Rosie Flores unveils final album from ‘Female Elvis’ Janis Martin

Rosie Flores hosted an album release party in Burbank for the final recording from '50s rocker Janis Martin, who died in 2007.
(Randy Lewis / Los Angeles Times)

“Rockabilly filly” Rosie Flores returned to her Southland stamping ground Wednesday for the unveiling of a project obviously near and dear to her heart, “The Blanco Sessions” album she produced for ‘50s rockabilly singer and songwriter Janis Martin.

The album comes out Sept. 18, but showcasing the material Martin sang for her first new recording in more than two decades falls to Flores. Shortly after working on the album in 2007 with Flores, Martin, then 67, learned she had cancer, and died a few months later. As a teenager, Martin had earned the nickname “The Female Elvis” in the ‘50s for her raucous, hard-driving brand of rock in songs such as “My Boy Elvis” and “Barefoot Baby.”

“I was turned down by every record company for four years straight,” Flores told a crowd of nattily dressed neo-rockabilly fans, cowboys and cowgirls ranging from their 20s to some in their 70s at Viva Cantina Mexican restaurant and bar in Burbank equestrian country. “I’d like to thank the Kickstarter people who are here because it was a Kickstarter campaign that allowed me to finish it.”


She topped her $15,000 goal of last year’s self-financing campaign and now the album is about to see the light of day. Wednesday’s show coincided with Flores’ birthday in a show at which she was joined by newer generation roots-rock singers Ruby James and Kim Lenz, as well as a surprise appearance during the encore my surviving longtime Ramones member Marky Ramone, who jumped behind the drum kit to bash away enthusiastically on the Jerry Lee Lewis-inspired “I’m On Fire.”

Before that, Flores and her pals, also including longtime roots-scene bassist Russell Scott, tenor saxophonist Stephen Cooper and fiery keyboardist extraordinaire Doña Oxford, zipped through a dozen songs that Martin had recorded during her brief moment in the spotlight in the ‘50s, or on the “Blanco Sessions” album in 2007. Flores explained how, in the conservative atmosphere of the ‘50s, Martin saw her career come crashing abruptly to an end when she got pregnant at 17 and her record label, RCA, dropped her.

“This is for Janis,” Flores said toward the end of the set, “and for all of us she inspired and for all those who should be inspired by her and know more about her.” Flores, who was a leading light of the Southern California roots music scene in the late 1970s and ‘80s fronting the band the Screamin’ Sirens and in various solo configurations, has a new album of her own due for release on Oct. 18, titled “Working Girl’s Guitar.”

And Flores has just been announced as one of the participants in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s Oct. 27 “American Masters” salute to rock founding father Chuck Berry.


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