VENUS IN JEANS
In 1955 Alma Coogan had a number 1 hit in the UK with Dreamboat. Photos of Alma show her dressed almost like a ballerina. The Daily Sketch of 1956 had Anne Shelton next to a photo of Elvis and ran an article on her hit ‘Lay Down Your Arms’. It was later mentioned that Shelton could have passed for Gladys, Elvis’s mother. Annette Funicello, star of Bandstand, pictured sometimes pink dress, pink rose and pearls, made it difficult to imagine how a girl rock ‘n’ roll singer should look like.
The role of women in the 1950’s music era was mixed and varied, however, one thing stood out, that the singer looked every part showbiz from their hair-dos, gowns, jewellery to the beautiful shoes worn.
The public were amazed when the next singer appeared in pr shots, dressed in a gingham frock, a puppy in her arms, a petite sixteen year old. Yet, Little Miss Dynamite had one of the most distinctive voices prior to Janis Joplin and so with the single ‘Sweet Nothins’ in 1960, there arrived a new star.
Brenda Lee was discovered by country star Reg Foley at the age of 12 through a regular Radio spot. She then appeared on the ‘Ozark Jubilee’ television show ran by Foley to which Decca then offered a contract and the first disc cut in 1956 was a rocked up version of Hank Williams ‘Jambalaya’. The song became a country novelty hit due to her age and TV appearances and gave her the tag of ‘Little Miss Dynamite’.
Her young life consisted of touring as part of a package show, school books and all, whilst also recording the track ‘One Step at a Time’ in 57. The single did well in the country charts and also a 43 in the Hot Hundred chart. ‘Dynamite’ and ‘Let’s Jump the Broomstick’ followed next. Her touring consisted of shows with the likes of Fabian and Duane Eddy who treated Lee as a little sister, with 1960 ending with a European tour and the song ‘Rockin Around the Christmas Tree’.
Owen Bradley, Brenda’s producer at Decca Nashville, knew the value of a bluesy voice, and children with adult voices were gifts, so he experimented with strings, vocal choruses and emotional story-lines. ‘Sweet Nothin’s, reached the No 4 spot on the Hot Hundred with ‘I’m Sorry’ reaching the no 1 position, in 1960.
Super-stardom at age 16, her ‘Fool number One’ out in 1961, ‘All alone am I’ in 62 and ‘As usual’ in 1963. Some artists peak too early in life. By 1969 when only 25, her greatest triumphs seemed far behind her.
Brenda later went back to elements of country and Nashville with a No 5 hit in 1973 with ‘Nobody wins’, a Kris Kristofferson number.
Little Miss Dynamite in her Lampshade dresses, husky bluesy voice, could belt out a song and had 48 US hit records and countless International successes as well.
In 2009 given a Grammy as a Life time Achievement Award, her contribution to the