Still Miss Dynamite

Brenda Lee’s first record, in 1956, was a cover of the Hank Williams and/or Moon Mullican standard “Jambalaya”:

The label on Decca 30050 bills her as “Little” Brenda Lee, and in parentheses: “9 Years Old.” Um, no. She was already 11 when this track was cut.

Then again, they say that a lack of height contributes to the appearance of youth, and Brenda Mae Tarpley, born on this date in 1944, never climbed above about four foot nine. In 1957, she cut a tune called “Dynamite,” and she was Little Miss Dynamite thereafter. And this being December, a radio station near you is playing this 1958 recording:

To this day, this site gets visits from people wanting an explanation of “the new old-fashioned way.”

Brenda Lee, teenager

Brenda Lee, long since grown up

Brenda Lee, no longer a teenager

And a 1966 single of hers got an unexpected shout-out in 1973 — in a Dutch progressive-rock number, no less — and remains part of her set list to this day, her 74th birthday.

Brenda Lee has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Country Music Hall of Fame. She is the only woman so honored.


  1. Dan T. »

    11 December 2018 · 10:20 pm

    After 60 years, I’d suppose the “new old-fashioned way” would have gotten pretty old-old-fashioned.

  2. Brett »

    12 December 2018 · 12:04 am

    “Dynamite” and “Sweet Nothin’s” are two of my all-time favorites.

    On the other hand, if I never hear “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree” again I will be blessed beyond all of my ability to describe.

  3. CGHill »

    12 December 2018 · 12:36 am

    Yeah, that one can prey on you this time of year.

    I just wish we’d had some more vintage video. (The clip of “Dynamite” derives from a 2010-ish documentary.) And I’m surprised I managed not to mention “Is It True” and “The Crying Game,” two tracks she cut in the UK for producer Mickie Most. Jimmy Page plays guitar on the former; ht was the second guitarist on Dave Berry’s original, but I’m not sure he was on Brenda’s session.

  4. The Other McCain »

    17 December 2018 · 7:58 am

    Rule 5 Sunday: Eliza Dushku

    {…] At Dustbury, it’s Brenda Lee and Nancy Wilson. […]

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