Wednesday, February 10, 2010

TVD's Alternative Ulcer | The Queen of Rockabilly

So, on Friday night I'm supposed to be seeing the Queen of Rockabilly herself, Ms. Wanda Jackson, at the Black Cat and if the snow this week creates an environment in our nation's capital in which Ms. Jackson cannot make her own concert, I will be absolutely heartbroken.

Why? She is a legend and seeing her live is something anyone would kick themselves forever if they missed it. Ms. Jackson, is, in the music world, as hardcore as they come.

She had her own radio show and was being courted by record producers by the time she was fifteen. Her first song, "You Can't Buy My Love" was recorded with Billy Gray and she toured with Elvis Presley (who got her to start singing rockabilly) twice before the age of twenty. Although the story goes that Ken Nelson, a producer with Capitol Records didn't originally sign Jackson because, as he put it, "girls don't sell records" it didn't stop him from signing her a few years later after her short stint with Decca Records.

During Jackson's time at Capitol, which ended in the early 1970s, she recorded and toured her backside off. (Sidenote: Wanda's backside was covered in costumes designed and made by her mother and Jackson credits herself with bringing glamour to country music due to being decked out in " fringe dresses, high heels, [and] long earrings.")

Because her sound vacillated between country and rockabilly, Ms. Jackson would often put one type of song on each side of a single. She toured with a mixed-race band during the same year the Little Rock Nine were challenging segregation in Arkansas. They loved her in Japan. They loved her in Germany. They loved her on the US pop charts AND the US country charts. And when Wanda got married, she didn't quit her job. Instead, her IBM-supervisor husband quit HIS job to become her manager—something completely unheard of at the time.

After becoming a Christian in 1971, Ms. Jackson recorded her first gospel album, which was to be her last recording with Capitol. Throughout the 1970s she recorded more gospel albums with several labels but after wanting to record both gospel and country music the religious labels lost interest.

In the years since, Ms. Jackson has continued to tour all over the world. In 2009 she was (finally!) admitted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And now, at the age of 73, has released a double-A side single, produced by Jack White of the White Stripes, containing covers of Amy Winehouses's "You Know I'm No Good" and Johnny Kidd's "Shakin' All Over." The full album will be released on White's Third Man Records which is also currently selling Jackson's 7 inch single.

Nick Touches describes Ms. Jackson "as simply and without contest the greatest menstruating rock ‘n’ roll singer whom the world has ever known" but I don't see any reason to compartmentalize her—I'd put her up there as one of the greatest rock 'n' roll singers, male or female, the world has ever known and I suspect a little 10 or 20 inches of snow ain't gonna stop her on Friday.

Wanda Jackson - There's A Party Goin' On (Mp3)
Wanda Jackson - Fujiyama Mama (Mp3)
Wanda Jackson - Hard Headed Woman (Mp3)
Wanda Jackson - Makin' Believe (Mp3)

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