Wanda Lavonne Jackson
Wanda Lavonne Jackson
“Here was the woman who in so many ways, changed the way audiences and record labels viewed female artists. She literally helped to pave the way for me to do what I love each and every day. “
Jackson received her first guitar from her father at the age of six. On a dare while in high school, she entered a local radio contest. The winner earned a 15-minute radio spot for one month. She won; the show lasted two years. It was on her show that she caught the attention of country star Hank Thompson, who invited her to sing with his band. She began performing with Thompson on weekends and signed her first record deal with Decca Records while still in high school. “You Can’t Have My Love,” her first Decca single, became a national top-ten hit on Billboard magazine’s Most Played Country and Western in Juke Boxes chart.
Soon after graduation, Jackson joined the Ozark Jubilee. The tour included a young Elvis Presley who encouraged her to sing his kind of music, known today as rock ‘n’ roll. One year later Jackson signed with Capitol Records, a relationship that lasted 18 years. Refusing to focus on one genre, she insisted on performing with only the highest-quality session musicians. That, combined with her gravelly voice, produced some of the best rock ever recorded. Although she pushed the envelope with lyrics ahead of their time, her songs conveyed pure, unadulterated good times. “Let’s Have a Party,” previously recorded by Presley, combined her wild energy, sex appeal, and rebellious spirit.
In 1963, Jackson’s album Two Sides of Wanda combined rockabilly and country sounds and was nominated for a GRAMMY for Best Female Country Vocal Performance. She continued to release dozens of country hits, headlined a show in Las Vegas and recorded Christian music, before returning to rockabilly and its revival in the 1980s.
Since that time Jackson has toured heavily, both in the United States and abroad. In 2014, she was still rolling out for 200 dates per year. At the age of 72, she was approached by Jack White of White Stripes to record a cover album. The Party Ain’t Over proved Jackson still was not ready to give up her title as the Queen of Rockabilly.
In addition to music industry awards, she has been honored by the National Endowment for the Arts and her hometown of Maud hosts an annual Wanda Jackson Day and has renamed Main Street as Wanda Jackson Boulevard.
Jackson’s hometown of Maud hosts an annual Wanda Jackson Day.
Jackson is from Maud, Oklahoma.