Janis Martin was one of the few female recording artists working in the male-dominated rockabilly field in the 1950s. Nicknamed “the female Elvis” for her dance moves, the Sutherland, Va. native, born in 1940, recorded a number of singles for RCA Victor and Pallette from 1956 to ’61. Her first single, “Will You Willyum” b/w “Drugstore Rock ’n’ Roll,” sold more than 750,000 copies, landing her national TV appearances. In 1960, her first husband demanded she leave music. But she returned in the ’70s, and in 1995 made a guest appearance on Rosie Flores’ "Rockabilly Filly" album.
It’s here that the saga of Janis Martin’s farewell album, "The Blanco Sessions", began. The Blanco Sessions, produced by Flores and Bobby Trimble, will be released on Cow Island Music on September 18, 2012.
In 2006, Flores left Los Angeles to return to Austin and found Trimble, an old friend from Big Sandy’s Fly-Rite Boys, living there too. Trimble found a stellar and amazing team of Austin musicians to back Martin up including Dave Biller (guitar), Beau Sample (bass), T-Jarod Bonta (piano) and Trimble on drum. Kelly Willis also sings a beautiful duet with Janis. And in April 2007, the whole band, Janis, and her husband Wayne, drove from Austin to Blanco, Texas where the sessions took place. They cut eleven songs in only two days.
Martin left the Blanco Sessions feeling that she had accomplished something really great, as she told Flores in a phone call that brought tears of joy to Flores’ eyes. But just a few weeks later, Flores received another call from her with the shocking news that she had been diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer. Martin passed away just four months later.
Janis Martin died leaving behind an enormous legacy and thousands of dedicated rockabilly fans who still mourn her passing. Since that sad day in 2007, her name has been praised with awards and accolades. In 2008 she was inducted as an outstanding woman into the Danville Museum of Fine Arts & History in her hometown of Danville, Virginia. In 2010, she was recognized by the Library of Virginia at its Virginia Women in History Celebration. She was also featured in the Beth Harrington-directed documentary Welcome to the Club — The Women of Rockabilly that was broadcast on PBS.
Flores says “I thank the great Janis Martin up in rock ’n’ roll heaven for inspiring me to do this. I thank you for giving me the chance to help with your final recordings. I will see you again someday, and we’ll work on the next batch of songs! These final recordings are for all of those listeners out there who love your voice, your spirit, your heart, and your rock ’n’ roll soul.”