Top right: Wanda Jackson performs during the 2009 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony Saturday, April 4, 2009 in Cleveland. Bottom right: Wanda and Elvis Presley.
Wanda Jackson thought she was used to a lot of publicity.
A woman who dated Elvis Presley has had plenty of requests for interviews over the years. A woman who broke into rock 'n' roll at a time when television cameras shot only above the waist of hip-swingers has answered plenty of questions. She's been documented and recorded and adored worldwide for more than 55 years. She's gone from live, black-and-white television studios to a sea of Japanese fans with camera phones taking pictures without flashes.
But Jackson, 71, said she never had as many media requests for interviews as now, two months after she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.
“I still feel like I'm walking on cloud nine,” Jackson said on a recent evening at her south Oklahoma City home. She spoke before leaving for the road again the next morning. It's a road she's known for 55 years, one that has taken her across Canada with Hank Snow, across the south United States with Elvis and Johnny Cash and across the western deserts to Capitol Records studios in Hollywood, Calif.
Both a local and national icon, Jackson is seen her hugging Mayor Mick Cornett as he proclaims March 24 "Wanda Jackson Day" in Oklahoma City during a city council meeting Tuesday March 24, 2009
Photo by Paul Southerland, the Oklahoman
Her husband and manager, Wendell Goodman, began the campaign to land Jackson in the Hall of Fame more than two decades ago. Jackson's years as a rocker had not gone unnoticed by the likes of Elvis Costello, Bruce Springsteen and even Bob Dylan, whom she feels helped land her name forever in rock 'n' roll fame in the hall's early influence category.
“We made it, didn't we?” Jackson said. “It's been Wendell's dream. “It's always nice to be honored by your peers. But I didn't realize it was such a big deal. This thing has just exploded around me.”
She said her key to keeping the show going has been never slowing down. The vocal chords, she said, have to be worked to keep working.
“As long as you can continue to use it, you don't lose it,” Jackson said.
Jackson's rockabilly, country and gospel have always been rooted in her hometown, starting when her voice first broke the airwaves of KLPR radio in south Oklahoma City and perked the ears of country singer Hank Thompson. Her mother Nellie Jackson, 95, famous for sewing her fringed outfits, still lives nearby.
“I feel so gifted to still have her,” Jackson said.
After 55 years of performing, countless records with the legends of rock n' roll and a campaign by her husband and manager, Wanda Jackson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on Saturday, April 4, 2009. Jackson performed with Rosanne Cash, left, and Bobby Womack, right, at the induction.
And her mother's influence is still being worn.
Just recently on a Saturday night at the Rodeo Opry in Stockyards City, Jackson surprised a young singer known for singing her songs. Kaylea Harris, 13, wears a striking red-fringed dress like Nellie Jackson used to sew for Wanda.
“I told her how cute she was,” Wanda Jackson said.
“Kaylea likes Wanda,” said Darla Morgan, a singer and regular emcee at Rodeo Opry. “Other girls want to sing Carrie Underwood and Martina McBride and Faith Hill. Kaylea wants to sing Wanda. Wanda's her idol.”
Jackson said she has no plans to slow down with her fan base increasing around the world. She has singing engagements planned from Indiana to a cafe in London, to Sperry and back to the Trucker and Country Festival show in Switzerland this summer. She plays Cain's Ballroom in Tulsa on July 7 and the Summer Breeze Concert Series in Norman's Andrews Park on July 12.
Her hit songs, “Let's Have A Party,” “Mean, Mean Man,” and “Fujiyama Mama,” have continued to influence rockers and country singers, alike.
The Hall of Fame honor keeps her rockabilly flame burning, too.
Though she may tour the world, a piece of Jackson is always at home in Oklahoma. A Wanda Jackson display is available at "Another Hot Oklahoma Night" rock 'n' roll history exhibit at the Oklahoma History Center
Photo by Doug Hoke, The Oklahoman
“It's exactly where I want to be — to think I had a lot of influence and have encouraged others,” Jackson said. “Life is great.”
Her complete calendar of tour dates can be found at wandajackson.com.