Rock’n’roll – and in particular its country cousin, rockabilly – was by and large a man’s game, but its female exponents were by no means shy wallflowers; hiccuping bad-girl Sparkle Moore, “female Elvis” Janis Martin and gravel-throated Wanda Jackson were as raucous, mean and dirty as any of their masculine contemporaries. One of the most powerful rockabilly voices of all time belonged to a 19-year-old girl, Joyce Green, whose only contribution to the history of recorded music was a solitary 45, cut in Trumann, Arkansas for local entrepreneur Arlen Vaden. The A-side, “Tomorrow”, was a country-pop ballad reminiscent of Patsy Cline, but hidden away on the flip was an extraordinary rocker in which a vituperative Green hollers about sending her two-timin’ lover to his grave.

Kicking into gear with a hurtling guitar intro by Tommy Holder and not relenting until Harvey Farley’s final triumphant drumroll, “Black Cadillac” is two and a half minutes of pure visceral thrill. Green’s strident voice is a thing of uncontained violence, threatening and gloating as she metes out punishment to her man. Meanwhile pianist Terry Redell, who specialised in the boogie-woogie and ragtime styles popular between the wars, pounds the high keys like Scott Joplin turned vicious.

The song was a reworking of an old blues number by Buddy Moss, with Moss’s titular V8 Ford replaced by a flashy Cadillac. And that wasn’t the only car that was traded up in the brief history of Vaden Records. While Green and her labelmates saw very little of the proceeds from their music, their paymaster Arlen Vaden was somehow able to upgrade his smoke-belching Chevy to a brand-new white convertible.

<< Influenced by: Going To Your Funeral In A V8 Ford, Buddy Moss (1935)

>> Influence on: Trouble, Jackie DeShannon (1959)

|| Covered by: Marti Brom & The Barnshakers (2000)

This piece is an omitted entry from the book 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die (Cassell) – consider it song no. 1003.

Black Cadillac | Joyce Green (1959)

Writer: Joyce Green
Producer: Arlen Vaden
Label: Vaden Records
Album: n/a

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