6. The Rockabilly Queen

Wanda JacksonWhile my dad did have a flamboyant stage persona, it's not him I'm talking about. I'm talking about Wanda Jackson, who exploded upon the music scene in the late 1950's. Because they shared Jim Halsey as their manager, The Poe Kats became Wanda's backing band and can be heard on her early Capitol Records singles - most notably "Let's Have A Party". Also included in the backing band for "Let's Have A Party" were Buck Owens on rhythm guitar (who was just starting his career) and Skeets McDonald on bass.

My dad has fond memories of hanging out in Hollywood while the rest of the band was in the studio with Wanda. The highlight of the trip for him was getting to sit in on a Tennessee Ernie Ford/Kay Starr recording session at the Capitol Tower. Another of his biggest thrills was meeting actress Gail Russell on the street. While staying at The Ambassador Hotel, he met several other movie stars including Thelma Ritter, Henry Hull and Mike Mazurki.

Back when Wanda first started out, she and Elvis Presley became very close. Wanda to this day still wears a ring Elvis gave her around her neck. Elvis was instrumental in persuading Wanda to record her now trademark Rockabilly music. He had even recorded "Let's Have A Party" (known then simply as "Party") shortly before Wanda's version, though Wanda credits The Collins Kids version of the song as her inspiration. It wasn't until two years later, in 1960, that Wanda's version became a Pop hit and her signature song.

These days, another Elvis - Mr. Elvis Costello - is one of her biggest fans. Elvis C. and Wanda have recently recorded together and he is championing her for a long overdue spot in the "Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame".

I'm happy to say Wanda, Vernon and Big Al have often performed together over the past decades. I'm also happy to say that my dad has presented Wanda several times in concert - with Vernon backing her - since his retirement to Oklahoma...

Editor's Note: In 2009 Wanda was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the "Early Influence" category!