Wednesday, 27 March 2013
Janis Martin born 27 March 1940
Janis Martin (March 27, 1940 – September 3, 2007) was an American rockabilly and country music singer. Janis Martin was one of the few female rock & roll artists to make records, proving to the male-dominated rock & roll industry that women too could sell a large amount of records and score rock & roll hits. This opened doors for other rock & roll
singers to come, like Brenda Lee.
She was born in 1940 in Sutherlin, Virginia. Her mother was a stage mother, and her father and uncle were both musicians, who practised in hopes of gaining a professional career in the music industry. It was not surprising that Janis soon began becoming interested in music also. Before she was six years old, Martin was already singing and playing the guitar, and credited her influences from the Country Music singers Eddy Arnold and Hank Williams. She was soon a fixture in talent shows and other contests, and won most of them. She soon started appearing on a local radio show WDVA Barndance in Virginia at the young age of 11. When she was in her mid-teens, she started appearing alongside other Country singers, like Eddy Arnold, Hank Snow, The Browns and Jim Reeves. Her experience at such a young age brought Martin to performing rock & roll. Martin claimed she was getting tired of singing and performing Country music.
She started singing R&B music. A demo of her version of Will You William was sent to RCA to have the song appraised. When RCA got the song, they were more impressed with the singer and then the song. She was immediately called to come to RCA for a recording session. At only age 15, Martin was signed to her first record company, RCA Records. This was only two months after Elvis Presley signed on with them.
In 1956, Martin released her debut record under RCA, called "Will You Willyum", backed by her own composition, "Drugstore Rock'n Roll". The song, became the biggest hit of her career, and the record sold 750,000 copies. The song was not just a pop/rock & roll hit, but also a Country hit. Most rock & roll artists at the time had their singles become hits on the Country charts as well as the Pop charts. Soon, Martin was performing on America's most well-known shows, like American Bandstand, The Today Show, and the Tonight Show. She also appeared on Country music's Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, becoming one of the youngest performers to ever appear there. She was awarded by Billboard Most Promising Female Vocalist that year.
Elvis Presley and RCA records were so impressed with Janis' delivery of a song on stage, she was given the nickname The Female Elvis, which stuck with her the rest of her career. Presley in fact sent his wishes and a dozen red roses to Janis when she appeared in Miami, Florida, when she appeared at the RCA Records convention down there to be introduced to other RCA officials around the country and the world. She was chosen by her record company to tour as a member of the Jim Reeves show and tour with the Country singer exclusively.
Martin continued recording straight-up rock & roll, as well as Country material, that ended up being successful on both charts, like the songs "My Boy Elvis", "Let's Elope Baby", cover of Roy Orbison's song "Oooby Dooby", and "Love Me to Pieces", along with "Will You Willyum", which was a Top 40 Pop hit. Soon though, RCA Records heard that Martin had been married since she was signed to RCA at age 15. That year, she was soon pregnant. This situation led to RCA dropping Martin in 1958. She was also dropped from the label due to falling record sales. Soon, Janis Martin was off the rock & roll and Country music scene. Martin tried to revive her music career a few years later but was unable to regain the momentum. At the end of the decade, she was pursued by King Records and Decca Records, opting to sign to a Belgian label in 1960 called Palette.
By this time, Martin was on her second marriage (which wouldn't last for too long), and her new husband Parton didn't take her career at all well. With the demands of her husband, she soon dropped out of the music business, not even making public appearances any more. In the 1970s, she started performing again, with her newly-formed band calledThe Variations. In 1975, Edd Bayes of Maryland found Janis working for her local police department and coaxed her to appear in Baltimore and allow her story to appear in Goldmine magazine. She caught on instantly and the fans demanded she return to her roots; she then started touring throughout Europe, where she gained a massive following. Martin's RCA recordings were soon forgotten by her record company.
In 1979, Edd Bayes convinced RCA Victor to release to him the four songs held in their vaults. They were released on Dog Gone Records and introduced her public to songs never heard before. In the 1980s, the Bear Family label gathered Martin's complete record history, with the compilation album The Female Elvis, giving the public a chance to buy a collection of Martin's 50s hits. In 1995, Martin appeared on Rosie Flores's Rockabilly Filly album for HighTone Records. Rosie Flores recorded a new album with Martin six months before her death. These recordings were released as The Blanco Sessions by Cow Island Music on September 18, 2012.
Martin died on September 3, 2007, having earlier been diagnosed with terminal cancer. She also lost her only son Kevin Parton in January 2007. (info edited from Wikipedia)
Here's Janis in concert Palomino Club, North Hollywood 19 February 1994