Wednesday, June 09, 2010

JUDY LYNN: SINGER-turned-MINISTER passes on at 74

She was retired for over 30 years, spending much of that time as a minister for a small church in Indiana, but old-school C&W fans remember the queen of costumes, yodel-expert Judy Lynn. Her most famous tune was "Footsteps of a Fool" which hit the charts in 1962. Her passing did not get much attention because there aren't all that many old-school C&W fans still around.

Born in Idaho, an authentic rodeo performer and beauty queen contestant, young Judy Voisen was singing at age 10 and was the runner-up in the Miss Idaho competition for the Miss America Pageant in 1955. She got a tremendous break when the Grand Ole Opry came to Boise in 1955, sans blonde singer Jean Shepard. The local blonde talent subbed for Jean, joined the tour, and by 1957 was part of the televised Grand Ole Opry show with the venerable Ernest Tubb. She also guest-starred on Jimmy Dean's show and later had her own. In an unusual and wise decision, Judy and her band based themselves in Las Vegas more than Nashville, and nicked the tourist rubes who wanted some familiar music to go along with gawking at The Rat Pack. That's why Judy was one of the few C&W artists of that era who had albums with "Golden Nugget" and "Las Vegas" in the title. She appeared on the same bill as Elvis Presley a few times, and audiences could ogle and compare the two's outrageous rhinestone outfits.

Vinyl addicts can note Judy's up and down arc of fame, as she drifted from major label United Artists over to Musicor (which did have George Jones for a while), then back up to Columbia, then over to indie label Amaret, and back up to Warner Bros., where she charted for the last time in 1975. Five years later she married a guy named Kelly and quit show business to eventually become Rev. Judy Lynn Kelly, of the Christ Gospel Church in Jeffersonville, Indiana. When she died on May 26, the local paper's obit treated her more like a local citizen than anyone famous:

"She was a loving wife, mother and grandmother. She was a native of Boise, Idaho, and for many years was a country western star. During the last 40 years, she fulfilled her higher calling as Rev. Judy Lynn Kelly. As an ordained minister, she traveled to many churches in the United States and around the world to share the Gospel. She was an active member of Christ Gospel Church in Jeffersonville. Judy loved horses and was an avid animal lover. Survivors include her daughter, Barbara Jean Zumbo, Las Vegas, Nev.; grandchildren, Mike Kelly of Floyds Knobs, Dennis Kelly of Charlestown, Caroline Weatherly of Forney, Texas, Kent Mitchell of Georgetown, Chris Kelly of Sellersburg, Jill Lehman of New Albany, Kay Cook of Syracuse, Utah, Kevin Mitchell of Illinois, John D. Mitchell of Corydon, Mark Mitchell of Phoenix, Ariz., Robert Mitchell of Georgetown, Linda Mitchell of Coventry, R.I., and Kerry Henry of Vancouver, Wash.; great-grandson, Trent Joseph Kelly of New Albany; and nephews, Bryan Campbell of Ogden, Utah, and Doug Campbell of Prescott, Ariz. She was preceded in death by her husband, Willy Joe “John” Kelly; parents, Joe and Carrie Voiton; sister, Jo Anne Campbell; and grandson, Joey Mitchell. The family requests expressions of sympathy take the form of contributions to Christ Gospel Church."

Here's JUDY LYNN's Footsteps of a Fool


Tonopah Slim said...

Thanks for the notice on her death, didn't know that. Sad to hear. Great write-up.

Anonymous said...

she was my great godmother

Anonymous said...

I did not know Judy as a professional but as my friend and mentor she was a christian On fire for the LORD NO day passes when I do not think of her and miss her

Anonymous said...

I was not a relative but my mom loved her voice. she named me after her . I found a couple of pictures in her cedar chest. It was nice to put a face to someone that my mom named me after.
Judy Lynn Miller