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News createt: 02-12-2010

Wanda Jackson on Touring with Elvis

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Rock Legend Wanda Jackson on Touring with Elvis:

You might not be familiar with the name Wanda Jackson, but artists from Carrie Underwood to Cat Power should thank the so-called “First Lady of Rock and Roll” for paving much of their way. Jackson's aptly named new album, The Party Ain’t Over, comes in the twilight of a career that’s spanned more than half a decade. Before she was 20, Jackson had already dated and toured with Elvis Presley, learning the Rockabilly and Rock n’ Roll ropes from the King himself. 

What defines someone as a rockabilly artist?

Rockabilly was the first rock and roll. Elvis was really the one credited with starting that. I was working with him in those years, and he was called “The Hillbilly Cat.” Then the term “rock” started being used in songs. It was a very small window of time where it was known as Rockabilly. My title “The Queen of Rockabilly” was because I was the first woman to do rock and roll. The music began changing pretty fast, actually. The industry was turned upside down by Elvis. All of a sudden, instead of gearing our songs to an adult public, we needed to aim at the young people.

What was it like breaking into the industry as a rockabilly artist and as a woman?

America was having a very hard time accepting rock and roll because the kids had never acted like this before. I couldn’t get airplay and I didn’t have a lot of original songs. When you look back on my repertoire and my discography, I was doing cover songs, the songs the guys sang. I had already changed my style of dressing by then. As a young girl, I was wearing boots and cowboy hats, but when I became a young lady I began wearing high heels and wanted to look sexier and prettier. The hardest part was getting disc jockeys to play my stuff. By 1960, I had to just give it up. I was putting country songs on one side of the album and rock and roll on the other, and a career needs a little more direction than that to get it going.

How did your relationship with Elvis shape you as a performer and musician?

He challenged and encouraged me. He said, “You can see that it’s the young people that have money now and they don’t want to buy their parents music, they want their own kind, and they like what I’m doing and that’s what you need to get in on.” So my dad and I thought on that a while, and we realized he was right, and luckily my producer was open-minded and let me record whatever I wanted.

Were there any specific performances with Elvis that were particularly memorable for you?

He made all of them memorable. I got to stand in the wings and watch him night after night. I’m sure I picked up something, it’s hard to pin point.

What’s being on the road and touring like now compared to when you were touring in the early days?

There is quite a bit of difference. My dad and I drove just about everywhere, and 1955 was when I began working on the road with Elvis. I was only making $50 a night. We had to pay our own expenses, so we had to skimp and save. Nowadays, my husband and I fly just about everywhere, and I have a lot more amenities and my own dressing room. I make a lot more money on the job, and I stay in four star hotels and have a lot of gourmet food and things like that. So I’m making up for those leaner years.

Rock Legend Wanda Jackson on Touring with Elvis & Recording with Jack White

Source: Hillary Weston,