The Whippets: Beck’s mother and Jack Kerouac’s daughter were in a ‘60s girl group
11.26.2013
07:43 am

Topics:
Art
Music

Tags:
Fluxus
Jan Kerouac
Bibbe Hansen
The Whippets


Bibbe and friend

Love him or hate him, Beck Hansen’s family tree is jaw-droppingly cool. Not only was his maternal grandfather Fluxus artist Al Hansen, his grandmother was actress and poet Audrey Ostlin Hansen, and his mother Bibbe Hansen was, among her many incarnations, one of Warhol’s youngest Factory “Superstars” as well as an artist, actress, and musician in her own right.

Not long before she appeared in Warhol’s 1965 films Prison and Restaurant at the age of thirteen, Bibbe was in a short-lived girl pop group with Jack Kerouac’s only child, Jan Kerouac, called The Whippets.

Bibbe and Jan were twelve years-old in 1964 when they formed The Whippets in New York City with their friend Charlotte Rosenthal, using Whippet as their collective surname. The group formed when they met songwriter Neil Levinson one day while trying to panhandle for bus fare. The Whippets made one recording for Laurie Records, the Beatle-themed novelty single “I Want To Talk To You,” written by Levinson with the B-side “Go Go Go With Ringo,” written by Beatles zealot DJ Murray the K’s mother, Jean Kauffman. The song sold well enough in Canada to reach the pop charts. Any prospects of an ongoing music career were cut short soon after the recording session when Bibbe found herself in a state juvenile detention center.

Bibbe told Scram magazine the story of the group’s formation and brief life in 2005:

Charlotte Rosenthal, Janet Kerouac and I were all downtown street kids in 1964 New York City. While panhandling, we three met songwriter Neil Levinson (“Oh, Denise”) and hustled busfare from him. On the bus ride we fell to chatting. The Beatles had just come out big in the US and Neil had written a girl-song response to “I Want To Hold Your Hand.” Would we be interested in hearing it? We met him later that day at Steinway Studios on 57th Street and together finished the lyrics and music for “I Want To Talk With You.” It was a classic girl group riff and we dug it. That same day we went to a half dozen record companies auditioning the song without any takers. As a last resort, Neil called Colpix label’s Don Rubin from a payphone. When Don said he would see us we ran all the way over to the audition. We sang the song and within the next couple days we were signed to Colpix and to DuLev Productions. DuLev was Levinson’s company with his partner, Steve Duboff. For the B-side Neil brought in pal Jean Murray (Jean Kauffman) who had co-written the Darin hit “Splish Splash” with Darin and her son, DJ Murray the K. Oh, that she only wrote us another “Splish Splash!” Instead it was the rather silly and insipid “Go Go Go With Ringo.” We loved the A-side but weren’t too wild about the Ringo song. Over the next few weeks we rehearsed daily, shopped for matching outfits and had 8x10 glossy promo pictures taken. At one point we were introduced to the group The Tokens who apparently were now 1/3 owners of our act along with Dulev (1/3) and Jean Murray (1/3). Our percentage was apparently not accounted for under this bookkeeping arrangement. Similarly, I have no idea how Don Rubin and Colpix were supposed to get their cut.

Within a few weeks we were recording. The record was pressed—at least dj copies. We got a box of these records to split between us. I believe it was released however briefly but nothing much happened with it. I heard our masters were sold to Laurie Records at one point. Later I heard we’d charted somewhere in Canada. Shortly before she died, Janet Kerouac told me her Rhino Records lawyers were looking into that and had found that we were owed a little bit of money. Apparently not enough to bother collecting from what I can tell.

The Whippets, “I Want To Talk To You,” 1964:

Written by Kimberly J. Bright | Discussion
‘Whatever Happened to Kerouac?’: Essential documentary from 1985

jack_kerouac_whatever_happened
 
Strange to think, had he lived, Jack Kerouac would have been 90 this week. It begs the question, what would he have been like? Rabid raving Republican? Drunk demented Democrat? A pairing of the both? A religious nut? Would he have continued writing? Become an éminence grise? Would he still have mattered? Would we have cared?

Ninety. And to think he’s been dead for almost half that time, during which he has gone in-and-out of fashion. And yet, his appeal has somehow always stayed, though arguably that appeal has sometimes been more for what he represented than for his books or writing.

Even so, Kerouac at his best captured a hope, a joyous sense of what life could be - the potential of a moment, of the living of a life, rather than the having of a life-style.

I saw Whatever Happened to Kerouac? on the day it was released, in olde fleapit cinema, southside of Edinburgh. There were around a dozen people in the audience, gathered together in the flickering dark like a secret religious group come to give devotion, as we reverentially watched what is still the best documentary made on the “King of the Beats”. But this film is no hagiography, it captures what was both good and bad about Kerouac, and most of what you need to know, answering some of the questions other bio-pics and documentaries have avoided. The essence of the film is best summed up by William Burroughs when asked, “Whatever happened to Kerouac?” responds, Jack incited:

‘’....a worldwide unprecedented cultural revolution….”

The list of contributors is a who’s who of the Beat Generation: William Burroughs, Carolyn Cassady, Neal Cassady, Ann Charters, Gregory Corso, Robert Creeley, Diane DiPrima, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg, John Clellon Holmes, Herbert Huncke, Joyce Johnson, Michael McClure, Edie Kerouac Parker, and Gary Snyder. Directed by Richard Lerner and Lewis MacAdam, this is a must for fans of Kerouac and the Beats.
 

 

Written by Paul Gallagher | Discussion