Spotlight on ……
Wanda Jackson is one of the most underrated female artist of our time, her recordings of Country, Pop, Rockabilly, Rock ‘n’ Roll, Blues and Gospel music proves how versatile she is. Amazingly she still has not been inducted into either the Country Music Hall of Fame or the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.
Wanda Lavonne Jackson was born on October 20th, 1937, in Maud Oklahoma. Her parents were Tom and Nellie Jackson. Tom, himself a country singer who quit because of the Depression moved the family to Los Angeles, California in 1941 for a better life. He bought Wanda her first guitar two years later, gave her lessons, and encouraged her to play piano and read music as well. In addition, he took her to see such acts as Tex Williams, Spade Cooley, and Bob Wills, which left a lasting impression on her young mind. The family moved to Bakersfield but by June of 1949 they had all moved back to Oklahoma City. One of the first records that she enjoyed was Hank Williams’ version of ‘Lovesick Blues’, which was a number one country hit of that year, as well as being a pop hit.
Wanda attended Capitol high school, the local radio station KLPR ran a local talent programme, which Wanda entered and won. From this she got her own radio show singing country music. The show was so popular that her fifteen-minute radio spot was extended to thirty minutes by popular request and lasted throughout Jackson’s high school years. In 1953 Hank Thompson, was one of the biggest stars on the country scene. He was playing at theTrainon Ballroom, Wanda went along and she was introduced to Thompson and she got to sing on stage with his band, impressing the leader. At 16 years old Capitol Records thought she was too young to sign for them but Paul Cohen of Decca Records (now MCA Nashville) showed an interest,and in 1954 she recorded with Billy Gray who was front man for Hank Thompson’s Brazos Valley Boys. The duet ‘You Can’t Have My Love’ became a hit, eventually getting as high as number eight in the country charts.
Jackson insisted on finishing high school before hitting the road. When she did, her father became her road manager and hit the road with her. Her mother made and helped design Wanda's stage outfits. "I was the first one to put some glamour in the country music — fringe dresses, high heels, long earrings," Jackson said of these outfits.
Other subsequent records failed to sell but Wanda was learning all the time about the music business. After she graduated from high school in May 1955, she went on TV, joining the cast of the popular Ozark Jubilee Broadcast. When Jackson first toured in 1955 and 1956, she was placed on a bill with Johnny Cash, with the show headlined by Elvis Presley. The two hit it off almost immediately. It was Elvis who suggested that she should change her style to include up tempo numbers, as well as country music.
Elvis Presley had such an impact on the music scene, that he changed the direction of music forever. When Wanda finally signed to Capitol Records in 1956, her producer Ken Nelson saw the potential of recording her in both styles. Nelson also produced Gene Vincent, Sonny James and Ferlin Husky all of which resulted in crossover hits for Capitol Records.
During Wanda’s first session for Capitol in June of 1956, she recorded ‘I Gotta Know’ which was a fusion of traditional country and rockabilly, it gave her a chart hit. Over the next few years she recorded such classics as ‘Silver Threads and Golden Needles’ and ‘Fujiyama Mama’ (which made her a star in Japan and she even toured there).
From 1956 until 1971, Wanda had over twenty-four hits on the country charts, as well as nine chart albums. Including, ‘Blues In My Heart’ in 1965, the outstanding ‘Salutes The Country Music Hall of Fame’ in 1966, which is one of the best recordings by a female artist in the country music field, the superb ‘Reckless Love Affair’ in 1967 and ‘The Many Moods of Wanda Jackson’ in 1969.
On this collection some of the greatest songwriters are represented include Hank Williams, Willie Nelson, Chuck Berry, Charlie Rich and Wanda herself.
Her recording career bounced back and forth between country and rockabilly; she did this by often putting one song in each style on either side of a single. Jackson cut the rockabilly hit "Fujiyama Mama" in 1958, which became a major success in Japan. Her version of "Let's Have a Party," which Elvis had cut earlier, was a U.S. Top 40 pop hit for her in 1960, after which she began calling her band the Party Timers. A year later, she was back in the country Top Ten with "Right or Wrong" and "In the Middle of a Heartache." In 1965, she topped the German charts with "Santa Domingo," sung in German. In 1966, she hit the U.S. Top 20 with "The Box It Came In" and "Tears Will Be the Chaser for Your Wine." Jackson's popularity continued through the end of the decade.
Jackson toured regularly, was twice nominated for a Grammy, and was a big attraction in Las Vegas from the mid-'50s into the '70s. She married IBM supervisor Wendell Goodman in 1961, and instead of quitting the business — as many women singers had done at the time — Goodman gave up his job in order to manage his wife's career. He also packaged Jackson's syndicated TV show, Music Village. In 1971, Jackson and her husband became Christians, which she says saved their marriage. She released one gospel album on Capitol in 1972, Praise the Lord, before shifting to the Myrrh label for three more gospel albums. In 1977, she switched again, this time to Christian based Word Records to record sacred music.
In the early '80s, Jackson was invited to Europe to play rockabilly and country festivals and to record. She's since been back numerous times. More recently, American country artists Pam Tillis, Jann Browne, and Rosie Flores have acknowledged Jackson as a major influence. In 1995, Flores released a rockabilly album, Rockabilly Filly, and invited Jackson, her longtime idol, to sing two duets on it with her. Jackson embarked on a major U.S. tour with Flores later that year. It was her first secular tour in this country since the '70s, not to mention her first time back in a nightclub atmosphere. After releasing the critically acclaimed, "Heart Trouble", and "I Remember Elvis", Wanda continues to tour all over the world to sold out venues.
In 2009 Wanda was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello, and Bruce Springsteen were just a few of the high-profile artists that encouraged the Hall to induct the Queen over the last few years.