Judy Gascoyne is one gutsy musician. She defies San Francisco’s shabby-cool fashionistas by wearing glittery psychedelic clothes, refers to herself as “Jimi’s Sister” in one of her songs (a whimsical, but deadly move), and further risks hipster derision with the stage name “Groovy Judy.”
“I thank my mom for any courage I have,” says Gascoyne. “She inspired me by saying, ‘Play the guitar like a guy,’ so that’s what I do, and that’s where my fearlessness comes from.” Gascoyne’s band—which includes husband/ drummer, Pete—performs original music and covers rooted in the ’60s and ’70s, and she also gives back to the community as a guitar teacher. “Groovy Judy’s” passion for the music of the Summer of Love era started when she heard Jimi Hendrix’s “Castles Made of Sand,” and immediately knew she wanted to play guitar like him someday.
“I’m influenced by psychedelic artists, but ‘Groovy’ also stands for groovin’ music,” says Gascoyne, who still calls Hendrix her “main man.” “I love the ’60s because of the explosion of creativity. Fashion was outrageous, songs were rocking and trippy, and much of the music focused on peace, love, and brotherhood. I never get tired of that message.”
With hard-fought experience gained through hundreds of club gigs, Gascoyne has developed a few methods for engaging aloof or disinterested listeners.
“Great songs and great players equal a great show,” she says, “but it also helps if you can tell when the audience is moved and when they’re not. If I sense something isn’t working, I quickly change gears to draw the crowd back in. My favorite technique is going out into the audience while I’m soloing. People love that!”
Gascoyne also has an interesting take on the enduring “girl guitarist” hullabaloo: “I often get the comment, ‘I don’t mean to be sexist, but you play pretty good for a girl.’ I take it as a compliment. As long as people are digging what I do, I don’t care how they say it.”