Blues Belter, Vaudeville Vamp, Rock n Roll Hell Cat, Cabaret Chanteuse, Burlesque Babe, Circus Run Away, Raucous Ring Mistress, Opera Dame… Where did this all begin?
Christa, inspired by some of the early blues records in her father's collection, first started singing when she was a teenager. The raw and down to earth beauty and grittiness of these old recordings greatly appealed to her. This was the 80’s and the popular music of that decade, full of synthesizers, drum machines and overdubbed vocals, was having an adverse effect on the child.
Christa’s first public performance was singing with her father at (the sadly now defunct) Sydney jazz establishment, Soup Plus. They were later to have a very popular residency every Sunday at the Shakespeare Hotel in Surry Hills. Their authentic yet somewhat rowdy performances became infamous. There was no P.A. system, just a beer-soaked upright piano and a girl belting out the blues across the room.
During this time Christa sang with blues men Brownie McGhee and Champion Jack Dupree when on tour in Australia. She opened for the New Orleans swamp boogie queen Katie Webster – the two fisted ma ma.
Christa was also lead singer with Sydney band the Doppelgangers and performed and toured with Open City Theatre, The Museum of Accidents.
In the early 90s Christa headed overseas where she sang in jazz and blues clubs and performed in off Broadway shows in New York. She then moved over to the UK where she started performing and touring her solo cabaret shows. She performed on cult TV show Eurotrash where Jean Paul Gaultier dubbed her “Ze Diva of Deepthroat, Ze Goddess of Gargle”.
In London she performed regularly at cabaret/comedy venues and was one of the many artists who performed on the Misfits compilation CD.
Christa wound up in Hong Kong playing herself in Chris Doyle’s art house film, “Away With Words”. At the Cannes Film Festival screening, Christa made Cannes history by singing her special/cheeky/rude! version of “My Favourite Things” to a packed theatre. (Due to the irreverent lyrics and in turn copyright issues this song, unfortunately, never made the final edit of the film, to Chris Doyle’s dismay.)
In 2000, Christa came back home and wrote Beer Drinking Woman, an intoxicating cabaret show dedicated to booze.
In 2002 she was commissioned by the Sydney Opera House to write and perform the Circus/Burlesque Rock Opera “Sleepless Beauty”. During this time she was recording and touring as KK Juggy with Sydney band Machine Gun Fellatio. Known for their highly entertaining and antic packed live shows they were famously banned by Melbourne University for being “sexist”. Christa, funnily enough, was invited to sing at Germaine Greer’s birthday celebrations in 2009 where she and Germaine both sang Lucille Bogan’s “Shave ‘em Dry”.
Christa and midi accordionist Svetlana Bunic formed The Vaudevillains and performed their cabaret shows (Temptation and Drag Strip) in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Cebu and Australia.
In 2005, Machine Gun Fellatio broke up (over costume differences) and Christa went to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival with a small burlesque troupe (no costume dramas despite lots of costume “malfunctions”) and starred in Go-Go Burlesco to rave reviews.
Christa joined Circus Oz in 2006 and toured extensively with the company for 2 years which included seasons on Broadway and the Sydney Opera House, not to mention an appearance in the pineapple section of a supermarket in Hawaii.
Christa played brothel madam Myrtle in the 2008 Julian Temple film of the Jonathan Mills and Dorothy Porter opera Eternity Man (which won the prestigious Rose award). Christa had earlier performed this role at the Sydney Opera House.
Christa went on to record a CD with her father, Dick and Christa Hughes 21st Century Blues (ABC Music). On this, they are joined by Bob Barnard and Jim Conway amongst many other fine musicians in this beautiful recording of jazz and blues songs from the 1920s and 30s. In a sense this CD marks a homecoming for Christa, singing the very music that inspired her to sing and perform in the first place. Thank goodness they recorded it and about bloody time!
Christa, her father Dick Hughes, her grandfather Richard Hughes (foreign correspondent, author and double agent) and her great grandfather, also Richard Hughes (ventriloquist) were the subjects of Brendan Young’s documentary “You Only Live Twice – The Incredibly True Story of The Hughes Family”.