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Queen of rockabilly Wanda Jackson is no pushover

Wanda Jackson
Wanda Jackson

SHE may not be 18 anymore, but Wanda Jackson says she can still do her thing.

Talking from her home in Oklahoma, Jackson assures me her performance at Bluesfest will be rockin'.

It will also be a little bit country and gospel, fulfilling the base of the legendary singer's repertoire.

Jackson is known as the queen of rockabilly, thanks to her stake as the first woman to record it in 1956.

Being at the forefront of a musical genre; rock'n'roll, isn't lost on her either.

"I think we all knew," Jackson says.

"Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis, those fellas that I worked with in '55 and '56 - we knew it was the next big thing, as we'd say now, but none of us could have imagined the impact it would have."

Jackson says she was taking a risk when she first started singing rockabilly, taking a step away from country.

"I took a bit of a risk, but I was young, no one could scare me. When I started singing rockabilly in '56, I felt like I'd found a home.

"The songs were so lively and so feisty. And, now I'm getting to do that again."

While it may appear Jackson has made a comeback in the last couple of years, she has in fact been working the whole time.

When her career started to fade in America, Jackson turned to Christianity and started singing gospel.

That period took her through the '70s before she received a call from someone in Sweden.

She was asked to tour the country and record a new album.

"I was more than happy to sing country and rock if it called for it, and it did," she says.

She then spent a few years touring in Europe before heading back to America where her good friend Rosie Flores wanted to record an album and set off on tour.

"It was at that point in '95 that America realised I hadn't died," she says.

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But what has really brought the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame inductee back into favour, at least with a new generation, is her album, The Party Ain't Over, released on Third Man Records and produced by the man himself, Jack White.

"He worked me to death," she says.

"He's a real slave driver, but I enjoyed the experience very, very much.

"He's a very knowledgeable guy. He pushed me pretty hard. I said to him, 'Jack, I think you're wanting an 18-year-old girl'.

"He said, 'she's still in there somewhere and I'm going to bring her out'. I kinda think he did. He pushed me into the 21st century."

Since then Jackson has worked with Justin Townes Earle on Unfinished Business, released last year.

The process, she says, was the exact opposite of working with White.

"We were doing songs from more familiar territory because after a lot of production on the album with Jack, Justin wanted to get back to my roots. Pulling my vocal out and making it the focus."

We can expect a taste of it all when she plays Bluesfest in March.

Wanda Jackson: Playing Bluesfest, Thursday, March 28 and Friday, March 29. For the full line-up and ticketing info head to bluesfest.com.au.

Topics:  bluesfest, bluesfest 2013, music, music festival


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