(The) Judybats were an alternative rock band from Knoxville, Tennessee, active primarily in the late 1980s and early 1990s. First formed in 1987 after vocalist Jeff Heiskell, who with Ed Winters (guitar) had been playing acoustically in Knoxville as a duo, met Tim Stutz (bass) at a local bar called Hawkeyes Corner. Stutz, Johnny Sughrue (guitarist) and Terry Casper (drums) had known each other since high school and had been playing music together as a trio. Peggy Hambright, who was Stutz and Sughrue’s roommate, added keyboards, violin and vocals. The JudyBats played locally to large audiences before signing to Sire Records in 1990. The band took their name from a song written by a friend of theirs, which contained the line "punch me with a judybat" in a punning allusion to Punch and Judy shows.
The band contributed a cover of The 13th Floor Elevators' "She Lives (In a Time of Her Own)" to the 1990 tribute album Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye: A Tribute to Roky Erickson, followed shortly by their debut album Native Son. The official form of the band's name was never entirely clear — although the band was credited as The Judybats on the cover of Native Son, all of their subsequent albums listed the band's name as just Judybats, or sometimes JudyBats, although several CD singles from the later albums retained the word The.
Casper subsequently left the band, and was temporarily replaced by session drummer Kevin Jarvis on their second album, Down in the Shacks Where the Satellite Dishes Grow. Following that album, Hambright and Stutz both left the band, and were replaced by Paul Noe on bass and Dave Jenkins on drums. The revised lineup released the band's most commercially successful album, Pain Makes You Beautiful, in 1993, and had successful singles on college radio and adult album alternative stations with "Being Simple", "All Day Afternoon" and "Incredible Bittersweet".
The lineup remained stable for the band's fourth album, 1994's Full-Empty, but the album fared poorly on the charts and the band broke up soon afterward. Heiskell, Noe and Jenkins pursued a new musical direction under the name Doubters Club, releasing the album Fleur de Lisa independently in 1996 after being dropped from a development deal with Sire Records.
The Doubters Club is a reconfiguration of the Judybats.
After the Doubters Club dissolved, Heiskell retreated to his bungalow in Knoxville. He seriously considered quitting the music industry, however guitarist Reed Pendleton (Doubters Club, Immortal Chorus) encouraged Jeff to keep the faith and continue writing songs. Pendleton invited Heiskell to write music on the weekends and these song writing sessions yielded the tunes: Break my heart, Shine, Your too much, Full forward angel, Always, Love will out and California. They subsequently formed a new band consisting of Doug Hairrell (second guitar), bassist Rob Bell and drummer Mike Hairrell. Under the management of "SuperFrank" Copsidas, who insisted that the new group use the name Judybats. The new line up rehearsed in a remote log cabin south of Knoxville and developed a "Brit-Pop" influenced, guitar forward sound. They recorded a series of demos in local studios on sub-par equipment. The demo songs were released as the band's final album '00 in 2000; Highlights include: recording a cover of Paul McCartney's "Love in Song" for the 2001 McCartney tribute album Listen to What the Man Said and "Break my heart" was included on the Oxford American's annual Southern Music issue.
Heiskell has since released two solo albums, Soundtrack for an Aneurism in 2006 and Clip-On Nose Ring in 2008.
Heiskell acknowledged that he is gay in a 1994 interview with The Advocate, but otherwise rarely spoke about his sexuality with the press, and only wrote about it indirectly in his songs, until his solo albums.
- Native Son (1991)
- Down in the Shacks Where the Satellite Dishes Grow (1992)
- Pain Makes You Beautiful (1993)
- Full-Empty (1994)
- '00 (2000)
- "She Lives (In a Time of Her Own)" on Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye: A Tribute to Roky Erickson (1990)
- "My Dead Friend" on OUTLOUD (1995)
- "California" on Kat Vox: A CD To Celebrate 20 Years of timmi-kat ReCoRDS (2011 timmi-kat ReCoRDS)
A bootleg fan compilation of B-sides, rarities and live performances entitled Hold Your Horses has also been in circulation, but is not an official release by the band.