Rockabilly royalty Wanda Jackson to have party in Ann ArborWritten by Vicki L. Kroll | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Dress fringe flyin’, strings twangin’, and that gutsy voice — Wanda Jackson was the original girl with a guitar.
It was the King of Rock and Roll who suggested the country singer give the next big thing a shot. Jackson toured with Elvis Presley in 1955.
“He’s the one who encouraged me to try the rockabilly music, and once I did, I felt like I’d found a home,” Jackson said. “He said there’s no girls singing this kind of music. At that point, it was him, Jerry Lee [Lewis], Carl Perkins, Buddy Holly and those guys.
“So he said if you want to sell a lot of records, you need to be doing this kind of music. He said the kids now are the ones that have a voice in what’s being played on the radio. … I told him, ‘I can’t sing a song like you do; I’m just a country singer.’ He said, ‘No, you can do it, and you need to be doing it.’ So that was my push that I needed.”
The 17-year-old — and her dad who accompanied the young singer on the road — listened.
Straddling rock and country, Jackson cranked out “Mean, Mean Man,” “Hot Dog That Made Him Mad” “Honey Bop,” “Fujiyama Mama,” “Right or Wrong,” “In the Middle of the Heartache,” “My Big Iron Skillet,” “Funnel of Love” and “A Woman Lives for Love.”
Coincidentally, her 1960 signature tune, “Let’s Have a Party,” was recorded by Presley in 1957.
She was a guest at a memorable bash to celebrate a milestone in 2009.
“I think that the induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame had to be the highlight so far in my life and in my career,” Jackson said during a call from her Oklahoma City home. “I’m getting now to enjoy the fruit of my labor back then.”
Simplicity of the music keeps people movin’ and groovin’, she believes.
“If a kid or a person can play three chords on a guitar and you learn three chords, you can sing rockabilly,” Jackson said and laughed. “Boy, I do know that young adults around the world are loving the music that we made in the mid ’50s.”
And the queen of rockabilly keeps recording. She worked with Jack White for 2011′s “The Party Ain’t Over” and with Justin Townes Earle for 2012′s “Unfinished Business.”
“I can’t talk about details right now, but I’ll be in studio probably by the end of the summer, and early next year we’ll have a release,” she said.
Jackson will play at 8 p.m. June 15 at Hill Auditorium. She is opening for Cake as part of the Ann Arbor Summer Festival, a2sf.org. Tickets range from $40 to $60.
“There’s just nothing that can take the place of the energy and the love that the fans have for you when you hit that stage,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re very nervous, a little nervous or what, the minute you get into a song and see the faces of your fans out there, it’s just smooth sailing.”