Rockabilly pioneer Janis Martin, who was billed as "The Female Elvis,"
has died of cancer, her husband said Tuesday. She was 67. Ms. Martin, of Danville,
died Monday at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C. Bradley Whitt, her husband
of 28 years, said Ms. Martin learned that she had cancer shortly after what turned out
to be her last public performance -- a cancer benefit in Richmond in March.
Ms. Martin rose to fame in the 1950s as Elvis Presley's label mate at RCA Victor,
which promoted her as "The Female Elvis." Her first record and biggest
hit, "Will You Willyum," was released in 1956, when she was just 15. The song
made the Billboard top 10 for one week and sold about 750,000 copies.
She appeared on "The Tonight Show" and "American Bandstand" and toured
with Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Faron Young, Hank Snow, Porter Wagoner
and Jim Reeves. She became a star in Europe and remains popular
there today, Whitt said.
Ms. Martin was voted Billboard's most promising female artist in 1956.
She formed her own band, The Marteens, and played clubs and fairs before
temporarily retiring from show business in 1958.
She remained largely inactive in the business until the late'70s, when the rockabilly
revival led to extensive tours in Europe and introduced her to a new generation of
fans. She had been scheduled to perform at The Americana, an international rockabilly
show in England, on July 4 but had to cancel because of her illness, Whitt said.
Along with performing, Ms. Martin managed the Danville Golf Club.
In addition to her husband, Ms. Martin's survivors include a sister, Geraldine Connor
of South Boston; a granddaughter and a great-granddaughter.
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