Wanda Jackson: Queen of Rockabilly

The Queen of Rockabilly, Wanda Jackson, performed at the Edmonton Folk Festival on Friday, backed up by local pyschobilly outfit The Raygun Cowboys. Photos by Dave S. Clark

By Dave S. Clark

Although her musical career started in 1954, it wasn’t until 1999 when I know I heard my first Wanda Jackson song. I had just picked up Social Distortion frontman Mike Ness’ second solo record, a compilation of cover songs called Under the Influences.

His list of covers included a rendition Jackson’s 1961 hit “Funnel of Love” and after hearing it, I had to find her original track.

At first, Jackson’s unique voice totally caught me off guard. I’m no music writer, so I don’t even know how to describe it in words, but it’s memorable. I always kept a few of her songs, and some covers or her songs on my iPod, but never a full album.

That was until I heard her newest album “The Party Ain’t Over” which was released this January.

When I heard the new record, it quickly began getting regular play and when I heard she was playing Edmonton’s Folk Festival, I knew I couldn’t miss it.

Jackson performed on Friday evening and was backed up by local Edmonton psychobilly band The Raygun Cowboys, who had to have been excited about playing with the Queen of Rockabilly.

She described her set as a journey through her career, starting in the 1950s when she was playing country music. That was, until she met, toured with and dated Elvis Presley, who convinced her to move away from country and play rock and roll, even though Jackson said that term hadn’t been coined yet. On stage, Jackson talked about her relationship with Elvis and how he impacted her career.

Although Jackson thought she didn’t really have much success with “Elvis’ music” she talked about her lengthy career singing in all sorts of genres including country and gospel.

In 2009, she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. After her induction, she said she didn’t know what was next. She didn’t want to retire, but she wasn’t sure what else to do.

That was when she received a phone call from Jack White of the White Stripes, who wanted to make an album with her. Jackson said White picked the songs and pushed her to sing them.

On stage, Jackson talked about the unusual songs White had picked for her, like Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good”.

Anyone who likes a good rock and roll song should be glad White made that call and pushed her to record songs that were out of her comfort zone, because it’s truly an amazing album.

Not only was it a great show, it was a first-hand history lesson, from one of the greats of rock and roll.

One Response to Wanda Jackson: Queen of Rockabilly

  1. She was amazing!

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