Wanda Jackson

2013 - Women Who Rock

Known to many as the Queen or First Lady of Rockabilly, Wanda Jackson is an American singer, songwriter, pianist and guitarist who had success in the mid-1950s and 1960s as one of the first popular female rockabilly singers and a pioneering rock and roll artist.

Wanda Jackson was born in Maud, Oklahoma in 1937. Her father was a musician, and he bought Jackson a guitar and encouraged her to play. In 1956, she won a talent contest which led to her own radio program. After graduating from high school, Jackson began to tour with her father as manager and chaperone. She often shared the bill with Elvis Presley, who encouraged Jackson to sing rockabilly. Jackson briefly dated Elvis, during which time Elvis sometimes would coach Jackson how to play Rock & Roll.

From 1955 through the early 60‘s, Jackson was busy playing and recording rockabilly music. She headlined concerts with her own band, who she dubbed The Party Timers; she was a cast member of ABC-TV's Ozark Jubille; and she had a Top 40 pop hit with Let's Have a Party. As rockabilly declined in popularity in the mid-1960s, she moved to a successful career in mainstream country music with a string of hits including Tears Will Be the Chaser for Your Wine, A Woman Lives for Love, Fancy Satin Pillows and The Box it Came In..

Her final top 20 country hits came in 1970-71, including her second Grammy nomination for A Woman Lives For Love. Jackson was a premier attraction in Las Vegas and is only the second country female vocalist to have her own syndicated television show, Music Village. However, the early 1970s brought change for Jackson. At her children's request, Jackson and her husband began to regularly attend church and discovered Christianity. She began recording gospel songs, including 1972's Praise the Lord.

In the early 1980s, Jackson was invited to Europe to play and record rockabilly material when revivalists sought her out. She regularly toured Scandinavia, England, and Germany during the decade. Now embracing her rock n 'roll history, Jackson released a 1984 album titled Rockabilly Fever, her first secular album in a decade and her first recording of rock music in over twenty years.  Cyndi Lauper acknowledged Jackson's classic rockabilly records were a major influence and inspiration for her during this period. Jackson's fan following also included a new generation of country music female vocalists, among them Rosanne Cash, Pam Tillis, Jann Browne and Rosie Flores. Jackson recorded a duet with Browne on a 1987 album release and in 1995, she sang two duets with Flores on her 1995 album, Rockabilly Filly, which was followed by a United States tour with her, Jackson’s first American tour since the 1970s.

Jackson released Heart Trouble in 2003, and the sixteen-track album included guest appearances by Elvis Costello, The Cramps and Rosie Flores. She returned to England in 2008 for an appearance at the London Rock 'n' Roll Festival with Jerry Lee Lewis, and she teamed up with Jack White to record The Party Ain't Over 2011. Jackson enjoyed her first ever charting on the Billbard Hot 200 LP chart, peaking at number 58. At age 73, this album also broke Mae West's long-standing record for being the oldest female vocalist to make the chart. To promote The Party Ain't Over, she performed on the Late Show with David Letterman and Conan.

Wanda released her thirty-first studio album Unfinished Business in 2012. She has enjoyed a resurgence of popularity among rockabilly revivalist in Europe and younger Americana fans, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as an Early Influence in 2009. With her unique vocal style and upbeat material, Wanda Jackson has created some of the most influential rock and roll music of the time.

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