Thursday, February 13, 2014

Inspiration: Wanda Jackson, Queen of Rockabilly



I'm currently taking a music class called "Origins of Rock" at Beacon Music Factory. We're focusing on early rock n' roll, with the likes of Elvis, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Carl Perkins, stuff like that. Rock is such a male-dominated genre in many ways, so I was curious to find out about early female rockers--if such a thing existed.

I started learning about Wanda Jackson, often called the "Queen of Rockabilly" or the "Queen of Rock", depending on who you ask. What I found sucked me into a full-fledged Wanda obsession. This woman is completely badass, an amazing vocalist who performed all the best songs of the era (but seldom gets credit for it): Hard Headed Woman, Brown Eyed Handsome Man, Riot in Cell Block #9, Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On, Slippin' and Slidin', Stupid Cupid, and lots more. She has this raw emotional tone coupled with a soulful twang and a hell of a lot of sassiness. Listen to the album Wanda Jackson: Queen of Rockabilly and you'll see what I mean.

Wanda started off singing country. She was paired with Elvis Presley on a tour, and the two dated for a while. As Jackson recalls, Elvis encouraged her to sing rock rather than country.


In my eyes, Wanda is more than a musical icon, she's also a fashion icon. She favored fringe on her outfits, and lots of it. Rhinestones and corsets, too. Her mother sewed her stage outfits. As Jackson later said, "I was the first one to put some glamour in the country music--fringe dresses, high heels, long earrings."


We often think of the fringed dress as a 20s flapper phenomenon, but it was alive and well in the 50s.

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The one above has rhinestone straps! Wanda would have loved it--if only it were red.

To really appreciate Wanda Jackson, you have to see her perform. Enjoy!

 

39 comments:

  1. As a musician I discovered her a long time ago - not long after learning electric guitar. Always loved her look, too! She's a full tilt kind of gal, for sure.

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  2. Wow!! I thought I knew all of the Rockabilly greats! Thanks for the intro, Gertie.

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  3. She has an amazing song called "Funnel of Love," it's on a compilation put together by the Cramps. It's a truly spine-tingling number if you haven't heard it already!

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    1. I'm obsessed with Funnel of Love. It's so weird and creepy.

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    2. I know! What exactly is a Funnel of Love anyway? It just sounds so wrong in the right kind of way...

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    3. Funnel of Love is one of my favourite songs but I had no idea Wanda Jackson was such a big name or that she was the Queen of Rockabilly - must buy some cds now!

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    4. Caroline: "Funnel of Love" is a metaphor for love being like a tornado. It makes more sense if you know that Wanda Jackson is from Oklahoma. :D

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  4. She's awesome!! I love rockabilly but didn't know about Wanda. Thanks for sharing!!

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  5. If you'd like to check out some other original female rockabilly, check out Janis Martin or The Collins Kids. In my opinion, Janis Martin was even better than Wanda.

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  6. She's still rockin' it today, you know! She came to Montreal last summer for a gig and she still wears long soirée dresses covered in glitter. I love all of her songs, but Fujiyama Mama and Funnel of love are my faves! Ooh, and Gertie, her 2009 album The Party Ain't Over was produced by Jack White!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SzytDURM7dU

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    1. I'd never heard of the Jack White album - I'll have to check it out, and yes, Fujiyama Mama is a great song too!

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  7. Love Wanda and have had the pleasure to see her several times! She plays down here almost once a year at the Knitting Factory in Bklyn.

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  8. I'd never heard of her! But she sounds right up my alley, so I put a cd of her on hold at the library.

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  9. I've maybe heard her name but wouldn't be able to put a face to a name. She does look like a badass woman. Thanks for sharing a bit of her story.

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  10. I have a couple of her albums and first picked up about her on NPR in an interview, looked her up and found all this information on her. On her albums of live performances she often tells short stories about her life. Amazing she is still performing.

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  11. I have seen her once...or maybe twice, yes twice, here in Sweden. She has a big fan circuit here. She's amazing

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  12. I saw her play at a festival in England a couple of years ago - she was so fierce! An absolute legend - thank you for such an interesting article.

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  13. I had the pleasure to went to a gig of her two years ago! loved it! she is full of energy still :)

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  14. I'm amazed at how much you look like Wanda, Gertie! I thought the first photo was you until I started reading. Are you sure you are not related?

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  15. She's a great musician. One of her songs I love the most is "Fujiyama Mama"! Thank you for introducing such a great woman.

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  16. I recommend you check out the great contemporary rockabilly queen, Marti Brom.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Tf_eVcbR8Y&feature=youtube_gdata_player

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  17. That dress has such great movement! She does have a cool style, and I didn't know about her before. Thanks for sharing!

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  18. Funnel of Love!!!

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  19. I am pretty sure Connie Francis (related genre/style) was the first to perform Stupid Cupid? Maybe I am wrong. I have loved Wanda Jackson! I am a music junkie... Patsy Cline and Brenda Lee are also rockabilly diva classics off the top of my head! All feisty and stylish. Also total country/rockabilly kitsch glam style and soul inspiration: Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton!

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    1. Right after mentioning this I remembered Kitty Wells... "The Queen of Country Music"... as well as Tammy Wynette, "First Lady of Country Music." Pardon me, I could talk music for days. ;-) Rockabilly and country are such great genres.

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    2. Yep, you're right about Connie Francis and Stupid Cupid. I didn't mean to imply that Wanda performed it first, as most of the songs she did were covers. I just meant that she seldom gets credit for her amazing covers, whereas male performers of the era do.

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  20. Awesome! I also love Imelda May. Love this blog!

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  21. Thanks for sharing, Wanda Jackson is very famous here in Europe too. Beautiful, talented person. (Not to compare with many so-called "stars" of today...) Her style is just gorgeous!

    My 2 year old son came to see the video you posted and stood there in amazement, eyes and mouth wide open. Who knows, maybe one day he will be a rockabilly singer as well? ;-)

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  22. Great video - and so much more music to check out brilliant!
    Pity the Miley Cyrus-es and Rhiannas of this world don't learn from her that you can be raunchy and sexy WITHOUT taking all your clothes off.

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  23. LOVE Wanda Jackson. She was in regular rotation when I had radio show on a local station... And, I gotta say that I love people who take classes as adults. Continuing education of any kind is great, and I'm a big believer in trying out new things and stretching your brain this way. This class sounds like a lot of fun!

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  24. When you first said fringe I thought ugly leather fringe that you see on stereotypical western clothing, but Wanda's fringe is beautiful! I moves to well in that video

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  25. You gotta love how that fringe moves!

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  26. Glory is fleeting, other then obscurity is forever.

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  27. Yes!! Wanda has been one of my great fashion inspirations since I was a teenager, and such an incredible performer. I finally saw her live a couple of years ago and she seemed so gracious and funny. Not to mention she can still sing (and yodel) just as well as in her early days. Check out the song "Bet You My Heart I Love You" if you want to hear some of her great yodeling! ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=06UHA8Qzbow )

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  28. Wanda's great - see her while you can. There's an excellent Bear Family box set out there with everything on it. Also, I second the Marti Brom recommendation. She's amazing (particularly "Blue Tattoo").

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  29. I love Wanda Jackson! I discovered her a few years ago while working on a project for the Oklahoma History Center's exhibit on Oklahoma rock n roll musicians. I've been a huge fan of her music ever since. I got to meet her once, and she is so sweet, graceful, and down-to-earth. Fujiyama Mama and Hard-headed Woman are my personal rock anthems!

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  30. I would like to make this dress. I'm an amateur, so I would really appreciate help finding a pattern, fabric and trim. Thank you!

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  31. I commented earlier about Marti Brom. A reposted OC Weekly's Top 10 Female Rockabilly Singers on FB and remembered your post. Thought I'd share here. Check out Sparkle Moore. She's a trip.
    http://blogs.ocweekly.com/heardmentality/2014/02/10_best_female_rockabilly_singers.php

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  32. I Love Wanda!! It's my dream to see her live one day!!

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Thanks for your comments; I read each and every one! xo Gertie

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