Wanda Jackson Interview (October 2010)

(CSC) 1. So great to be here with you! I understand you’ve just recorded a brand new album with Jack White…can you give us a sneak peek on what to expect?


(Wanda Jackson)

Laughs… no I can’t; that is orders from headquarters. Jack loves surprises, have you ever heard that about him? I think his reputation precedes it. He does love surprises. All I can say is the album is full of surprises. I think it’s going to be great. It’s already been recorded; it’s in the can, nixed and ready to go. We were hoping to get it out this year but Warner Brothers picked it up and it will be released on one of their subsidiary labels called Nonesuch.


They want to hold off until January so that they can get the publicity done the right way. So Jack and I had to say okay. I can’t really talk about it but I can tell you it’s a good mixture of songs. The singles are now released and available on iTunes. They are called “You Know That I’m No Good” and “Shakin’ All Over.” There is a John Denver song on the record called “Busted,” I think a lot of people know that’s in there. We have horns on some and then we go through a song with a calypso type of beat and then there is a song with just Jack playin’ the guitar and he’s singin’. It’s a good mixture and a lot of surprises!! (Laughs)



(CSC) 2. What prompted your decision to work with Jack on this project?


(Wanda Jackson)

Well hey you know Jack White is about the biggest thing on the planet, one of them for sure. And when he shows an interest in recording you, a person like me from so many generations before him, I was very flattered to say the least. He seemed to know exactly what he wanted to do, what direction he thought I should take at this point in my career and I had to agree with him. I knew that Loretta had worked with him on “Van Lear Rose” and so I’m sure that that sort of paved the way for me. What that told me was that he loved our era of singers, mine and Loretta’s. I was a little bit even before Loretta so I had heard that he is a big fan of 50’s Rock And Roll music and country music. It just seemed like the right thing to do at this point. I had just been wondering how many more years will my audience want to hear me do just the 50’s Rock And Roll songs. Are they ever going to want anything new and different from me? I didn’t know and that was the only thing that worried me about doing something this new with Jack White. (Laughs) I didn’t know him at that point and I didn’t know what direction he was going to take me. Once I got to know him and we got a couple of songs recorded, then I felt fine with it.    



(CSC) 3. When you go into the studio to make a record, what type of mindset do you place yourself in artistically?


(Wanda Jackson)

Well Jack taught me from this collaboration with him regardless of what I do, I think the fans and I both want just Wanda Jackson. I don’t have to try to sound like somebody else. I just sing the song the way I feel it and that’s all I can do. I think that’s true with any artist of course but I don’t have to try to sound like whoever’s popular at the moment, I never have done that. You just get a song you think the public would like and you sing it to the best of your ability and the way you feel it. So my mindset is pretty open, let’s go in with an open mind and get everybody’s take on it and see what happens.



(CSC) 4. You received the ultimate honor in 2009 by being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame… how does that resonate with you and what stands out in your mind from that evening?


(Wanda Jackson)

Well that evening was so special for a lot of reasons not just for being inducted, but certainly that was a big part of it. The event itself is so huge and the interest that it draws is amazing to me. I got to sit at a table with my presenter, which was Roseanne Cash and you know I worked with her dad (Johnny Cash) a lot in the beginning. Also being inducted was DJ Fontana so he was at the table; Scotty Moore came in just to support all of us and just to be there, he was Elvis’ guitar player originally. Bill Black was being inducted and his children were there, it was almost like a little family reunion. So that was wonderful! Also my husband and I arranged for our whole family to be there, not just our children, but our grandchildren, our assistant and her husband, my publicist and webmaster, and Rosie Flores who had been very special in getting interest stirred up in this. So that was so much fun to have them at all these different occasions and they even got to walk on the red carpet (Laughs) so that was fun. Also when you have Paul Shaffer behind you as a back up band, hey it doesn’t get any better.



(I heard that you said you felt somebody’s presence in the room that evening.)


(Wanda Jackson)

I did. I did feel the presence of Elvis Presley, not anything mysterious I just knew that it was because of his influence and his encouragement to me that I was there. Then with Scotty and DJ there and Bill Black’s kids, and Roseanne representing their fathers, it just was a real, real presence of him.



(CSC) 5. You were one of the very first female singers in your era to push the bar musically as well as visually in the way that you dressed….do you consider yourself true to that statement?


(Wanda Jackson)

Oh yeah; I’ll claim that, I did that. (Laughs) Well I changed the whole look of it yeah that’s the thing. Because I was doing country music at that point when I changed and there weren’t that many girls in the business yet but the ones that were out there were wearing cowboy hats, full skirts, puff sleeve blouses, cowboy boots and scarves around their necks. I tried that for awhile but when I came about sixteen years old I decided, “Hey, I just don’t want to look like this, I felt dumpy and frumpy.” So I took all those trappings off and my mother and I designed a sexier type dress, more glamorous with high heels, silk fringes, bare shoulders with a little bit of a low neck line, big hair and long earrings; just glamorized the dress and everyone fell in suite right behind me real quick. I think everybody wanted to do it but nobody quite had the nerve.



(CSC) 6. Why is it important to you to continue to record music and tour at this stage in your career?


(Wanda Jackson)

Well I love it of course and another wonderful thing is the fact that my husband also loves it. Since day one that we were married we got married to be together and not for him to stay home and work from one job or his career and me going a different direction with mine. That was not our objective and that wasn’t even something we talked about. We got married to be together. So I left it up to him to which career, which business should we stay in and pursue.


At that point he hadn’t been to a whole lot of events with me or dates, but just enough that he said “I think your career looks a whole lot more exciting than mine and you’ve worked very hard, you and your family to get you to this point.”


That was in 1961 when I was right on the heels of having “Let’s Have A Party” for a hit, “Right Or Wrong” was a hit and then “In The Middle Of A Heartache” and so he said “I think it would be a shame for you to quit at this point, so lets go along with your career and we’ll do that as long as I can be helpful.”


I thought that was such a wonderful thing to say and in other words that told me that he wasn’t just going to be a tagalong and ride off my publicity. He worked and found his place in my career very quickly. He became my business manager, my booking agent, director of my career, pretty much everything and the father of my two children. (Laughs)         



(CSC) 7. At one point and time, Roy Clark was a guitarist in your band The Party Timers, how did you find him and do the two of you keep in touch presently?


(Wanda Jackson)

Well we’re not close friends, no but we see each other at different events and happenings that we do. I had been working as a single artist you know and I was in the area that he lived where all those little states are located (East Coast) and I worked at a club where he also worked. I believe it was in Virginia or around the Washington DC area. So they told me that I had to watch his show because he was funny and very talented. So I did watch his show with my father, because in those days my father traveled with me, and we both saw him.


Not too long after that I had the opportunity to go to the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas, which was one of the big clubs at that time and I had to have a band so I had a little band that I would work with occasionally but they didn’t have a real good singer in the band, they were good enough musicians but so/so singers. I knew I had to have some help because that’s very hard work in Vegas; 45 minute shows, five a night, 45 on and 15 off so I had to have somebody that could help me carry that load. My dad and I remembered this fella; Roy Clark that we thought could handle that and he jumped at the opportunity to do it. That’s how our working collaboration came about.


Capitol Records came up to my opening, it was a big event for me to open at the Golden Nugget and they came up and heard Roy Clark consequently and it wasn’t long before they signed him to a recording contract.    



(CSC) 8. How do you like the title of being “The First Lady of Rockabilly and America's First Female Rock and Roll Singer?”


(Wanda Jackson)

Well it is my title and I don’t have to live up to it. I’ve done it. (Laughs)



(CSC) 9. How much of a role did you have in the new independent film “Queens Of Country” and when/where will it be released?


(Wanda Jackson)

It should be released sometime this fall hopefully. Well I don’t know about my input in it but I do know that I’m the only country music singer that is talked about or used in the film. They used three of my songs, but it’s not a musical show by any means, it’s almost like a teenagers or young people’s movie. The director that was in the writing department must have been a fan of mine that’s all I would know. Now that I’m known more for Rock and Roll than I am country, they must have known all of the work that I did in the past. It sure was fun, I didn’t do much, I just sang, I was just myself in the movie.   



(CSC) 10. Moving forward to the next chapter of your career, what do you want to share about yourself with our readers?


(Wanda Jackson)

Well they can expect if I’m ever in their town doing a show, they can expect to come out and see me give it a 110% and I will be singing the songs that I’m known for and doing them as much like the original version as the band and I can do it. I don’t like changing things up and I hate to go see somebody perform and they take my favorite song and do it different. So that has been a real issue with me and that is something I try to abide by. I’ll just continue doing this as long as people want to hear me and as long as they want to come out. Being here in Chicago on a Friday night with a full house, I am quite flattered to say the least. I’ll do it as long as my health holds up and as long as their interest holds up. 



Check out our recent concert review of WANDA JACKSON here: http://www.countrystarscentral.com/wandajacksonreviewaug.htm


Check out pictures from the interview below: