Laura Lee Perkins|
The 88 Keys Rockabilly Gal is Back
March 25, 2006 - Have you heard the news, there's good rockin' tonight? Did you remember
that song line who can applies to Laura Lee Perkins, the "Imperial" rockin' girl who's
back in the studios. In February 2006, she had cut some great tunes as "A Little Tear",
a nice ballad writes by herself, and a cooking sax blowing version of "Jambalaya".
That reminds me the times when young's Brenda Lee, Wanda Jackson, Janis Martin and
Laura Lee were the queens of Rockabilly. So, if you like, let me tell you the story of
that West Virginia kitty:
Alice Faye Perkins was born on 20th July 1939 and soon she will learn by herself to play
guitar and piano. At Stoco High School, she learnt also to play horn and, when she left
school, she moved from West Virginia and go North to Cleveland (Ohio). She settled in
the small town of Elyria, took a job and lived the usual life of a young girl. When
cruising with friends, they stopped at WEOL radio, she find a piano to play. As the DJ,
Jeff Baxter, was on the air, she played the 88 keys just for fun. The good ears of Jeff
Baxter catch with her sound and he made her recording some demos at the radio station.
The songs were "No one will ever Know" (Hank Williams song), "Oh La Baby" (written by
herself), "Hound Dog" and "My Babe". Jeff made listen those demos to Bill Randle,
the famous DJ who made first Elvis recordings cross the Maxon-Dixon line. Soon he
asked to meet Alice, in Cleveland, at the Audio Recording Studio and made an
audition but no other demos were cut. The first demos were sent to various
labels and Sam Phillips (Sun records) and Lew Chudd (Imperial records)
showed interest for her work. Being under age, with the agreement of her
folks, she chose to join the "Imperial" label. Maybe she liked more the
sunny California than Tennessee or, as she was a great fan of Ricky Nelson wanted
to be on the same records team.
Soon they changed her name for Laura Lee Perkins in order to make her "The female Jerry Lee
Lewis", just as RCA wanted to do in 1956 when they billed Janis Martin as "The female Elvis".
A first session was set up in Hollywood in February 1958. She made her first plane trip and,
of course, she meets Ricky Nelson. Oh, what a dream!
"Imperial" provided her some demos as "Come On Baby" written by Johnny Burnette
in order to complete her own compositions as "Don't Wait Up" or "Oh La Baby". The
recordings session was produced by Jimmie Haskell and she will backed on some tunes
by James Burton and James Kirkland, Ricky Nelson backin' band. On some recordings
she doesn't play piano and on others she does and overdub was added probably by
guitar wizard Joe Maphis. The first coupling will be "I just don't like this
kind of livin", a Hank Williams song, and "Kiss Me Baby" (Imperial X 5493).
Both great Rockabilly songs with strong vocal and James Burton hot guitar
but without piano. Few weeks later, "Imperial" came with a second single "Don'
t Wait Up"/"Oh La Baby" with a more New-Orleans feeling including saxophone.
For long that difference of sound lead collectors to think about various
recordings sessions. No Šthere was only one set in three days in February
1958, overdubs were just added to explore a more R'n'B sound. Two song
stayed in the vaults until they were issued in the early 80's on Detour
label "Come on Baby"/"Gonna rock my baby tonight". All Laura Lee's records
are much sought after collector items so don't miss then if you can catch them.
Laura Lee will have small adverts in "Billboard" and "Cowboy Songs" and soon will be
on shows with Paul Anka, The Everly Brothers or Frankie Avalon. In 1959, she will move
to Detroit and will be on road as far as Canada before to wed in 1963.
From them she will take care of her family and hang up her rockin' shoes. In the late 70's,
her inclusion in the "Imperial Rockabillies" LP's issued in Europe by United Artists made
her a legend. She was present in some bootleg LPs as the "Hot Boppin' Girls" set and then
came the "Detour" single. European fans had the luck to see on stage Wanda Jackson, Janis
Martin or Barbara Pittman in the early 80's but nothing about Laura Lee until something
came on The Rockabilly Hall of Fame® site on Internet by Bob Timmers. We can never say
enough THANKS to Bob's for bringing together fans and vintage performers through the web.
In 2005, a paper was in print in a French fanzine named "Rock'n'Roll News" and contact
was set with "Blue Suede News" magazine in the USA.
Since yesterday Laura Lee Perkins made the colour cover of a great French magazine
titled "Rock and Roll Revue" with a four pages paper and she was invited to perform
in Paris (France). She's back in studio and will have a CD out soon. So, girls and
guys, remember we are never too old to Rock!
Let's enjoy the "one and only" Laura Lee's rockin' sound and here are some interesting
contacts if you like:
Laura Lee Perkins: Netheadjim@aol.com
Rock and Roll Revue: www.rockandrollrevue.org
Rockabilly Hall of Fame: www.rockabillyhall.com
French musical site: www.rockanblues.net
Dominique "Imperial" Anglares
Brest R'n'R Appreciation Society (France)
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