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About the Artist
Judy Perkins was born in Jonesville, Michigan. She was the only daughter in family that included six boys. The family was a musical one, all of her brothers were playing musical instruments and when she was just six years old, she began appearing with them at community and social events. Her performing career lasted some 31 years and included both radio and television.
A 1949 cover feature noted she started singing when she was just seven years old.
When she was 16, she entered and won a talent contest in Pittsford, Michigan. That enabled her to appear on the Home Talent Program on radio station WLS in Chicago, Illinois. That was actually her first radio appearance and gave her the desire to become a radio / music performer.
She attended Michigan State University on a scholarship. But she was soon lured by a radio career and found herself working at radio station WFIN over in Findlay, Ohio. She accompanied herself on guitar and sang hymns, ballads, spirituals and hillbilly music tunes.
She made numerous personal appearances with Blue Barron at venues such as USO shows, camps, and hospitals.
In 1943, Judy was entertaining audiences over WIBC in Indiaapolis, Indiana. She was a part of the Hoosier Barn Dance that was heard on the WIBC Jamboree program. Back in 1943, she was part of group of entertainers that were entertaining folks at the "B. F. Keith's" stage. The group included Little Jimmy Dickens, then billed as the world's smallest cowboy. Others on the show were Harpo and Tiny, Quarantine, Benny Slofoot, a comedian; Bill and Evalina; and Hugh Cross, who was also the Master of Ceremonies. It sounds as though the B. F. Keith 'stage' was a movie theater as the article we have mentions a movie being played called "Heading for God's Country" that starred William Lundigan, Virginia Dale and Harry Davenport. This was one of Jimmy Dickens' earliest career stops before he became a legendary artist with the WSM Grand Ole Opry.
Back in 1945, the WIBC Jamboree show included not only Judy, but Emma Lou and her Saddle Pals, Red Herron and Curley Miller, who played the part of the singing emcee of the show. It aired around 9:00pm Saturday nights. Nicola and Rose Fantetti told the fans in a 1945 column that another act on that show, Gene Doll, a 13-year old singer was a dead ringer for Little Jimmy Dickens, noting that if the announcer did not tell you who was singing, you would think you were hearing Jimmy.
She stayed with WIBC for about a year. Then she tried a stint with K(W)XEL over in Waterloo, Iowa only to find herself back at WIBC in about a year. She joined WKRC around the fall of 1945. There, she noted in that 1949 article, she got to work with such folks as Cowboy Copas, Fiddlin' Red Herron, Glen Hughes, Shorty Sharpe and the whiz with the harmonica, Eddie Smith. She could be heard with the gang every day at 6:15am on the Cornhusker's Jamboree show. The show featured Hugh Cross as the emcee and vocalist on the show along with others such as Shorty Hobbs, a comedian, Art (Rusty) Gabbard, Step Weigand on the accordion, and Lily Mae, who was with the Coon Creek Girls previously.
On May 27, 1945, Judy was part of a large package show that appeared at the CIrcle B Ranch near Cincinnati, Ohio. The show featured not only the stars from WKRC, but also the headliners from WIBC out of Indianapolis, Indiana. If the talent rosters of those shows weren't enough, Patsy Montana was also part of the roster of entertainers as well.
In 1945, she was one of the headline acts at Bill Monroe's venue, the Brown County Jamboree in Bean Blossom, Indiana. This was on Sunday, July 22, 1945. The lineup of entertainers included "The Lazy Ranch Boys" which then included Eddie Hinkle, Red Herron, Ralph Ballard, Shorty Waterbury, Marion Martin, Emmy Lou and Judy Perkins. The show also included the Brown County Jamboree stars such as The Hillclimbers, The Doyle Sisters, Ann Goud, The Briar Hopper Trio, The Roving Pioneers, The Elliot Sisters, and, Little Kentucky Burnel and his five string banjo. It is intereting to note that an ad that Ms. Perkins provded notes that Reserved Seats for that show cost 55 cents and included tax. General Admission tickets cost 40 cents and kids were only charged 25 cents. Bus service to the venue was provided by The Indiana Scenic Bus Lines.
Nicola and Rose Fantetti wrote in 1945 that Judy and Red Herron did their final appearance on the WIBC Jamboree on Saturday night, September 8, 1945. And they reported that on Monday, September 10, they were hearing them over WKRC in Cincinnati at 6:30am and again at 7:30am. They also wrote in another column that she and others were doing three morning shows each day as well as many personal appearances in the area.
Sometime in 1946, Judy worked a personal appearance at the Taft Theatre in Cincinnati, Ohio. Appearing on that show was the legendary comedianne from Grinders Switch and the Grand Ole Opry, Minnie Pearl. Bradley Kincaid was also on the show along with the other entertainers from WKRC.
Judy kept in touch with Minnie, for in 1947, she was attending Minnie's house warming party after being married. It was a modest basement apartment. But you have to wish you could have been there. Vic Willis, Pee Wee King, Guy Willis, Lazy Jim Day, Zeke Clements, Roy Acuff, Skeeter Willis, Eddy and Sally ARnold, Texas Ruby, Curly Fox and Tex Ritter. Now that's an interesting party!
In May of 1946, WKRC had a shake up of its on air entertainers. Hugh Cross was the first one to leave on May 5th; he and Shug Fisher wanted to take some time off before embarking on a summer tour of fairs, parks and other venues. Fiddlin' Red Herron left then, too - leaving to join the Texas Troubadours and Ernest Tubb in Nashville, Tennessee. On May 11, the rest of the gang at WKRC went their separate ways. Judy and Art Gabbard went on to KMOX. The others - Lily Mae, Bob Glenn, Guy Blakeman, Shorty Hobbs and Eddie Smith moved on to radio station WHAS in Louisville. Before Judy went to KMOX, she stopped off to visit the family back in Michigan.
In 1946, Hugh Cross wrote to the editors, Orville and Jenny Via, of National Hillbilly News of his travels. He and Shug Fisher had traveled back to the Wheeling, West Virginia area for a spell. Around July 7, 1946, they began their travel back to Hollywood, California. But along the way, they stopped off in St. Louis and met up with Judy Perkins, who then was working at KMOX. Art Gabbard and Bill Stallard were there, too. She was a part of the Barnyard Follies show over KMOX in St. Louis, the Checkerboard Jamboree show, a Mutual Broadcasting System show originating in Nasvhille, Tennessee.
While on KMOX, she teamed with Art Gabbard, Rusty Marion and Wes Howe to form a quartette and did a show featuring spirituals and hymns.
During her stint at KMOX, she would team up with another famed act, the Miccolis Sisters, who were known for their 'trick yodeling' and would do a trio act according an article by the Fantettis in 1946.
In January of 1947, a reader wrote to Gertrude Carson in her column of news related to the Midwest that Judy was now working at WLAC in Nashville, Tennessee. She had moved to Nashville in late 1946 and had her own hour-long radio show that aired each day, Monday through Friday from 4:45pm to 5:45pm called "Judy Perkins and Her Daily Radio Party". The news article notes, "...Judy yodels her way into the harts of thousands of listeners each afternoon..."
In April of 1947, a budding entertainer, Betty Galladay wrote the editors of National Hillbilly News that Judy had referred her to their magazine, telling her of the entertainers' subscription price. Betty noted that while she was an entertainer on a small radio station near Detroit, Michigan, she felt it wouldn't be fair to pay the cheaper rate and instead was sending them the full amount for a year's subscription.
Also in 1947, Judy joined the cast of another show that was competing with some popular morning programs such as "Breakfast with Tom Brenaman" in Hollywood and "Breakfast Club" with Don McNeil. That show was hosted by Eddy Arnold - the Checkerboard Jamboree, which was staged at the ANdrew Jackson Hotel. Other regular members on the show were Owen Bradley and the Tennesseans, the Old Hickory Singers, Jack-Nap-and-Dee as well as Judy. The show was sponsored by the Ralston-Purina Company in St. Louis, Missouri. The show aired over WSIX Monday through Friday at 11:30am. The copy of the promotional piece that Judy sent along notes that one could order the "complete luncheon" for 60 cents.
In 1948, Judy became a part of the staff of entertainers with radio station WLW in Cincinnati, Ohio. She would stay with them for over ten years. Back in 1948, television was in its infancy, barely a year old. She would appear on such shows as the Midwestern Hayride, the Ruth Lyons Show.
In 1949, Mary Jean Shurtz wrote that she had just missed being able to visit with Judy when she took in a concert at the famed Hillbilly Park. But the cast of entertainers was late in arriving and she never found time to meet Judy at that time. But she did note, "...we think Judy is one fine singer and we don't mean maybe."
Orville Via wrote in his editor's column that Judy was among the troupe from WLW that played a shwo at the Tipton Theatre in Huntington, West Virginia and hosted them on a tour of their facilities where they published National Hillbilly News.
She worked with such network staff as Rod Serling (of Twilight Zone fame), Earl Hamner (of the Waltons and Falcon Crest).
Later in her career, she had her own show, broadcasting over station WMOH out of Hamilton, Ohio as Women's Director of Cunmunity Service. On that show, she would interview folks involved in public service, celebrities and politicians.
She set aside her broadcasting career in 1975.
Credits & Sources