Saturday, May 19, 2012



The ill-fated Whiskeyhill Singers did not do well for either Judy Henske or her replacement, Liz Seneff. Most folkies know that the almost unanimously disliked Dave Guard left The Kingston Trio to boss his new creation, the Whiskeyhill Singers. They cut one album, notable only for Judy Henske's lead vocal on "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out." That song was proof that Henske was better off as a solo artist.

The Whiskeyhill Singers tried to replace her with Liz Seneff, and even made it to the Hollywood Bowl for a concert appearance. You can hear a sample live performance from that gig elsewhere on this blog. Tracks for a second album also featured Liz, but that album was never completed and the Whiskeyhillers went down the drain. Like Judy, Liz tried to establish herself as a solo artist.

Elizabeth Seneff (February 28, 1935-August 23, 1993) was born in Pittsburgh and from local clubs moved on to venues in Chicago, Miami and the West Coast. Joining the Whiskeyhill Singers, the group played The Ballad and Banjo in Massachusetts, The Shadows in Washington D.C. and eventually, to nobody nowhere. Liz came back home to work with the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera Company and the Pittsburgh Playhouse. In June of 1963 she married Dr. Robert Corrigan, who was the head of the Carnegie Tech Drama Department (which would explain why some references to the Whiskeyhill Singers call her "Liz Corrigan" not "Liz Seneff")

After the Whiskeyhill debacle, she recorded her 1964 solo album "Listen to Liz" (aka: "Liz Sineff Sings Folk Songs, Ballads and Blues") for Pittsburgh's Gateway Records label. It features a pretty wide variety of tracks, from the exotic staple "Carnival (Manha De Carnaval)" to a fairly neutral version (compared to Henske) of "Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out" to the wistfully mysterious show tune "They Call the Wind Mariah." The album also features "Bloomin' Heather," a track she performed on an episode of TV's "Hootenanny" show. Your sample tracks below are the wicked "Sinner Man," and the almost required cover of a Dylan tune ("Tomorrow is a Long Time").

It seemed that domestic life and academia would be Liz Seneff's fate, and that she would never record again, but she and her husband divorced, and in the late 60's she made a comeback to the folk world, living in Coral Gables, Florida and performing at The Flick. The vinyl trail runs cold with the psych-tinged 1968 album "You Can't Go," (Dot Records) which Liz made as part of the group Split Level.

Her tenure with The Whiskeyhill Singers and Split Level didn't last long, but she does make a lasting impression with her one solo album…an item that belongs in any folkie's library of rare and precious vinyl.

SENEFF sings to the SINNER MAN


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Anonymous said...

Wow. What a voice! Thanks for this!

Peter Glazer said...

I worked with Liz from 1988 until she died, on a musical called Woody Guthrie's American Song. Her sensibility and voice colored every arrangement we did, and made them all the better. Her musical instincts were impeccable. During that time, she was doing jingle singing as well. What a talent, what a presence.
Peter Glazer

Trevor Foote said...

Liz Corrigan Seneff was my beloved Aunt-- She also sang the TV theme song for Candid Camera, Coke's Men Joe Green famous ad in the 70's, and was the Campbell's soup sound for many years. Left us way too young, miss her & we so enjoyed her final days with the Woody Guthrie's tribute...thanks for posting. Trevor Seneff Foote

Anonymous said...

I am not alone in loving the Split Level LP.It has many solid pop songs as well as quirky interludes and one fantastic psychedelic masterpiece,'looking at the rose through world coloured glasses'.Top effort.

Unknown said...

I saw her in Hyannis at the Ballad & Banjo and in the audience was John Stewart. ( The Trio was playing at Storyville in Harwich on Cape Cod. Her voice blended much better with the Whiskey Hills than the dominant voice of Judy Hensley.

After the show, John Stewart was besieged by autograph hounds and didn’t have a chance to go backstage

Fred Corcoran said...

HENSKE ..I hate it when Big Brother auto-corrects!

Ill Folks said...

Good point about Judy vs Liz as a "team player." Judy's voice IS very dominant. It's also such a great voice, that there were some tracks on "Farewell Aldebaran" and "Rosebud" where you wished she wasn't so generous about giving somebody else the lead.