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Janis Martin

Martin in the 1950s
Background information
Birth name Janis Darlene Martin
Born March 27, 1940(1940-03-27)
Origin Sutherlin, Virginia
Died September 3, 2007 (aged 67)
Genres rockabilly
country
rock and roll
Occupations singer
Years active 1956–2007
Labels RCA Records, Palette

Janis Darlene Martin (March 27, 1940 – September 3, 2007) was an American rockabilly and country music singer. She was one of the few women working in the male-dominated rock and roll music field during the 1950s and one of country music's early female innovators. Martin was nicknamed the Female Elvis for her dance moves on stage, similar to those of Elvis Presley.

Contents

Biography

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Early life and rise to fame

Martin was born in Sutherlin, Virgina, east of Danville. Her mother was a stage mother, and her father and uncle were both musicians. Before she was six, Martin was already singing and playing the guitar, inspired by Eddy Arnold and Hank Williams. She was soon a fixture in talent shows and other contests, and won many. She started appearing on Old Dominion Barn Dance on WRVA-AM at age of 11. When she was in her mid-teens, she was appearing with country singers including Arnold, Hank Snow, The Browns and Jim Reeves. She soon claimed she was tired of country music, and began a rock and roll career.

Teen rock and roll star

She began singing R&B music. A demo of her version of "Will You Willyum" was sent to RCA Records, which invited her to a recording session. At age 15, Martin was signed with RCA only two months after Elvis Presley signed with the label. In 1956, Martin released her debut record under RCA, "Will You Willyum", backed by her own composition, "Drugstore Rock'n Roll". The song became the biggest hit of her career, selling 750,000 records and hitting the country and pop charts. Soon Martin was performing on American Bandstand, The Today Show and the Tonight Show. She also appeared on Jubilee USA, and the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee, becoming one of the younger performers to ever appear. Billboard named her Most Promising Female Vocalist that year.

Presley and RCA were so impressed with her stage presence, they dubbed her the Female Elvis.[1] Presley sent a dozen red roses to Martin when she appeared at the RCA Records convention in Miami, Florida. She was chosen by RCA to tour as a member of the Jim Reeves show and continued recording rock and roll and country material that ended up being successful on both charts, including "My Boy Elvis", "Let's Elope Baby", her cover of Roy Orbison's song "Oooby Dooby", and "Love Me to Pieces".

Martin had secretly married her boyfriend in 1956, and became pregnant while visiting him while he was stationed overseas with the US military. Her teenage pregnancy caused RCA to drop her in 1958. Although King Records and Decca Records were interested, she signed with a Belgian label, Palette, in 1960.

Later career

By 1960, Martin was on her second marriage, and her husband demanded she leave the music business. In the 1970s, she began performing again with her newly-formed band, The Variations. In 1975, she was working for the Danville, Virginia Police Department when Edd Bayes coaxed her to appear locally and tell her story in Goldmine magazine. Martin toured through Europe as part of the rockabilly revival there, and in 1979 Bayes convinced RCA to release four Martin songs in their vault. They were released on Dog Gone Records in 1977. Edd Bayes took one of the songs that had been recorded twice ("Love Me Love") at different tempos and added the 'cha cha' to the title. In the 1980s, the Bear Family label gathered Martin's complete record history with the compilation album The Female Elvis. In 1995, Martin appeared on Rosie Flores's Rockabilly Filly album for HighTone Records. Flores recorded an unreleased album with Martin six months before her death.

Death

Martin died from cancer on September 3, 2007, at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina. Her only son, Kevin Parton, died that January.

Charted singles

Year Single U.S. Pop Singles Album
1956 "Will You Willyum" 35 Hits of 1956
"My Boy Elvis" "My Boy Elvis"

Notes

  1. ^ Sun Records also dubbed Jean Chapel the female Elvis Presley in 1956 when she began recording rockabilly songs including "I Won't Be Rocking Tonight".

References

  • Aadland, Jonita (1998). "Janis Martin". In The Encyclopedia of Country Music. Paul Kingsbury, Editor. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 327–8.

External links


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