Wanda Jackson

Wanda in the studio.
Rockabilly is a form of American music that is a hybrid of both the country and rock n roll genres. Rockabilly’s popularity was primarily between 1955 to 1965 but through the years there have been multiple resurgences of it’s followers. Most recently Europe is seeing a rise in Rockabilly acts, Rockabilly’s completely un-European nature must be an appealing departure from the music scene there. Rockabilly’s origins can be traced to some major artists from the American music scene such as Elvis Presley. I’m here today to discuss Rockabilly’s matriarch, Wanda Jackson.

Wanda Jackson was born in Maud, Oklahoma on October 10, 1937. After only a couple years of age her parents moved to California looking for greener pastures. At the age of five her father gave Wanda her first guitar and strongly encouraged her to learn to play it. He went as far as to suggest what music to listen to and what acts to go see when they came into town. His techniques worked and by the age of seventeen Wanda had recorded her first single for radio play. Initially Wanda had a tough time getting a record contract as record execs were under the notion that no one would buy a rockabilly album with a women at the helm. Fortunately they were wrong and when Wanda finally found a label that would sign her, Decca Records, she had no trouble selling records.

Wanda’s sound had been replicated to such a degree that when I listened to it for the first time I couldn’t help but think it was recent recording. Her voice is signature, her manipulation of words with a southern slur compliments the songs perfectly and her guitar playing is down right rocking at times. This is a combination you’ll find in few other recordings from the fifties much less from a female. It really is surprising to me, when I think back of those times it’s hard not to think that prior to the social movements of the late sixties life was simple and basic in terms of female and male rolls. Men went work and the women stayed home, any deviation from that surely was looked down upon right? That’s clearly not the case because here is this female artist, as dainty as can be, singing songs about partying hard and leading men on in a raspy aggressive voice all the while cranking out progressive guitar licks. Yet she did well and was embraced by a significant audience. Maybe things weren’t quite so stodgy back in the old days.

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