Photograph of Janis Martin, WRVA Radio Collection, Accession 38210, courtesy of the Library of Virginia.
Photograph of Janis Martin performing on Roanoke TV station WSLS, WRVA Radio Collection, Accession 38210, courtesy of the Library of Virginia.
The Library of Virginia honored Janis Martin as one of its Virginia Women in History in 2010.
The Virginia Women in History Digital Trail is made possible by the Library of Virginia and American Evolution: Virginia to America, 1619–2019.
Backstory and Context
Record executives dubbed Martin the "Female Elvis." She recorded at six sessions from 1956 to 1958, enjoyed numerous industry accolades, and performed on American Bandstand and the Tonight Show and at the Grand Ole Opry. Martin's fall from stardom was just as dramatic as her meteoric rise to fame—she secretly married and became pregnant, so RCA Victor dropped their teenage star. Martin returned to Southside Virginia, raised her children, managed a country club, and occasionally played locally. A resurgence of interest in rockabilly music in the 1980s brought her international attention. Martin performed in Europe and at major rockabilly shows across the United States. She died of cancer in 2007, leaving a powerful legacy of recordings and fans worldwide.