Janis Martin Dies of Cancer

Rockabilly pioneer Janis Martin, who was known as "The Female Elvis," has died of cancer at age 67.

Martin was a native of Sutherlin, Virginia, and lived in Danville. Her husband, Bradley Whitt, says she died Monday at Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina.

Whitt says Martin learned she had cancer shortly after what turned out to be her last public performance: a cancer benefit in Richmond in March.

Martin rose to fame in the '50s 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 Martin was just 15. The song made the Billboard top 10 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 says his wife was "a free-spirited lady who was devoted to her fan base, loved every fan that she had." He says she would stay for hours after a show posing for pictures and signing autographs.

Funeral services are scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday at Norris Chapel in Danville.


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