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Wanda Jackson Biography

Wanda Jean Jackson, 20 October 1937, Maud, Oklahoma, USA. Jackson started her career as one of the rawest of female rockabilly singers before going on to successful work in both country and gospel music. Her family moved to California when she was four, settling in the city of Bakersfield, but moved back to Oklahoma when she was 12. Jackson won a talent contest that led to her fronting a radio programme. Country singer Hank Thompson liked her style and hired her to tour with his band. In 1954 Jackson signed to Decca Records, recording 15 country tracks, one of which, ‘You Can’t Have My Love’, a duet with Billy Gray, made the country Top 10.

The following year Jackson joined Red Foley’s touring company and met Elvis Presley. He advised her to change her style to the new rock ‘n’ roll. When she signed with Capitol Records in 1956, she recorded a number of singles, one side of each a rocker, the other a honky-tonk country number. Only one of these rockabilly records, ‘I Gotta Know’, made the country charts, but her other recordings for Capitol, such as ‘Honey Bop’, ‘Fujiyama Mama’ and ‘Hot Dog That Made Him Mad’, are prized by collectors decades later. Only one, ‘Let’s Have A Party’, earlier recorded by Presley, made the US pop charts when Capitol belatedly released it in 1960. Backed by the Blue Caps, this song is delivered in raucous style and it remains an extraordinary vocal delivery. That same year, Jackson chose to stay with country and recorded her own composition, ‘Right Or Wrong’, which has since become a hit for both Ronnie Dove and George Strait. ‘Right Or Wrong’ and ‘In The Middle Of a Heartache’ became the last of Jackson’s Top 10 country songs in 1961/2, although she placed 30 singles in that chart in total. She recorded nearly two-dozen albums for Capitol in the 60s.

By the early 70s Jackson began recording Christian music for Capitol and later the Word and Myrrh labels, returning to rock ‘n’ roll for 1984’s Rock ‘N’ Roll Away Your Blues. In 1995 she duetted on Rosie Flores’ Rockabilly Filly album, and supported the singer on her US tour. Jackson continued her comeback in the new millennium, releasing the star-studded Heart Trouble in 2003. Another new album, 2006’s I Remember Elvis, featured liner notes by fan Elvis Costello.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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