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For Juice, it's been a sweet ride

Not taking herself too seriously has helped the hit-making Queen of Hearts keep a level head and steady career.

By BARBARA L. FREDRICKSEN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 21, 2003


Juice Newton has won a long string of awards in the past 25 years: a Grammy as "Best Pop Female Vocalist," Billboard Magazine's "Album Artist of the Year Award" two years running, the American Video Association's "Best Video," the People Choice's "Best Female Vocalist" to name only a few.

But it's her quirky name -- or the nickname her young cousins gave her in childhood -- that has gotten her two of her most memorable jobs.

One was at 7:30 a.m. (that would be 4:30 a.m. in her home state California) in Bradenton five years ago, when she was booked to headline the 50th anniversary celebration of Tropicana Orange Juice.

"That was very early," Ms. Newton recalled in a recent telephone interview.

The other was the 100th anniversary of Fig Newton in Newton, Mass.

"You have to go into it with the understanding it's all in fun," said Ms. Newton, whose real name is Judy and who can't recall why her cousins dubbed her "Juice."

That's what Ms. Newton's quarter-century career has been, as far as the upbeat singer is concerned -- nothing but fun and good feelings.

"One (concert) was in Hawaii on July 4 at Pearl Harbor," she said. "I did the Rose Bowl one year with people parachuting in while I sang. Then I was in Germany for the troops returning from Desert Storm." If she's invited to perform for troops this time, she's ready and willing to go.

Today, she and her band, the Regenerators, will do their eclectic show at Bourbon Street Concert Club in New Port Richey.

The set will have some acoustic folk, some pop/rock, a tad of adult contemporary and several country songs, including her blockbuster hits Angel of the Morning, Queen of Hearts and Love's Been a Little Bit Hard on Me. Ms. Newton was one of the first crossover artists in the early 1980s, and she's kept it up.

"We'll do some of the old songs people will remember, and do some newer songs," she said. "We try to fit the venue; we can change the pacing of the show to be sure that when the audience leaves, they feel good."

Ms. Newton burst on the West coast folk-rock scene in 1975 to record as Dixie Peach with Texas-born Otha Young, who still plays lead guitar in her band. But it was her 1981 self-titled album Juice and its three big hits (Angel, Queen, The Sweetest Thing) that made her an internationally known act.

She stayed on the charts for nearly a decade but pulled back on recording and touring after her marriage and the births of her two kids, Jessica and Tyler, now 16 and 13.

Also, about that time, music trends were going through a change, with "boy bands" and male "hat acts" such as Garth Brooks, Clint Black and Alan Jackson dominating the music scene.

In recent years, though, female singers such as Faith Hill and Shania Twain have sold as many records as their male counterparts, encouraging singers like Ms. Newton to come back on stage.

In 1998, Newton released The Trouble with Angels, a collection of her biggest hits, and in 2000, released American Girl, with 10 new songs.

"I tour all year," she said. "We're on the road about 100 to 110 days a year" in Puerto Rico, Canada, Germany, Japan and the U.S.

She likes outdoor venues as well as indoor ones -- "unless it's really, really hot or it's raining" -- but she definitely prefers night shows to those in the daytime.

"It gives more mystery and dynamics to the performer," she said.

At a glance

WHO: Juice Newton

WHERE: Bourbon Street Concert Club, 4331 U.S. 19, New Port Richey

WHEN: Today. Doors open at 7:30 p.m., Darkhorse opens at 9 p.m.

TICKETS: $15 in advance, $20 at the door (if available)

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