Further to our news story on 6 November about the passing of Barbara Pittman, is this interesting article from 1989:
Thirty-five years later, it is obvious that Barbara Pittman was never simply a two dimensional rockabilly singer, a "female Elvis" or "Sun's answer to Janis Martin", as she was variously called. Her life story has taken some unexpected turns and through it all Barbara Pittman has retained a healthy perspective and sense of humor uncommon to veterans of the early days of Memphis rock & roll. Barbara sums up herself clearly with the observation, "There's neverbeen anything typical about me from day one."
Indeed, Barbara's career has been the proverbial press agent's dream. As a kid, she spent time behind the scenes at her uncle's pawn shop on Beale Street where she listened to jam sessions with legendary bluesmen like B.B. King. Barely in her teens, Barbara appeared along with their classmate, Elvis Presley, at the Eagle's Nest, a Memphis nightclub, until she was fired for being underage. " I was making $5 a night. Big money at the time." Barbara's association with Elvis grew naturally out of shared history and the central role music played in each of their lives.
"I sang with him, I knew him, I lived down the street from him when we were kids in North Memphis. His mom and mine used to get together to have what they used to call Stanleyparties, they call them Tupperware parties now. I practically lived out at Graceland in the '50s before Elvis went into the service. He was going to take me on the road with him, then he got drafted." Barbara offers some fascinating recollections of Elvis in the earliest days of his Sun affiliation.
"I remember we were playing at a Catholic School on Jackson one evening. This was back in '55 before Elvis had dyed his hair black. It was still blond. He had his dad's old "pushmobile", we used to call it. You used to have to push it to get it started. It was pouring down rain when we came out of the show. Elvis had this black shoe polish in his hair. This was before he could afford to dye it properly. And it was raining and the shoe polish was running down his face and all over his clothes. And all these little screaming girls were after him and here'sElvis looking like Al Jolson in makeup. It was awful. "The King" standing there with black dye running all down his face." Barbara also recalls time spent at 706 Union Avenue.
We went all over the country. He had quite a show. He really could use that bullwhip. They used to do fight scenes, he would knock ashes off cigarettes with his whip, knock guns out of guys' hands. He hired me on as a baby sitter and then he let me sing. I performed whatever was selling at the time. Songs like 'Let Me Go Lover' and 'Just Because'."
Barbara's career with Sun began in earnest when she returned to Memphis, a seasoned veteran of life on the road and still a teenager. "Actually, I had auditioned for Sun before I ever went on the road with Lash. Sam told me to go out and learn how to sing. I had only been singing for about two months at the time. He said 'Come back when you know how t sing.' So, I did. When I came back from the road with Lash, I met Stan Kesler and he had thistune he wanted to get to Elvis, called 'Playing For Keeps'. I did the demo. When Stan played it for Sam, he didn't even recognize it was the same girl he had sent away a year earlier.
Barbara continued to record demos throughout her career at Sun. Curiously, she has no firm recollection of recording Sentimental Fool, a song represented here by three distinctly different versions, which date from obviously different sessions.
"I was also singing over in West Memphis with Clyde Leoppard's band. There were no age problems over there 'cause they didn't serve drinks. Their clientelle was sometimes 13 or 14 years old. So, I got with Sam and signed a contract in the late part of 1956. I still have a cancelled check from Sam for $100. He paid it to me when I signed and the check is dated October 9, 1956."
After her affiliation with Sun ended, Barbara Pittman headed west. She continued to support herself in the entertainment business, recording a host of movie soundtracks under a variety of names (Barbara and the Visitors, The Thirteenth Committee) which hardly conjured up images of her tenure with Sun. Few Sun fans who went to see a Vincent Price film called "Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bomb" realized they were listening to Barbara Pittman singing the theme song. While on the coast, Barbara continued to rub shoulders with the famous, gigging with luminaries like Johnny and Dorsey Burnette, the Righteous Brothers, but major stardom continued to elude her.
It is now years since Barbara left Sun Records. Not surprisingly, the four years spent at a tiny Memphis label continue to be inordinately important to her and her fans. Barbara continues to sing and to tour. When asked of her plans to record, she replied without hesitation, "At this point in my life, "I'd love to do some blues. Just blues. An album of gutsy blues. Just like I wanted to do when I was at Sun, but I couldn't. You know, Sam wanted me to do Connie Francis stuff. Little girlie tunes, cutesy, petite and pretty, and I just wasn't there. I came from North Memphis. I was beating up the boys by the time I was three. I just refused to sing that stuff. I never did like Connie Francis and Frankie Avalon, all that bunch, the Bobbies..."
(Source: Hank Davis, Canada/John Lee)
"Elvis Presley is the supreme socio-cultural icon in the history of pop culture"
(Dr. Gary Enders)
" Elvis is the 'glue' which holds our society together....which subconciously gives our world meaning"
"Eventually everybody has to die, except Elvis"
(humorist Dave Barry)
"He is the "Big Bang", and the universe he detonated is still expanding, the pieces are still flying"
(Greil Marcus, "Dead Elvis")
"I think Elvis Presley will never be solved"
"He was the most popular man that ever walked on this planet since Christ himself was here"
"When I first heard Elvis' voice I just knew I wasn't going to work for anybody...hearing him for the first time was like busting out of jail"
"When we were kids growing up in Liverpool, all we ever wanted was to be Elvis Presley"
(Sir Paul McCartney)
"You can't say enough good things about Elvis. He was one of a kind"