She is old enough to be your grandma, but she is just that damn cool enough to hang out with and listen to some great music. Last Sunday (2/26/12), Wanda Jackson, the undisputed heavyweight Queen of Rockabilly, brought her 5 1/2 decade career of straight rocknroll country to Busters for an all out musical journey.
Any woman that has toured with (and dated) Elvis is mighty fine in my book. To think that at 74 years old, she is just now enjoying a revitalized career with the help of Jack White, who produced her latest album The Party Ain’t Over, is amazing…and she has aged well too…not all the plastic surgery n stuff.
I will spare you the long history of Wanda’s career, but to know how good she is, in 2008 she was finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as an early influence. That says something right there friends.
Last Sunday night’s hootenany got started off with my friends, Fifth on the Floor. Their set included some of the new songs that will be featured on their newest release due out this year, and some credible classics from their catalog.
After a heavy dose of southern rock, Greg Garing and his band took to the stage. Greg is an interesting cat, because 1) He embodies and embraces the old timey country music. 2) He was a major contributor to bringing back the honky tonk sound to Lower Broadway in Nashville as it was being brought back to a robust, rowdy, bustling music and bar scene during the late 80’s and 90’s. Hey, an endorsement from Johnny Cash doesn’t hurt either. Great set by this dude and his band. Check his bio out. Perfect opening choice for Wanda.
Finally, we find ourselves in the presence of the Queen of Rockabilly. Taking the stage to that sultry little Pulp Fiction ditty (damnit which one was it…one of them Dick Dale tunes) and then launching into an all out rockabilly assault, she hit us with the ole R&B staple, “Cell Block #9.” From there, you could tell Wanda wasn’t there to waste our time, and we sure as hell wasn’t there to waste hers. She took us on a rocknroll journey from the fifties right up to her latest release from a few years ago. There are not many artist out there today from yesteryear that can provide us with pure rocknroll, but Wanda still can.
Hashing out some of her classics such as “Wedding Ring” and “Fujiyama Mama,” her only #1 hit…in Japan, one thing became apparent to me. There are some hot chicks at this show that actually has good taste in music. HOLY SHIT! It was a refreshing site to see some of these fine ladies enjoy some good rocknroll. For once, they weren’t all drunked up, ready to bash a car, kill Earl, or burn down the trailer. It was all about having a good time that night.
Wanda sprinkled the crowd with stories about her timw with the King, and paid the utmost respect to him by telling us how he encouraged her to pursue music. Didn’t know that one did ya? Dang if she didn’t start it off with Elvis’s 1954 single “Good Rockin Tonight.” Then she launched into a steamy, blues infused version of “Heartbreak Hotel.” We also heard some of her new songs that were produced by Jack White, including an Amy Winehouse song. Forgive me for not remembering what it was. Here is one for ya…”Shakin All Over.”
The last set that she put on us flew us back to the 50’s. When rocknroll was pure, and fun. When it was not about the corporate cash cow it is today. 1958’s “Mean Mean Man” was the catalyst for the set, but Wanda had to set us straight after this rowdy version of her song. Testify with the Queen of Rockabilly with “I Saw The Light!” Yessir, that little high pitch voice lifted us to the heavens, but then it was time to party once again with the Queen. She reminded us all of why were there with “Let’s Have a Party.” As she walked off the stage, it couldn’t be over? I want more rocknroll! By God, I got it! The Queen came back out and kicked everyone’s ass on “Whole Lotta Shakin Goin On” and then right back into “Let’s Have A Party.” Hank would have been proud! Elvis would have been proud! And you damn straight that Jerry Lee always knew that Wanda was also all killer and no filler.
Last week, I made the following comments on Facebook…
“Later on tonight there will be two concerts going on. One will be of a little country blonde headed twit playing to a sold out Rupp Arena. The other will be less than a mile away, smaller venue and she is a true influence of rocknroll! She is known as the Queen of Rockabilly, Wanda Jackson (and she toured with Elvis!). So Miranda, if you have done your homework, you have Wanda Jackson to thank so you can sell millions of albums and play sold out areanas. Without her, you wouldn’t have a career. Surely to God you are smart enough to know that she too is from Oklahoma, just like you.”
Well, through the grapevine, I heard there were was a video montage of some great women in rocknroll and country music in said concert that I have spoke of last week. One of those pics included Wanda Jackson. I will meet you halfway on this one. I’m not going to retract my statement, but I will give you this. I’m somewhat impressed, just somewhat, that somebody in today’s cookie cutter country music industry gave some respect to the Queen.
I will say this in closing. The Queen deserves much more that just her pic in a video montage.