BARBARA PITTMAN (By Jean-Marc Pezet)
Born 6 April 1938, Memphis, Tennessee
Although Bear Family Records managed to fill a complete 6 CD box-set of women at Sun, only a very few actually had records released. During the heydays of Sun (1955-1958), I have counted only three singles releases of female rockabilly, Jean Chapel's "Welcome To The Club", The Miller Sisters' "Ten Cats Down" and Barbara Pittman's superlative "I Need A Man".
>From her own recollection, Barbara had always wanted to sing. Not even in her teens yet, she went to Sun Studio for an audition but was turned down by secretary-in-chief, Marion Keisker. She then went on the road with the old-time cowboy band of Lash Larue for one year. Back in Memphis, she landed her a job as vocalist with Clyde Leopard's Snearly Ranch Boys (it is said she replaced former singer, Warren Smith?). It must be late 1955 / early 1956 by now, and Barbara was only 12 when she was spotted by Sun producer Stan Kesler who asked her to record a demo of one of the songs he had written for the recently departed Elvis, "Playing For Keeps".
Sam Phillips was enthusiastic about the demo, and, during 1956, brought Barbara into the studio to record her first single, backed by the Snearly Ranch Boys. The raunchy "I Need A Man" was coupled with the beat ballad "No Matter Who's To Blame" on SUN 253, released in September 1956. This is one of the best Sun releases, but unfortunately, it sank without a trace. The next single was released one year later, in September 1957, on the newly set up "Phillips International" label, this time backed by the usual suspects (Roland Janes, Jimmy Van Eaton, Billy Riley, Jimmy Wilson). A very good rocker "I'm Getting Better All The Time" was coupled with the ballad "Two Young Fools in Love" (PI 3518). While not as successful, Barbara also worked the package show with Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, The Burnette Brothers and even with Elvis, whom she knew from a long time back. Not discouraged by poor sales, Sam Phillips issued two more singles by Barbara. In 1958 "Everlasting Love"/"Cold Cold Heart" (PI 3527) still coupled a good rocker, with this time a Hank Williams cover, and in 1960, her last single saw a change in style with a Charlie Rich jazzy composition "Handsome Man" coupled with a not-too-good "Eleventh Commandment'" (PI 3553).
She then moved to California, where she apparently appeared in a few low-budget bikers movie before dropping out of the scene. She later moved back to Memphis. She re-appeared in Europe in 1983 in Holland for the Rockhouse festival, in conjunction with the release of the "Original Sun Sides" LP (which proudly sported a magnificent Barbara Thomas photo on the sleeve !) and made her debut in the UK in 1984. A live album, recorded in 1984 in Texas, was also released on Magnum Force in 1987.
vinyl: - "The Original Sun Sides" - Rockhouse LPM8307 (NL, 1984) (10 tracks) - "I Need A Man" - Bear Family BFX 15359 (GER, 1989) (19 tracks)
CD: - Best known tracks generally available on the millionth Sun compilation - "Getting Better All The Time" - Charly CPCD8319 (1998) (27 tracks, featuring lots of alternates and demos) - the "Memphis Belles" Bear Family boxed set seems to contain one new BP track, "The Titles Will Tell", not included in the Charly CD. More info: http://www.rockabillyhall.com/BarbaraPittman.html
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