'09 was a big year for Wanda Jackson. That's was kind of strange considering she was 72 years-old at the time. Already a member of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame, Jackson entered the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame (she had been originally nominated in '05). Oklahoma City named an alley for her in the Bricktown entertainment district. Jackson's live performance officially christened "Wanda Jackson Way." And finally, she began working with Jack White (White Stripes/Raconteurs), as her producer, on new recordings.
Born in Maud, OK (10/10/37), Jackson's family moved to California seeking a better life (good luck with that) but they returned to Oklahoma. Jackson's father, a musician, gave his daughter a guitar and encouragement. At age fifteen she won a talent contest that led to a radio show. Country performer Hank Thompson heard Jackson and asked her to record with his band.
In the mid-50s, Jackson regularly toured with Elvis Presley, whom she briefly dated, and it was he who encouraged her to sing Rockabilly. Good advice.
After being turned down by a Capitol Records producer who said "Girls don't sell records," Jackson signed with Decca. She had a number of regional Rockabilly hits including "Hot Dog! That Made Him Mad," "Mean, Mean Man," "Fujiyama Mama" (which, not surprisingly, went #1 in Japan) and "Honey Bop." These songs made Jackson The Queen of Rockabilly.
Despite the earlier Capitol rejection Jackson moved to the label and in '59 scored a Top 40 hit with "Let's Have A Party," a song Presley had previously recorded. "Right Or Wrong" and "In The Middle Of A Heartache," landed on the Country chart. As a result of this success, Capitol re-issued Jackson's earlier work.
Jackson had Country success through the mid-60s and released a gospel album in '72. She recorded and toured intermittently through the '80s and '90s. '03 saw her first album, "Heart Trouble," in over a decade. The set featured a guest appearance by another Elvis - Elvis Costello. Five years later, '08, Jackson appeared at the London Rock 'n' Roll Festival with Jerry Lee Lewis.
The world got its first taste of Jackson's collaboration with White when iTunes released a cover of Amy Winehouse's "You Know I'm No Good" and Johnny Kidd And The Pirates' "Shakin' All Over." The album, "The Party Ain't Over," followed a year later.
Wanda Jackson was one of early Rock n' Roll's liveliest performers. She had an undeniable zest that not only set her apart from other female singers, but from just about every other vocalist of the era.
"Wanda Jackson: The Best Of The Classic Capitol Singles," is a case where the title says it all. The set, issued in '13, contains "Hot Dog! That Made Him Mad," "Fujiyama Mama," and "You Bug Me Bad."
"Queen Of Rockabilly" has most of Jackson's essential songs but also contains a large number of covers. Still, it covers the Rockabilly portion of her career - which was the pinnacle. Another option is "Rockin' With Wanda" but there are some key songs missing. The same problem hampers the "Vintage Collections Series" which features a couple classics but ventures too deep into the b-material. "Greatest Hits" and "Best Of The Best" focus on Jackson's Country career.
The trick to a revival album or the pairing of a legendary performer with a name younger talent, is keeping the elder's essence while giving the performances a fresh twist. "The Party Ain't Over" largely accomplishes that. Guided by Jack White, the set plays to Jackson's strengths covering Little Richard ("Rip It Up") and Ray Charles/Johnny Cash ("Busted"). "Blue Yodel #6" and "Dust On The Bible" benefit from her deep Country roots and innate understanding of the material. Slowing the Andrews Sisters calypso classic "Rum And Coca-Cola" is passable but the over-processed vocals on the rendition of Amy Winehouse's "You Know That I'm No Good" is not. But leave it to Jackson to deliver in spades on "Nervous Breakdown" and "Thunder On The Mountain." She's still the undisputed queen of Rockabilly.