LAURA LEE PERKINS
Born Alice Faye Perkins, 20 July 1939, Killarney, West Virginia
There is some confusion surrounding the real name of Laura Lee Perkins. In Billboard, January 27, 1958, we find the following announcement: "Lew Chudd says his new signing, 17 year old Allie Mae Perkins of West Virginia, will be the female Jerry Lee Lewis". Perhaps Chudd changed the name Allie Mae to Laura Lee to make her name resemble "Jerry Lee". But the two songs that she wrote, "Don't Wait Up" and "Oh La Baby" (both co-written with deejay Jeffrey Allen Baxter) are credited to "Faye Perkins" and in the BMI database she is Fay Perkins. "Alice Faye Perkins" (and the year of birth) comes from the following web page http://www.rockabillyhall.com/LauraLeePerkins1.html which also shows a few pictures of the singer/pianist.
Laura Lee Perkins has been reissued so frequently (on 22 different compi- lations, according to Terry Gordon's "Rockin' Country Style" website) that we tend to forget that her complete recorded output consists of only six recordings. After graduating from high school in 1957, she moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where she was managed by fiddle player Slim Luse. She was spotted by Cleveland's famous deejay Bill Randle of WERE, one of the nation's most active disc jockeys when it came to recording masters and selling them to record labels. He recorded most of his sides in Cleveland at the Audio Recording Studio. This was where Laura Lee's first session was held, in late 1957. Three songs were recorded ("Don't Wait Up", "Oh La Baby" and "Come On Baby"), with Laura's Lee's pounding piano playing well to the fore.
Randle managed to sell the masters to Imperial Records. She was then flown to Hollywood for a second session in February 1958, produced by Jimmie Haskell. Again three tracks were laid down. This time her piano wasn't so prominent, but there were equally exciting solos, by ace guitar man Joe Maphis. Imperial decided to release the Hollywood recordings first. "Kiss Me Baby"/"I Just Don't Like This Kind Of Livin'" (Imperial 5493) was reviewed in the Billboard issue of February 24, 1958: "Exhuberant (sic) rendition on a rockabilly blues. The thrush comes on strongly here". The anonymous Billboard reviewer liked the Hank Williams-penned B-side even better, giving it a 79 rating. "Don't Wait Up"/"Oh La Baby" (Imperial 5507) was released just five weeks later, again to favourable reviews (78 and 75). The two unissued recordings, "Gonna Rock My Baby Tonight" and "Come On Baby" first came out in 1988 on Detour DT-45-02. Detour was a short-lived UK label, run by that well-known British sound engineer, Bob Jones. Laura Lee plans a wild night in the lyrics of "Gonna Rock My Baby Tonight": "Gonna play the rock-ola and drink Coca Cola". Ah, the age of innocence.
In spite of the commercial failure of the two Imperial singles, Perkins got the chance to perform all over the United States and Canada. In 1959 she moved to Detroit, married there in 1963 and raised three sons. She still lives in the Detroit area.
Though Laura Lee Perkins did not become the female Jerry Lee Lewis, as Imperial honcho Lew Chudd hoped, her six recordings are well worth collecting. What she lacked in polish, she more than made up in enthusiasm, often using the same kind of hiccup in her voice as Barbara Pittman. Unfortunately, there is currently no compilation available which collects all of her tracks.
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