By Lisa Morgan
If Wanda Jackson’s spunk, spirit and fire could be bottled and sold, it would sell out faster than the tickets to this weekend’s show at Pappy and Harriet’s. With over 50 years in the music industry, this trail blazing, soulful growler shows few signs of slowing down as she nears her eighth decade of taking the world by storm. Six months into 2017, Jackson will have performed seven shows in seven states, and will be well on her way to finishing up a new album (her 32nd), and her autobiography.
Talking to Wanda Jackson, it is apparent that while she relishes her memories and experiences, it is the people in her life that are her treasures. Music has always been a family affair, from her earliest days on Decca Records with her father as manager and her mother making her stage dresses, to her daughter as her assistant, and granddaughter working as her publicist.
Jackson speaks of her mother with a touch of longing, and reveals where her own work ethic came from: “There was none like her. She was a hard, hard worker, always holding down an 8 hour a day job, while caring for her invalid mother for a time, and staying up late at night working on my stage dresses.”
There is a girlish, whimsical awe in her voice when she talks about Elvis Presley, the man she toured with and who strongly influenced her to go full steam ahead into a musical path that had not yet been charted. “When I hear Elvis’ music somewhere, I think of his eyes; they were just so different – just like his mama’s, very piercing. He was 20 and I was 17, just out of high school. He had a lot of charisma – I’d never seen anything like him.”
When asked if as a young girl launching a music career, she was ever afraid of anything, Jackson chuckled, “Maybe it sounds like I’m bragging – I still don’t have a lot of self-confidence, and I had even less then, except when I was getting ready to go on stage. I was very secure about how I looked and what I was doing. I was just ready to get out there and sing and entertain people. I wasn’t very intimidated by anyone really, but if I was, I’d talk it over with my dad and he’d remind me that I chose this. He always told me that this was my job, and I’d best get comfortable with it. He’d say, ‘You’re no bigger, no better than other people. This is just a job that you chose and you need to do it well.’ They were a very smart mom and dad.”
These and many other recollections will be documented in detail in her autobiography set to be released later this year through BMG Book Publishing. The ghostwriter for her autobiography is none other than Grammy nominated writer, Scott Bomar. The title of the book is “Every Night Is Saturday Night- A Country Girl’s Journey to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.” Fellow Hall of Famer, Joan Jett, will write the foreword to the book. Elvis Costello, who was instrumental in Jackson’s induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009, will write the preface.
Jackson is currently working on a new record under Blackheart Records, owned by Joan Jett’s label, in New York City. Jett, herself, will be producing the album. Over the past 18 months, Jackson has been co-writing with some of Nashville’s top songwriters including Lori McKenna, Luke Laird, Nikki Lane, Sonia Leigh, Leigh Nash, Will Hoge, Angaleena Presley and Vanessa Olivarez. Half of the new album was tracked this past week at Germano Studios in NYC, and an impressive roster of stars are lining up hoping to collaborate. Elle King, Cyndi Lauper, Jakob Dylan, and Steve Van Zandt are among those standing at the front of that line.
It’s difficult to grasp the indelible legendary footprint Wanda Jackson continues to create. Those who will be at Pappy and Harriet’s this Friday night will grasp the essence of it. I for one will never forget being there to help the grand lady off the stage during her last visit to that iconic stage. Still recovering from knee surgery, it seemed that the tenacious woman of strength and grace took my hand more for my benefit than her own. One can only hope that her spark is as contagious as her music.