Black River Falls Band
Tacoma, Bremerton, Seattle & Olympia, Washington
Here you will Find Judy's Last Interview, two months before she passed away. and Her Last Letter that Was Read , By Her Request, At Her Service
We miss her dearly and always will.
This page was last updated on: March 15, 2021
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Updates by Wally Giffin
Site established on Oct. 28, 2002
41 Years of Good Dance Music.
Welcome to the inaugural edition of the Northwest Country Music Scene. © 2002--by Wally Giffin
Our first interview is with Judy-Kuneman Giffin, "Country Sweetheart" on Tacoma's, KTVW Ch. 13's "Western Jamboree" every weeknight for four plus years in the early 60"s. She recently retired after a career of forty five years of being one of the Northwest's leading girl singers and bass players culminating in her induction into the Pacific NW Country Music Hall of Fame in 2002, plus six other well deserved awards in the past two years.
I asked over four hundred people by email if there were any questions they would like to ask Judy for this interview. A few of these questions are from the five replies I received.
Judy's Last Interview
Vol. 1 Issue 1
Where were you born and raised, Judy?
I was born and raised right here in good old Tacoma, Washington.
Did you spend your whole life here?
No, I went to Alaska for a short time and I was in Nebraska for a while.
How did you get started in the business?
I got started by my girlfriend, Carol Cummings, and I singing to her mother's friends over the telephone. Her mother, who used to belong to the Tacoma Moose lodge, entered us into a talent contest and it went from there.
I understand you were a pioneer as far as being a girl and playing bass in the Pacific Northwest. Is that true?
As far as I knew there was one other girl that played guitar bass. Her name was Eulaine LaRoche. She worked up in the Seattle area; I worked down here and we both started about the same time.
You were on several radio and TV shows in the local area. Can you tell us something about them?
The main radio station I sang over was KAYE, which later became KJUN. KAYE was out of Puyallup and I worked with the Bar K Gang who were all disc jockeys at the radio station. Buck Owens and Donny Rich were two of those DJ"s. One other station was KFHA out of Lakewood when Chubby Howard was a disc jockey there.
How about TV Shows?
KTVW, Channel 13, with the Western Jamboree, five afternoons a week, from 1962 until 1966 and I was a guest once in a while on Jack Roberts Evergreen Jubilee show on channel four (KOMO) out of Seattle during that same time. There was also the Country Jamboree with Grover Jackson that came on in 1970 for a year or so on Channel 13 here in Tacoma.
What have been some of your favorite songs to perform over the years?
I think everybody knows I like ballads. Any good old ballads, anything that would grab your heart strings and twang 'em good.
Who have been some of your favorite pickers, both local and national, over these past forty five years?
Locally? Oh that would be kind of hard to say. I like a lot of them for different reasons. I won't name names because it makes it too hard, because of liking them for different reasons.
As far as the commercial people on the radios or whatever, I always liked Connie Smith and Loretta Lynn. More recent favorites have been: Vince Gill, LeAnn Womack and Leanne Rimes.
Who did you look up to, including local entertainers, in the early years of your music career?
Who did I look up to? I looked up to Chubby Howard a lot because he was kind of my teacher or the one who allowed me to make all the mistakes and still be working. He taught me a lot about the musicians and just music in general.
He taught me how to listen to music. He more importantly, taught me to not just listen to the overall sound of a band, but how to listen to each individual instrument and each individual singer--especially the instruments.
Chubby taught me the most about music.
Is there anyone left for you to look up to now after all your years of entertaining?
That would have to be Shotgun Red. He's always been around when I have needed a friend. When I have been sick and in the hospital and stuff years back he never failed to keep in touch. He always called the hospital when I was out at Madigan and everything and they always sent cards when I was sick. He came through for me when my amplifier was stolen. He has given me jobs playing music and then, in the later years, now, they've given me that tribute, that beautiful tribute that I had earlier this year. Then that wonderful banner they had made up. He's been a good musician, he stayed with it, and he didn't go over to rock and roll and all that sort of thing. It might of hurt him a little by not changing but he has stayed true to Country.
What do you see as the future country music?
I'm hoping that it's all going to come back around again, because bluegrass is coming back. That's kind of--almost where it started. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it's all going to come around again.
What was your most memorable performance?
I guess that would have to be the day when you and I set in with a group and we did the song "Blue" for the first time from the bandstand and knocked the house down. We got a standing ovation and just knocked the house down.
We went to a bar up in North Seattle. The band asked us to get up and do a few songs. The first one we did was "Blue". It just surprised everybody. The song had just come out, I was the first one that did it locally, and live I suppose.
Somebody before the gig told Jim Rushing, who had been at a party earlier that day and invited us, that, "No one knows how to sing 'Blue'". Jim told him, "Well, you're going to hear it tonight!"
(When we heard LeAnn Rimes recording of "Blue", I was given orders to go buy a copy, which I did that day.
The very next weekend we went to a house party and jam session up near Marysville where she sang that wonderful shuffle song for the first time.
We didn't screw it up too bad for the first time and gained confidence that we could pull it off. It was not the easiest song to learn.
Some of the guys at the party were doing a jam session at this club later that night and Jim asked us to stop by to pick a few.
These guys got us up there for the very first song of the night and when I asked Jude what she wanted to start off with she said, "Blue".
Whoa"for the very first song?" "Yes, she said", so I come on like gangbusters and kicked it off.
There were only about fifteen people in the dance area, but by the time she got the second line out, the place was standing room only. They literally came running out of the restaurant on one side, the pool room and lounge on the other side and even several through the front door and started hooting, hollering, and clapping and kept it up throughout the entire song. Lord, Jude thought she was at the Grand Old Opry----what a sight to see and what a wonderful memory for both of us.) (Wally, the originator of this web site is Judy's Husband.)
What advice would you give to anyone that wants to get started in the music business today?
Learn as much as you can by listening to the people on records and learn what they're doing. Don't just sing the song; learn what the singers are doing. Why do you like one singer better than another?
That usually is because they know how to phrase. The word phrase is tricky and if you don't understand the word, you don't understand how to do it. Phrasing is really important. You have to say a word and mean and make somebody really understand what you're doing or what you are trying to say. The songwriter was trying to tell you something from his heart. He was either hurting or trying to tell about someone else who was hurting and you have to tell the story and really hurt and convince that audience of that and let them know how much it hurt.
You almost have to exaggerate in order to get it across. Exaggerate your feelings to get that music across. Sometimes you have to hang on to a note a little bit or clip it off or do something to get your feelings out there. To make people really believe what you're trying to tell them. You're selling the song whether it is sad or happy, but especially the sad songs.
Is it true that you and Wally are in the process of writing your life's story?
We're trying to but are just hoping there is enough time left to get it all down on tape. We've got a start on it.
Do you feel that the public would be interested it your story enough to make all the effort worthwhile and, if so, why?
I would like people to really understand me; where I came from; why I did not go to Nashville or try to make it big and why I am who I am today.
Not even my family really knows me or what I have done in the music field.
People really do not understand what it takes to be a responsible musician. Many think most musicians are nothing but worthless bums with bad morals, etc., and are looking for handouts and make way too much money for something they seem to enjoy anyway.
This is not true. We are just like everyone else. The majority of us have day jobs. The kind of money they pay today just does not cut it. We are making much less money today compared to past years and we can prove it. It's tough trying to play music, as it is expensive in the first place. To get all the equipment you need and learn all the material you need.
Also, another thing I feel people would be interested in is the fact that I have terminal colon cancer and this is the fifth time I have been told I was going to die by the medical profession.
Both I and Wally feel that my story is worth telling if for no other reason than to give people the real story of what it is to be an entertainer and to go thru many hopeless situations with a smile on your face as much as possible.
How would you describe your life in just a few words?
It's been interesting---------it's really been interesting. I've done a lot and I've enjoyed it. I can't regret anything, really.
What philosophy do you have?
I've had so many. Basically, it's to live your life true. Know yourself above all; totally know yourself. Be honest whether it's good or bad: just totally know who you are. If you have to say the words out loud Tell yourself what you've done that you may not be proud of or whatever, but either accept yourself and go on from there or fix what you don't like. I've always tried to work on who I am and tried to be what I really wanted to be.
You have gone thru many health issues these past fifteen years, yet have, until just recently, continued to entertain in the clubs as if nothing had happened. Where does your strength and perseverance come from?
Yes I have gone thru many health issues these past fifteen years, but I didn't want to make everybody feel bad. We were all here to entertain and feel good, right?
My strength and perseverance just come from believing In living; not giving up.
How do you wish to be remembered?
I'd like to be remembered as somebody who loves people, who did my best in my singing and playing. My best may not have been the greatest, but it was the best I had to give.
Someone remembers that you and Marilyn sang together with such fantastic harmony on the TV show and wondered why you two split up and hardly ever sang together again. He wondered if there was any real reason for it. He asked Marilyn at a club in Puyallup why and he never received an answer.
There were no problems between us. Marilyn's husband said several times that the two of us ought to be married to each other. It just seemed like we were always together or learning new songs or something like that.
When we were on the "Country Jamboree" show, it was easier to get work if we each hired a drummer.
Marilyn would go with Grover Jackson, I would go with Chubby Howard, and we'd each hire a drummer. It was easier to find a job working three pieces instead of trying to hire out the whole band. So, that's how we did it. But it would split Marilyn and I up too.
Then later on I got married after the show went off the air and I moved to Seattle and she was living in Tacoma.
I was working at the Flame Tavern six nights a week and she worked around here with different bands. And then she formed her own band.
I did work with her in her band for a while.
We have stayed friends till today. We don't see each other very often any more, but we're still friends.
Thank you Judy for this rare and memorable opportunity. You have been an inspiration, not only to me, but also to many. I am proud to have you as our first interview for the "Northwest Country Music Scene."Back To Top
By Her Request This Note was Read at her Service.
For all of you here today and those who couldn’t be, I want to thank you for sharing your lives with me. I loved each of you so much and it meant a lot to know each of you in our unique ways.
Though I had a lot of tough time wrestling with my health through the years, I want you to know that most of my memories were of the good times, which were many
Wally and I shared 12 years making more beautiful memories than most people could only imagine. We lived our lives to the fullest and made the most of every minute.
I hope that through me and what I’ve been through these last years will make you look at your friends and loved ones and appreciate them and, above all, tell them you love them often. Live and enjoy every minute because you never know when your time will come and it will be too late. I had enough time to tell you I love you and I was able to put my life in order.
I don’t want you to grieve for me, but walk away remembering all the wonderful things in life you can take away from here to make sure your own life and death won’t be in vain.
Think of me fondly and often and have a beautiful life.
Thanks to all of you for sharing my life.
Judy Kuneman-Giffin January 4, 2003
Judy Giffin’s experience on radio and TV
In 1958 I started working at radio station KAYE as JUDY KUNEMAN. The station later became KJUN. For two years I sang with the Bar- K Gang at local remote broadcasts most Saturdays. This is also the same band Buck Owens went to work with when he came up to this part of the country. Unfortunately, when Buck was here I was no longer in the band. I never met him until he had several records out.
Through my teen years I participated in many talent shows in the Pierce, King and Kitsap county areas. Several of those talent contests, I won. I was lucky enough to be a part of several groups that entertained at Western State Hospital, Rainier State School, and at both the main building and the honor farm of McNeil Island Prison, Most of my later teen years I sang with various bands for the guys at Fort Lewis in the service clubs, Mc Chord AFB and Madigan Hospital.
I sang in an operetta called “The Chimes of Normandy” which was put on by the Lakewood Mask and Wigs. I felt it was an honor to be invited to be in the show.
In 1959 I was invited to join a dance band at Fort Lewis where Chuck Glaser was the bandleader. He is one of the three Glaser Bothers who sang back up on Marty Robbin’s early records. It was while doing one of these dances I was lucky enough to work with Chubby Howard and he asked me to be a guest on his and Grover Jackson’s Show on Channel 13. I was a guest one time on that show and they asked me to be a regular on the show. A while later Marilyn Martin came on the show and we became the “Country Sweethearts”. The Western Jamboree was on for one hour every weekday for four years. It went off the air in 1966. I continued to play in several dance bands. In 1970 Grover Jackson started his show called “The Country Jamboree”. This show aired on Channel 13 on Saturdays for about a year. I was on that show for several months.
I worked with several bands after that and made my living playing five and six nights a week throughout the Pacific Northwest. I worked at the Flame Tavern in Northgate for five years in the late sixties. In about 1978 or 79, I started working just weekends. I later married a man who owned a tavern and I played in the bands there for about 8 years. I briefly moved to Nebraska and upon my return I started working in the Black River Falls Band where I currently work and have been married to the steel guitar player for the past eight years.
Judy's Song List
If you are using the Chrome browser, all four songs will come on at that same time. Internet Explorer will work just fine, but Chrome still has a problem.Jan of 2018 Songs have been removed for the time being.
These are the songs most often sang by Judy and most requested.
There were very few songs that Judy could not or would not sing She had four song books. Three of them were with her most of the time. She prided herself on singing songs with the correct words. It really bothered her when a singer would sing the wrong words. Of course after singing these songs several hundred times, it was easy to think of different words for the various songs and if you listen good, you will hear some strange stuff coming out of entertainers mouths.
Lord, I Need Somebody Bad Tonight
Ashes of Love Crazy
Another Bridge to Burn
Her special version of ‘The Tennessee Waltz’—the Newspaper Wedding Dress
I’d Rather Be Sorry for the Things I Did Than the Ones I didn’t Do
Who Are You--Written by Wally and Judy Giffin
From a Jack To a King Old Flames
I Fall To Pieces
If I Had a Beautiful Body Would You Hold It Against Me
Dreams of a Dreamer
Never Again, Again
You Don’t Have Very Far to Go
Walkin’ After Midnight C’est La Vie
Heart Over Mind
Sweet Dreams of You
Tonight the Heartaches On Me
After Sweet Memories Play Born To Lose Again
What Part Of No Don’t You Understand
Blue Rose Is
Help Me Make It Thru the Night Kindly Keep It Country
Cowboy Lovin’ Night
The race is on
Rollin In My Sweet Babies Arms
Last Cheaters Waltz
Heartache by the Numbers
Above and Beyond
Twist and Shout
Friends She’s all I Got
There’s Your Trouble
San Antonio Stroll
I Wanna Dance With You
You Ain’t Woman Enough
My Window Faces the South
Two More Bottle of Wine.
This site is dedicated to Judy, her many accomplishments and love of Live Country Music
The thought of this ten year anniversary has been on my mind for quite some time now. Judy is still tremendously missed: Not only as a wife, mother and best friend, but as one of the finest Country singers and bass players in the Northwest. What a wonderful person she was in every way possible.
One memory of mine that stands out way above all others is:
No one ever met Judy that did not feel as though they had seen an old friend again.
Judy has quite a few excellent Country musicians to play music with after these ten years and although many do not believe in a life after death, she has let me know twice that she is ok after her passing. Details will be in a book about her later on.
I asked Randy Viers if he would put some thoughts down on paper about Judy. Randy worked alongside Judy at the TV station back in the 60's and just a year or two before she passed, we had the pleasure of having Randy drum for our band over one weekend.
Randy's recollections and thoughts follow. Thanks Randy for your remembrances and your friendship and your dedication to Country Music. Back to top
Television Personality, Musician and Vocalist
By Randy Viers 2013
For those of us that were lucky enough to have been around in the early 1960’s, there was a daily television show on channel 13 called the “Western Jamboree” (aka: The Chubby Howard Show). This aired at a time before Country Music was popular in mainstream America, and most folks called it “Country and Western Music”. Western Jamboree aired on weekdays from 4 to 5pm. In the Seattle television market, there were only 6 television stations and cable television had not yet come into existence. In those early days of television, it was almost impossible to produce a local television show that aired daily, consistently maintained high ratings, and was as successful as Western Jamboree was. It aired for nearly five years.
Many of the local pioneers of country music were guests on Chubby Howard’s show and some were regulars on the daily broadcast. Chubby Howard was a talented musician (steel guitar player), and a natural in front of the camera. He was also a very good businessman. Chubby made a deal with KTVW -Channel 13, to appear, and have all his guests appear, at no charge to the station. He only faced one obstacle; the Musicians Union in Tacoma. To appear on television, he would have to sign a union contract, be paid union wages, and pay his guest artists union wages. To get around this obstacle, Chubby struck a deal with television management and the artists. He’d have the station pay the union wages; he would cash the checks; then return the money to the television station. This allowed Chubby and his guest artists to appear regularly, without pay, on a popular television show, market themselves as artists, and promote the clubs and venues where they appeared. It was a win-win situation for everyone involved. Appearing on the show generated money for the clubs and venues through free television advertising. The artists became television celebrities’ and earned revenue from their appearances at the popular clubs and venues. Channel 13 gained revenue from minimal production costs and the sale of air time to advertisers on the show.
Many of the today’s young country artists can thank these country music pioneers who forged the trail on which they now travel. Those pioneers did not have You Tube to launch them into overnight sensations. Who were these Pioneers? Before I start, I humbly submit that I don’t presume to know the complete history of the Northwest Country Music scene. Shot Gun Red is the best historian that I know regarding this era. However, I did work with Cole Shelton and Grover Jackson during this period and was familiar with most of the musicians. Regretfully, I have forgotten the names of some of these artists. That’s the only reason that their names have been omitted. This was nearly 50 years ago, and many of the Northwest country musicians did not appear on television. With that said, most of the regulars on the Western Jamboree were Grover Jackson, Judy Kuneman, Shot Gun Red, Cole Shelton, Marilyn Martin, Buddy Swindt, and a host of others from that era.
The one artist that impressed me the most was Judy Kuneman. She was there nearly every day; showed up early and worked diligently on the songs that she was to perform. Most of the other artists showed up and did their thing and left. Judy was different. She performed the old country standards, but was always learning the latest songs on the charts. Judy was always relevant. I would walk into the studio before the lights and cameras were on, and in the dim lit studio, alone, was Judy. With music and lyrics on a stand, she practiced before the others arrived. She’d take short breaks and come up to the front office and visit with my wife, Marlyce, and other members of the office staff. Judy was quiet, appeared shy, but was very personable, and friendly. Those of us that worked at the station admired her talent and work ethic. I produced and directed Western Jamboree, and later produced and directed the Grover Jackson Show on Saturday nights where Judy would, again, be a guest artist. One of the most remarkable things that Judy possessed was the ability to look into the camera and never lose her focus. On the other end of the camera and in the monitors in the studio control room, it looked and felt as if she was looking into your eyes and singing just to you. She could connect in a way that made folks feel like they really knew her.
Judy and Marilyn Martin were known as “The Country Sweethearts”, and were also a regular part of the daily show. Their voices blended well and their harmonies were distinct and accurate. There was magic there; with very little rehearsal.
Judy was also a very talented musician. Because of her strong voice and charismatic presence, television didn’t do her justice in showcasing her musicianship. She played rhythm guitar and sang, and played rhythm guitar behind all the other artists appearing on the show each day. This was live television. There was little time for rehearsals and no room for mistakes. That’s a tough act to pull off day after day. I never realized how great a musician Judy was until the first time I saw her live on stage performing with other musicians. As a bass player she had impeccable meter, and her professionalism on stage with her fellow musicians was remarkable. Every one of her fans felt close to her because she took the time to say “hi” to each of them. On stage she was serious about the music, but always maintained a good sense of humor.
There is a world of difference between being a studio musician and a road musician. Judy was the exception; she did both very well. Unfortunately, those television shows were never recorded. If they had been, and were available today, the younger members of our industry would have to agree that she was a remarkable television personality, vocalist, and musician. My gift was in knowing her, working with her, having her as a friend, and being born at a time when I could experience and witness the evolution of country music, thanks to the likes of Judy Kuneman-Giffin, her extremely talented husband, Wally, and all the other Northwest Country Musicians that paved the way to the future that is now.