During the 1950s rockabilly artists were coming out of the woodwork to record singles, hoping the disc jockeys would play their 45s on the radio and make them famous like that good ol’ boy Elvis.
Fame would never come for most of them, but rockabilly pioneer Barbara Morgan, aka Sparkle Moore, had the chance to become the “female Elvis” back in 1957 and gave it all up just when things were starting to get good:
Moore’s career lasted less than two years—just long enough for her to tour with pill-popping rockabilly wildman Gene Vincent; hobnob with celebs like Sammy Davis Jr., who compared her to James Dean; and get booked at the Grand Ole Opry, a gig she had to cancel due to laryngitis. The bio on Sparkle’s official website also claims that she “takes credit for being the first hippie to hit California several years later with a guitar strapped on the side of a Harley,” but since she’s done virtually no press, it’s unknown what adventures she got into in Hollywood.
Even though Sparkle only ever recorded four songs she was a trailblazer for female rockers because she refused to give up her individual sense of style to conform to gender norms:
She certainly dressed the part. At a time when female singers only wore dresses, Sparkle sported men’s slacks and suit jackets. She was butch on the bottom and bombshell up top, with a platinum blonde pompadour that made her look like Sparkle Plenty, the Dick Tracy character for whom she was named. In a rare 1986 interview with the magazine Kicks, Sparkle remembered how she used to freak people out with her masculine stage wear.
“People would see me when I went to play somewhere, and they’d say, ‘Can’t you wear something more sexy, like a gown?’” Moore said. “And I never would. I always wore a playing suit, and I’d say, ‘This is as sexy as I get.’”