJs, have told me 'Church Called the Risen Son' was the best song on the Grace album, so Iím including that one on the country album along with 'One Nation,' except that it will be last on the country album instead of first, as it was on the Christian album. I have eight new country songs on it as well as seven of my songs that were included on compilations but not my own album. 17 songs total. There is a promoter from Denmark who is interested in having artists from RMCMA Records come for a tour later this summer (like August). He is particularly interested in my coming since I toured there in Europe the summer of í98. Iíll have to get you more info on this later, since it is just in the works. I havenít done any concerts in my area since October, but I sing in the band at my church and do solos about once a month."

Judy has been performing for almost as long as she could walk. She recalls, "Of course, I always sang in church, from age seven on, sang in choral groups at three different schools (moved around a lot), and sang in a Sweet Adelines group when I was 19. I wanted to be in a band but got married and had three children, so it was put on hold for years. However, I sang whenever I could while raising my children. In my early thirties, I sang with a trio of girls who sang at functions in Charleston, West Virginia; then in my mid-thirties I had my own band (called the Differentials) as well as a talent agency in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

"My late husband, Dick, didnít like me out at night, so when we moved to St. Louis, Missouri in the mid í70s, I became a Union booking agent and seldom sang, mostly holiday parties. Around this time, I started singing jingles that I wrote for celebrants. After losing my first husband (drowning accident), I married Bill, a chiropractor, and we moved to Port St. Lucie, Florida. I helped him set up his office, worked with him for a few years, doing the jingles again on the side, sometimes doing commercials for radio and TV -- called Judyís Jingles. I had always written poetry and had a few songs back in the early í80s, but I decided to really get into songwriting and started writing dozens at a time. I was in a band called Rhapsody for a year and then decided to form my own -- Firesong -- but I found that local musicians did not want to practice, so after three different starts -- with different musicians -- I finally gave up. Now I only sing at concerts, with my background tapes or with my church band. I have a new Technics 1600 keyboard, so if I ever figure it out, I may be able to use it for my demos and/or performing! But that is in the future."

Judy recounts the many influences behind her music: "I was brought up on standard and Christian music (which my mother listened to). I liked jazz, but she hated it, so I bought albums and stashed them in my closet for when I got my own apartment. I never liked country music, but when my first husband and I moved to West Virginia, that was all I heard on the radio. So I learned to like it. I liked country rock for years -- like the Eagles, America, etc. My favorite country group: Alabama. Females: Ella Fitzgerald (early years); later, Linda Ronstadt. I donít think I sound like anyone, but when Iím singing my best I have bluesy influences. I think the song determines what genre or style for the vocal. That is why I sometimes sound sweet ('Every Season') and other times have a gutsy, donít tread on me sound ('Iím a Survivor')."

Judy's career has put her on the same stage with some big names. She recalls, "I sang on the same stage with Kitty Wells in í94 at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. She was on before me, so I always say she was my opening act! Not true, though -- it was a variety show with mostly new artists."

She adds, "In April of 1997, I performed in concert with Marvell, who was the lead singer of Mercy in the late í60s. We sang a duet -- their #1 song, called "Love Can Make You Happy" -- and sang some other duets as well. Later that year, there was a remake of the song."

Stylistically, Judy notes, "Iím probably a little like Victoria Shaw, but for the most part, Iím one of a kind!"

Judy has garnered numerous awards during her career. She explains, "I have a bunch, especially songwriting awards, but most notable are these: Woman of the Year (In the Arts) Cameo Award in my Area 1997, Most Promising Female Vocalist of the Year (New Gospel) í98, NACMAI Album of the Year -- New Country (1999) for album Judy Welden Country Hits -- í92 to í98, (Best of Texas Awards) International Female Recording Artist of the Year (1999), GNACMAI (Greater North America CMA International) Song of the Year (Fishing for a New Love) 2000, (ICMAG) Independent CMA of Germany Artists of the 20th Century ICMAG 2000, Hall of Fame ICMAG 2001."

Later, after the initial interview was completed, Judy e-mailed me: "Just realized when looking at my bio that I didnít list ĎPromoter of the Yearí 2000 as one of my main awards... or that I had 3 songs go to #1 on the Indie charts." Definitely worthy additions to this article!

Judy has also been active in music-related issues. She notes, "Well, youíve probably heard of my FIRP (Fairness in Royalty Payments) campaign, but you might not know my famous quote, 'We indies plant a large field to reap half a peanut every 10 plantings!!' This comes from my experience of getting a tiny royalty -- $5.00 -- about 10% of the time, even with proven airplay. I no longer have the campaign going... or, at least, actively. The song Phil Coley and I co-wrote and he recorded, called 'Beware Unfair Societies (The Day of Reckoning Has Come)' was played all over the world in three genres -- the DJs were on our side, but, as I expected, I didnít get a royalty on that one!"

Judy has done a lot of promotion for other artists during the years. She talks about some of her experiences: "I had Larry Gatlinís publishing company interested in two of my artists (one was a band and one a female singer), but as it turned out the artists did not want to use Gatlinís songs because they were not as strong as the songs they wrote themselves. The problem there is that these major publishing companies want to give new artists their 'B' songs and save their best for the major stars. I had to agree with the artists, but think they should have given a bit.

"Also had Sony reps interested in one of my singers for a while, but they decided she was too young. She was 20 at the time, and that was when Lee Ann Rimes had started out, so this didnít make sense with me. Anyway, this was the closest I had my clients coming in touch with the big guys!"

Judy's future holds much for her, including, she says, "Getting the new albums promoted, having songs released as singles over the next several years... weíre talking 27 songs on the two albums, so that will last a while! Iíd like my artist development company to take off. Iím hoping the new website will help. It shows where Iíve been and my goals. I know I can save new artists a bundle of money, as I would get them the same deals Iíve had for myself. Because you donít make any money when you are an indie, you have to really watch the costs. Long term, Iíd like to have a major hit (with a known artist singing one of my songs or one that I publish of another writer). Also, I am an AFM booking agent (have kept my license all these years) and have always wanted to find a hard working, honest person to work under my license. It appears to be a glamorous job, but it really is a lot of work. When applicants find out how much is involved, they lose interest."

When asked what has given her the greatest satisfaction in her music career, Judy replies, "Helping so many artists and songwriters get heard and be on the indie charts -- over 100."

Some of her most special moments and accomplishments, says Judy, were "singing at the Ryman Auditorium (show with Kitty Wells), singing at the Zevenbergen Festival and touring in six other countries, receiving many awards, and being nominated (and accepted) for inclusion in Marquis Whoís Who In Entertainment and International Whoís Who in Music."

When asked if she'd like to add anything else, Judy says, "Just that I appreciate people like yourself, who have helped me throughout the years with nice interviews and reviews of my music. Iím truly grateful!"

692 S.E. Port St. Lucie Blvd., Port St. Lucie, FL 34984-5142; http://www.judywelden.com

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