Janis Martin - A New CD for the
Virginia Rockabilly Queen

April 10, 2006 - Bear Family records from Germany had just issued a great CD by Janis Martin, once billed The Female Elvis, with masters and studio out takes. That neat CD packaged in a Scotch magnetic tape look-a-like box will show you how gals could rock as early as 1956. Those out takes came from New-York sessions done in 1956 and 1957 show her at work and will blow off you socks and peg pants. But, who his Janis Martin who can challenge with Wanda Jackson or Brenda Lee? Let me tell you her story:
           Janis Darlene Martin was born, 27th March 1940, in Virginia before her family moved to Akron (Ohio) where she learned to play guitar and worked on radio. In 1949, the family was back in Virginia and Janis will be soon featured on WDVA radio out from Danville. She worked one time with Jim Eanes and his Shenandoah Valley Boys before she had her own show, at 13 years old, on WHEE out from Martinsville. One year later, she would be on stage at the Old Dominion Barn dance from Richmond and would rub shoulders with such country stars as Hawkshaw Hawkins, Sonny James or Martha Carson.
           She met Elvis for the first time, backstage in Danville, on 20th September 1955. At that time she only knew "I'm Left, You're Right, She's gone" by the Memphis cat but, as him, she had a strong appeal for Blues and Rhythm and Blues. She already played on stage some Ruth Brown or Lavern Baker songs. She's still a great fan of Ruth Brown and they sang once together on stage few years ago. Janis met Elvis once again in New-York. She was working on her recording session and he was there for a promotional picture session. Both were working so that what just "Hey you, how do you feel" and "Good luck" meeting.
           In 1956, Janis would record two demos of songs written by Carl Stutz and Carl Barefoot, both working for WRVA radio. They catch the ears of Steve Sholes who had also the charge since few months of the new hot RCA attraction, Elvis Presley. A first session, in March, was set in Nashville, with Chet Atkins, Grady Martin, Bob Moore. They will give birth to "Will You, Willyum" and "Drugstore Rock and Roll", both coupled on her first single that would sell over 750,000 copies. Another session set in New-York, in May 56, will give birth to a cover of the classic Roy Orbison's "Ooby Dooby" and to "My Boy Elvis", one of the ever best songs recorded about the Memphis rockin' cat. Janis was nominated as "Most Promising Female artist of 1956" in Billboard and even The Rockateens, a rock'n'roll group, will record a song about her titled "Janis Will Rock" on Roulette records.
           Janis was on the road with Hank Snow, Faron Young, Carl Perkins or Johnny Cash. She liked Carl Perkins stuff better than Elvis one then. She meets also the glamourous Wanda Jackson and wanted to look as sexy as her. But she was rather see as a teenage novelty and had to wear circle skirt and ponytail.
           She would record through 1957 but as Chet Atkins wanted a more "pop" sound, she cut songs as "Love Me to Piece" and "Two long Years" written by the late great Melvin Endsley. She would also cover "I don't hurt Anymore" and "Half Loved" and did a great job on such ballads. But in October 1957, she was back rockin' and rollin' with hot stuff as "Good Love", "Cracker Jack" and "All Right Baby".
           The same year, she was on tour in England and Germany with Jim Reeves and Hank Lockin. She quickly met her husband who was stationed overseas and came back pregnant. A last session was cut in July 58 with the guitars masters Hank Garland and Grady Martin before RCA dropped her.
           During her RCA days, she had records issued in Germany, Japan and in South-Africa were she share a 10 inches LP's with Elvis. That record is a real rare item as Colonel Parker stopped the sales quickly. He doesn't wanted Elvis being upstaged by anybody. She had nice features on Country magazines as Country and Western Jamboree and staged the most famous country TV shows.
           In 1960, she cut some sides for "Palette" and then hangs up her rockin' guitar until 1977 when she was back with a cover of Hank Snow "I'm Moving on". Sure, that high powered Lady, is movin' on when she was in Holland in 1982. Thousands of European fans made the trip to Eindhoven in order to see that "Barefoot Baby". Since she had been on stage in England, France and Spain to name a few countries and in October 2005, she attracted 1200 people in a small French town named Concarneau. Let me tell you the old town walls are still shaking.
           I met her in 1982 and then again in 2005 with her husband Wayne. They are both wonderful and lovely people. If you ever see a poster with her name on, go to the show and you will know how a vintage Rockabilly kitty still can rock. Don't bring your walking cane, all you need is some neat Blue Suede Shoes in order to enjoy some "Drugstore Rock 'n' Roll". But until then, look out for that nice Bear Family record on www.bear-family.de. and enjoy Janis' unique talent!

Dominique "Imperial" Anglares
Brest R'n'R Appreciation Society

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