(By Bo Berglind and Tony Wilkinson)
Born Joyce Olivia Green, 2 March 1940, Bradford, Arkansas
Joyce made only one record, but what a record. 'Black Cadillac' just has to be one of the best rockers made by a femme during the fifties. The lyrics put together by, at the time, a nineteen-year old girl are remarkable and must have caused many a preacher to tear out his or her hair in frustration at such apparent obscenities.
Joyce Olivia Green was born March 2, 1940 in the town of Bradford, Arkansas, where she still lives today. Her parents were Eva Phillips and Glenn Green. Joyce grew up in a musical family together with sister Doris and brothers Dalon, Philip and Glenn Jnr.. Glenn had been playing trumpet in a brass band, but could also play a little guitar. Joyce was nine when she learned the first chords on the guitar: "We didn't have any musical lessons, we learned by watching each other. I don't remember how old I was when I began to sing, but I've always liked to sing."
Together with her brothers and sister, she sang in the local church and they soon formed a trio. It was not long after this that they began playing on picnics and gatherings. She entered several talent contests that she usually won. It was when Elvis came on the musical scene she know what she wanted to sing. She was fortunate to have seen him twice and loved the way he sang.
Joyce debuted in 1957 on the radio in Searcy, Arkansas with a local musician by the name of Jimmy Douglas. The show was broadcast every Saturday morning from a restaurant. Jimmy played a lot in the local juke joints and nightclubs and he wanted Joyce to join him. Both parents said no, but after some negotiations and as long as brother Glenn came along she was allowed to go. At this time, Joyce was the only female rocker in Arkansas.
In 1958, she met Leon Gambill at the Oasis Club in Bald Knob, Arkansas. Leon was something of a godfather for the rockers in Arkansas and she was hired at the rate of $10 a night. She began touring the North-East portion of Arkansas. She recalls a show at the Cotton Club in Trumann, Arkansas that had Bobby Brown and The Curios as the featured act: "In 1959 I came into touch with Arlen Vaden, he had done recordings by Teddy Redell and I was at the time going with a guy who knew about him. My sister Doris and I started trying to come up with a song, we sat down with the guitar and came up with "Black Cadillac". My brother Philips wrote the flip side, a slow pop called "Tomorrow". Anyway, my boyfriend of the time arranged for me to meet Arlen which led to the recording session for Vaden and a date was set at KLCN in Blytheville, Arkansas. If I aam not mistaken, the musicians on my record were Tommy Holder (guitar), Teddy Redell (piano), Scotty Kuykendall (bass), Harvey Farley (drums) and me on rhythm guitar.
The session was made at the same time as Larry Donn did his songs." The record was released in March 1959 with "Tomorrow" as the A-side and the raucous "Black Cadillac" as the B-side. Together with Larry Donn, she began a promotion tour. She was backed by Larry's band and on several of the shows, Carl Perkins was the headliner. "I visited the radio stations and did some stage shows with Carl Perkins and other artists. We'd also do country fairs. I believe I could have been a successful recording artist if I could have gotten the breaks I needed."
"Black Cadillac" failed to achieve the recognition it should have justifiably gained and soon Joyce was back singing with her brothers. She did a few more recordings with her brother Glenn in the seventies but these were lost in a fire several years ago. She quit playing music in the mid seventies and today lives in Bradford with her husband James whom she had met in 1970. They have a son by the name of Jimmy who is a law enforcer. When Teddy Redell visited Sweden in 1997, he was asked which record he liked most of those upon which he had played and he replied without hesitation 'Black Cadillac' by Joyce Green. Today, the song is a highlight of the act of Austin based songstress Marti Brom.
Comments by Dave Penny:
Fascinating story about Joyce Green and her great record, but it should be pointed out that *her* lyrics weren't really original. I agree that they would be remarkable for a 19 year old white girl in 1959, but, perhaps, not for a 29 year old black man in 1935; "Black Cadillac" is largely a rock 'n' roll rewrite of Buddy Moss' blues song "Going To Your Funeral in a V-8 Ford" - a minor classic that was also recorded pre-Joyce by Dan Pickett (1949) and Willie Love (1951) and after by Mose Allison (1961), Baby Tate (1961) and James Cotton (1968) among others.