September 25, 2020

Breakers (I): Wanda Jackson, the party boss | Blog North American route and beyond


Back in the middle of the last century, American society was not ready for the first rock’n’roll, but much less so that a woman could lead it, among others. If it was already a scandal that a seductive teenager with a voice as penetrating as Elvis Presley revolutionized the hormones by wagging hips or that black singers like Chuck Berry or Little Richard were the owners of the formula of a devilish and lustful sound, it only lacked that a girl could get the same as them. And Wanda Jackson did it.

If as Eddie Cochran sang in C’mon Everybody, he rock’n’roll Originally, he had no transforming vehicle beyond joining the rock in the secret guateque of a colleague from the institute to dance and have a good time, it is no less true that this shock with electric guitars would end up changing the landscape a lot without trying. The party made Anglo-Saxon Puritan society nervous, a heritage from the 19th century American where there was a Christian revival of an unprecedented evangelizing activity known as the Second Great Awakening and which was revalidated after the Great Depression, World War II, and the Korean War. . If nobody had the party of rock’n’roll, even less so that a young woman had more flats than anyone to be the head of the party. Wanda Jackson had them, so much so that her first records from the early sixties were titled There’s a Party Goin ‘On (There is a party going on) and Rockin ‘with Wanda! (Wow with Wanda!), Which collected four years of singles.

Wanda’s party made her hips wag as much as Elvis Presley’s. When the Elvis phenomenon He began to gather whirlwind strength with his traveling shows in the southern states in 1955, Wanda Jackson accompanied him. The only girl sharing the bill with other pioneers such as Johnny Cash, Buddy Holly or Peter Wagener. They say that he imposed so much on Cash that he was unable to knock on his dressing room door. Elvis, the great rising star, became very close friends with her. They fooled and partied together after the concerts. He gave her a ring that she wore on a chain around her neck for a time.

Breakers (I): Wanda Jackson, the party boss

Elvis admired Wanda and urged her to record songs from rock’n’roll. She, like him, came from country. Even her father had been a singer in the cowboy genre but left it during the Great Depression. In her tight dresses, high heels, and long earrings, she moved to the rock’n’roll And with that explosive combo of attitude, energy and impudence, a lot of impudence, Wanda Jackson established herself as head of the rockabilly in songs like Fujiyama Mama in 1957 and Rock your baby in 1958. The rockabilly was a derivation of the rock’n’roll, but with a more syncopated and pounding rhythm, where the trains screeched louder as they passed and the screaming made more sense. Wanda screamed, lifting even the deaf from the chair.

During those years there was a singer also to vindicate as Janis Martin, who was known as the “female Elvis”. She was the one who did the most to look like King. But, with her character and her most powerful staging, Wanda symbolized a lot. I didn’t need those labels. Like Elvis, Cash and others, she had her own support group: the Party Timers, with a great Roy Clark on electric. And, above all, her music expressed an impatient determination to have fun. However, society was not prepared for a girl to sing that wild new music. At rock’n’roll, no woman could stand out as a star, even if Wanda had all the attributes.

She returned to country, where she started and there was always a consolidated market for female voices. And yet it was never domesticated. In 1970, she published. My Big Iron Skillet, a feminist plea in which she charges heavily against a man harmful to a woman who waits with “a great iron frying pan” to return all the evil she has done to him and then, yes, leave. “You think that here at home is where I should be … I am going to show you how a small woman leaves a big man”, sang the same woman who in 1961, in the midst of rock movement, refused to leave her singing career when she met to an IBM executive he married. Others in a similar situation had abandoned music, but she continued and it was her husband who ended up being her representative.

Wanda Jackson today.
Wanda Jackson today.

Today, at 82 years old, Wanda Jackson is retired from the stage due to fatigue. She announced it last year. However, you may still have the strength to record a disc. In 2011, she released. The Party Ain’t Over, under the protection of the musician Jack White, who declared himself a great admirer. The following year he published Unfinished Business. That promotion already came with the slogan of “the return of the queen of rockabilly”. Let’s flee from the queen, that the United States is a republic and, as is well known, royalty serves to wiggle your pockets more than your hips. Let’s keep the title of that album: the party is not over, although there is little left. When Little Richard died a few months ago, many were quick to say that of the pioneers of the rock’n’roll only Jerry Lee Lewis and Ricky Nelson were left alive. Mistake: Wanda Jackson is still alive.

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