Wanda Jackson

BY Sofi PapamarkoPublished Jan 26, 2009

With her pin-up girl looks and a voice that could knock you flat, Wanda Jackson was a force to be reckoned with when she debuted in the mid-1950s. The female rockabilly pioneer wailed on her guitar, wore fringe dresses, dated Elvis Presley and landed her first number one hit in Japan at the tender age of 22. Jackson is often regarded to be the first ever female rock'n'roll singer and is admired by the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello and legions of country, rockabilly and gospel artists. It was recently announced that the two-time Grammy nominee and First Lady of Rockabilly will finally be recognized for her musical contributions when she is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April.

A lot of your current fans are in their 20s and 30s - they could be your grandchildren!
I know it!

Why do you think your music is so appealing and enduring among young people?
I think it's just the simplicity of the music. Everyone that talks about rockabilly says it makes them happy when they hear it. It's about simple things: dating, driving a car, going to a movie, that type of thing. It's not about making statements. It's just about the simple things in life, put to a cute melody.

On your tribute album I Remember Elvis, you share some of your fondest memories of your time with him. Would you be able to share an Elvis memory that isn't on the release?
He was a real big kidder and a very happy-go-lucky guy. I never heard him talk about anything serious, really. One time I even asked him, "Don't you ever take anything seriously?" He was having too good a time. It was exciting for him. Anyway, we had eaten at a cafe and as we were leaving, I was in front of him and he hit my ponytail. It was a fake one. He didn't know it. He hit that ponytail and started coughing and coughing and said, "Don't you ever wash that thing?" And I said, "No, it's too hard." And I reached up and unclipped it and I said "You wash it for me!"

What are the pros and cons of having your husband (Wendell Goodman) manage you for all of these years?
I think it's very wonderful. Without him, I wouldn't be touring. I might do an isolated date here or there, for television of something. I never did really travel by myself, not very much. Even as a young girl. And our world was very safe then. I always like to have a man to handle the business, because I just don't have a sense for that. It just makes my day so much easier and he's very good at what he does.

What would you have done with your life, had you not become a performer?<br /> Ha! A hypothetical question! Well, here's the thing: I've never thought about being anything else. I didn't prepare for anything else; I didn't take business courses. I took typing because I thought, "That can help me." I could write songs and copy songs. But I had to make it [laughs]! I couldn't have done anything else! Our choices weren't so much in the '50s. So as it turns out, I haven't made a dime doing anything else. I never had a babysitting job, I never worked after school in a cafe or something. I had radio shows after school.

When do you think you'll retire?
We figure people retire to be together. And to travel. You know where I'm going with this, uh huh? As long as our health is good and it's the Lord's will, we'll keep touring. As long as the new generations want to hear me; we won't be out there struggling, trying to fill up the house if nobody knows me anymore, you know? As long as I'm wanted. And it will be hard to bow out gracefully. I think I'll go out kicking and screaming, actually! Because it's all I've known.

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