How fitting that Wanda Jackson, pioneering rock 'n'
roll singer and rockabilly originator, should play at a shrine to
American ingenuity like the National Heritage Museum. As the Queen of Rockabilly
Wanda Jackson proved during a
satisfying set before a near-full house Saturday night, the sprightly
68-year-old isn't any fossilized museum piece or solemn statue. Statues
don't play custom-made guitars, joust warmly with adoring audiences, or
release vital new albums that summon the spirit of Sun Records.
Wanda Jackson Date
Wanda Jackson with
The Palms at Crown Melbourne - When: 26 June 2010
Fifty years to the day after she
recorded her signature hit single Let's Have a Party
in 1956, Jackson is still doing all of these things. Maybe that's why,
as absurd as it sounds, she still isn't in the Rock and Roll Hall of
Wanda still tours and over five decades has sung
alongside Elvis Presley and Elvis Costello. Her
version of Good Rockin' Tonight is a
tribute to Presley classic she commemorates on her latest
CD - I Remember Elvis.
Unlike so many curled-lip pretenders to
the throne, Jackson toured with Presley. She also dated him ("I
still have the ring, Elvis gave me," she said ) As a
fledgling country singer was encouraged by Elvis to try her hand at this
newfangled thing called rock 'n' roll. She took his words to heart.
Strumming a pink acoustic guitar, Jackson renders Heartbreak
Hotel to a sexy smoldering I Forgot to Remember to Forget
with a restored second verse the King had originally omitted. The diminutive singer is
not merely an interpreter of other people's material, but a songwriter equally at home with gospel, pop, and country.
Wanda Jackson talk about working with Elvis Presley when his
career first started to take off.
"In 1957, it had already gotten
to where he and I couldn't go out and get a Coke or go to a movie,
because people would follow us, I just felt sorry for Elvis. It
was like he had created a monster. It was at that point that he had to
stop his autographing, because the fans would get so rowdy. It was
Jackson didn't generate the same frenzied reaction in
America, although she did have a smash hit with "Let's
Have a Party," which was taken from the Presley
film Loving You. The reason has nothing to do with her
music, which was every bit as powerful and edgy as the sound of the
era's male rockabilly titans. "America
just wasn't ready for a female screaming, hollering, twisting and
singing like that," she says. "Nowadays, the
more you do it, the better. It was frustrating that I couldn't get the
airplay and record sales. That's why I jumped from rockabilly to
country so much.
Jackson started as a country singer, and earned her
own radio show in Oklahoma City as a teenager. She recorded for two
years on the Decca label before meeting Presley. Despite
the obvious promise she showed in her original genre, he convinced her
to change her style.
"Elvis was the one who first encouraged me to try rock. When I first started working with him in
the summer of '55, he was not nationally known. In fact, I had
never heard of him when we went on our first tour. But I worked with
him for a couple of years, and we dated when we had the opportunity. I
still have a ring he gave me that I wore around my neck for a couple of
years. Elvis told me that (rock) was going to be the next
big music, which I could tell that it was. The girls were screaming and
crowding the stage, and I'd never seen anything like that. My father
also said that I should try my hand at it. Elvis said, "You can
do anything you want to do."'
After Let's Have a Party Wanda's next hit, Right or
Wrong marked a
return to her country roots. While she hopped from genre to
genre in America, fans in Europe remained loyal to her rockabilly
"I'm not really sure why people over there
enjoyed the music more. For some reason, they
liked the simplicity of it, the energy that was in it. We sang about
driving in cars, listening to radios and going dancing. It's just
clean, innocent music." Only recently have music writers and
fans bestowed the "rebel" label upon her.
"I never had
anything like that said about me then. My
father traveled with me all the time, and I had a very good reputation.
I never heard anything about being a rebel. Now, in retrospect, I look
back and say, 'Yeah, I was.' I wouldn't let them pigeonhole me. But I
broke out of the mold of a girl singing country music with cowboy
boots, full skirts and a guitar."
Jackson doesn't have to look far for
fans, musicians and writers that are willing to give her this credit.
Stars such as: Tanya Tucker and Rosie Flores have named her as a major
influence, and Rolling Stone featured Jackson in its Book of Women in
"I get a lot of good strokes. In fact, it can get to be a pretty heady thing. I have to be
careful to make sure that I can find a hat that fits me, you know? But
it's exciting to see such talented young people telling me that I've
Although Jackson has recorded 18 albums in German and
several other languages. Her German recording of "Santo Domingo" topped the
charts in six different German speaking countries and remains immensely
popular and receives the star
treatment in Europe, with private cars and lush hotel suites.
"That's one song I include on the
set list for every show when I
go overseas. It's become what we call a standard.
They call it an evergreen. No matter what the age of the people in the
audience, they know that song. They sing it with me and they hold up
their cigarette lighters, and it's really touching."
Wanda's Film "The Sweet Lady with the Nasty Voice" won
The Founders Award (THE VERY BEST OF SHOW) at Oklahoma's biggest Film
Festival called The Dead Center Film Festival. Joanne Fish was there to
accept the award as one of the producers. It has really shaped up and
we are proud of it. Hope you get to see it before long. Be
good and may God bless.