In 1956, RCA Records dubbed singer Janis Martin “The Female Elvis,” a title bestowed with the apparent approval of the King himself and his manager, Col. Tom Parker. Billboard magazine named her Most Promising Female Singer that year. While only 15 years old, Martin was already a ten year veteran of the country music circuit, having begun her singing career at the age of five. But while a lover of the music of Eddy Arnold and Hank Williams, Martin had grown tired of the slow ballads expected of her, especially when she heard the R&B records of Ruth Brown and LaVern Baker.
So, in March 1956, Martin recorded "Will You Willyum," a hit matched in popularity by its B side, a Martin composition called "Drugstore Rock 'n Roll." With that 45, and a handful of follow-ups, Martin became a pioneer of what would become known as rockabilly music. In fact, alongside Wanda Jackson and then later Brenda Lee, Martin was one of only a few female rockers in a largely male domain.
For a few years, Martin rode high in the rockabilly saddle, appearing on major TV talk shows like The Today Show and The Tonight Show as well as American Bandstand. She was known as much for her provocative stage moves and blonde ponytail as her songs including "My Boy Elvis," "Let's Elope Baby," and Roy Orbison's "Oooby Dooby.” Then, she got pregnant by her first husband, and RCA dumped her in 1958. There were a few records to come, but a second husband forced her to leave the scene. Over the decades to come, Martin would have her rare public moments in the sun, especially in Europe where her son joined her on drums. But mostly she was seen as a footnote in the history of country/rockabilly music.
Then, in 1995, lifelong fan Rosie Flores (Screamin’ Sirens) sought Martin out and got her to work on a few collaborative projects. Flores ultimately produced a series of recording sessions for Martin in 2007, and the 11 basic tracks were completed just six months before Martin’s death from lung cancer on September 3, 2007, at the age of 67. At first unable to find a label interested in Martin’s final recordings, Flores went to Kickstarter.com to raise funds. Five years later, the completed project will be released on September 18 on indie Cow Island Music.