For being billed as the "queen of rockabilly," Wanda Jackson might be one of rock music's most under-appreciated and lesser known hall of famers.
Going as strong as ever at age 74, Jackson comes to Milwaukee's Turner Hall Sept. 20. Her new album, "Unfinished Business," is scheduled for release Oct. 9.
Like country music legend Loretta Lynn, Jackson has enjoyed a recent career revival surge thanks in part to help from much younger collaborators and supporters like Jack White of The White Stripes, Adele and Justin Townes Earle, son of singer-songwriter Steve Earle, who produced the new album.
Jackson's sound has evolved with experience rather than matured with age, from country and rockabilly roots in the 1950s to a combination of rock, blues, country, Motown and more today. Her style as one of country music's first sex symbols, whom Bob Dylan called a "hurricane with lipstick," blazed enough trails for women in rock and roll to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009.
After touring and receiving encouragement from Elvis Presley, Jackson began recording and released her first single, "I Gotta Know" in 1956. Besides her father and Elvis, Jackson's early influences included Gene Vincent, Buck Owens and Tex Williams.
Following the rockabilly overseas hit "Fujiyama Mama" in 1958, Jackson returned to the pop charts in 1960 with "Let's Have a Party," which had previously been recorded by Elvis. She earned her first Grammy nomination for best female vocal country performance in 1963 followed by a transition to gospel in the 1970s.
With the rockabilly resurgence in the 1980s, Jackson stepped back into the worldwide limelight. Following two more rockabilly albums, Jackson teamed with White to record "The Party Ain't Over" in 2011 and performed with him on "The Late Show with David Letterman" and Conan.
Combining the girl next door looks Patsy Cline with the rock and blues swagger of Elvis, Jackson sings and sounds younger than her age, including her distinct signature growl a la Roy Orbison.
If you want to learn more about Jackson, she has an engaging website at wandajackson.com, as well social presence on Facebook, Twitter and numerous videos on YouTube, including a 2005 clip of her performing at the old Vnuk's Lounge (now the Blue Pig) in Cudahy.
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