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Janis Martin

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Sutherlin VA, United States (1956 – 2007)

Janis Darlene Martin (March 27, 1940 – September 3, 2007) was an American and singer. With a distinctive country twang to her voice, she was one of the few women performing rockabilly music during the period of the genre’s infancy, and a pioneering female innovator on the country music scene. Nicknamed “The Female Elvis” due to her vivacious on-stage dancing, she was the only female rocker given this title who was acknowledged by Elvis Presley himself. She is among the best-selling female rock acts, her 1956 single “Drugstore Rock ‘n’ Roll” having sold 750,000 copies.

Born in Sutherlin, Virginia, Martin was raised by a stage mother and a musician father. Before she was six, Martin could already play guitar and sing, modeling her vocal style after Eddy Arnold and Hank Williams. In time, she came to participate in statewide talent contests, beating out 200 participants. As a result, Martin was asked to play on the same bill as Cowboy Copas and Sunshine Sue, the latter being the host of the Old Dominion Barn Dance radio show, which was regularly broadcast on one of Virginia’s most influential radio stations, on which Martin was now granted a spot.

As time went on, Martin tired of country music, and aspired instead to assign herself to a new, raucous style of music, which would come to be known as rockabilly. By chance, WRVA station announcer Carl Stutz had composed a song, “Will You Willyum”, and asked Martin to record the song live as a demo for RCA Records.

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