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.
Suitably impressed with Martin's performance, RCA signed Martin, a mere two months after Elvis Presley had transferred to RCA from Sun Records. Backed with Martin's own composition, "Drugstore Rock 'n' Roll", "Will You Willyum" became a smash hit, the first in a series of country and rock hits such as "Barefoot Baby", a cover of Roy Orbison's "Ooby Dooby", and "My Boy Elvis". Her initial success had garnered her appearances on nationwide television, as well the attention of Presley's manager, Colonel Tom Parker, and she was billed the official "Female Elvis". There were plans of a Martin/Presley double-bill, but wary of such a taxing tour -- Presley had recently collapsed on stage as a result of exhaustion -- Martin's parents rejected Parker's offer, and she instead toured as the top name of a series of Old Dominion Barn Dance shows. Her last single of 1956 was "Let's Elope Baby"; in 1957, Martin did indeed elope with her boyfriend, a paratrooper, and got married. They kept their marriage secret from Martin's parents until the paratrooper was shipped off to Germany; as she was only fifteen at the time, her father attempted to have the marriage annulled.
Although this did not come to pass, they aimed to keep the marriage a secret for the sake of their daughter's career. Upon her husband's return on leave, Martin became pregnant, causing RCA to drop her from the label. Though other major labels expressed interest, Martin signed with the Belgian Palette label, recording a series of downbeat love songs. In 1960, Martin's second husband demanded that she leave the music business, an easy decision for a weary and somewhat disillusioned Martin. However, over the years, her love of music began to flourish once again, and come her husband's second such ultimatum, she chose music over him, performing with her new band, The Variations.
In 1975, Martin told her untold story of teenage love in Goldmine magazine; at the time, there was a resurgence of rockabilly interest in Europe, and Martin departed on a tour of the region. With a revived career, several previously unreleased cuts were released as singles, and Bear Family released a nigh-comprehensive compilation of her '50s singles. Martin died from cancer in 2007, only half a year after the death of her only son. Before her death, she had recorded an album with Rosie Flores, whom she had earlier worked together with alongside Wanda Jackson. These recordings were released as The Blanco Sessions in 2012.
In 2010, the Library of Virginia recognized Martin as an influential Virginian, naming her one of the "Virginia Women in History". Martin's legacy endures to this day, remaining one of the most influential and beloved women of rockabilly. Read more on Last.fm. User-contributed text is available under the Creative Commons By-SA License; additional terms may apply..
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