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Wanda Jackson - First lady of Rockabilly

Updated on December 8, 2012

Early Years

She is known as the First lady of Rockabilly. Singer & songwriter Wanda Jackson is one of the first female rockabilly singers and a pioneering rock and roll artist too.

Wanda Lavonne Jackson was born on October 20, 1937 to Tom and Nellie Jackson in Maud, Oklahoma. From an early age, she was encouraged to develop an appreciation of music.

Desiring a better lifestyle for his family, Tom Jackson moved his family to Bakersfield, California in 1941. While there, Tom bought Wanda her first guitar and took her to see some of the country greats of the time including Bob Wills and Tex Williams. After a few years in California, the Jackson family returned to Oklahoma in 1948. Later in 1952, Wanda Jackson won a local talent show and was given a fifteen minute daily show on KLPR. A short time later due to popular demand, the radio station increased the length of her show from 15 to 30 minutes and extended it to last until her graduation. Because of the exposure received, in 1954 Wanda was discovered by country singer Hank Thompson. Impressed with her vocals, he invited her to sing with his band, the Brazos Valley Boys. In the same year Wanda had her first hit "You Can't Have My Love." The song was number eight on the country charts. Thompson tried to get Wanda signed with his label but was rejected; Wanda then signed with Decca records.

Professional Career

In 1955, soon after graduation, Jackson became a regular on the television show Ozark Jubilee and she begun to tour on same bill with Elvis Presley. When she went on the road, her father came with her and her mother designed her stage attire. Also, she worked with musicians such as Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis. During 1956 Jackson was finally able to sign with Capitol records. The first hit under this label was " I Gotta Know." This song was number fifteen on the charts. For the next few years from the late 1950s on into the 60s, Wanda Jackson found success in both rock and country genres.

The 1960's and 70's

By 1960 Jackson was headlining her own tours. Her most popular song "Let's Have a Party" was released in 1960. This song featured her raw energy and sex appeal. Capital re-released some of her older hits, but it was her country albums such as "Right or Wrong" and "Wonderful Wanda" that sold the best. In 1961 Wanda married Wendell Goodman and in time the couple would have two children. Later in 1964 she released "Two sides of Wanda." This album mixed country with rock and roll and won her a Grammy for Best Female Country Sound. Noticing a decline in the demand for rockabilly, Jackson moved over to country music in 1965; In the same year she had a hit song called "Santa Domingo," that she sang in German. A short time later in 1966, Jackson made the top twenty in the USA with "The Box It Came In" and "Tears Will Be the Chaser for Your Wine." From 1967 to 68, she had her own television show called Music Village.

In the early 1970s out of concern for their marriage, Jackson and her husband began to regularly attend church. Wanda became interested in recording gospel music. In 1972 she released "Praise the Lord" on Capitol Records. Even after she was dropped from Capitol, she continued to record for various christian labels.

1980's and Beyond

In the eighties, Jackson was sought out by rockabilly revivalist there in Europe. As a result, Jackson made frequent trips to places such as England, Germany, Denmark and Sweden. Now that she was once again performing her rockabilly, Jackson released " Rockabilly Fever " in 1984. Later in 1987, Jackson recorded a duet with Jann Browne and in 1995 she toured with and sang a couple of duets with Rosie Flores on her "Rockabilly Filly" album.

Going into the 2000's, Jackson was still going strong. In 2003, she released a studio album called "Heart Trouble." Wanda attended an exhibit in Paris, France sponsored by the Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art's in 2007. The name of the exhibit was "Rock 'N Roll 1939-1959." Part of the display featured documents chronicling the career of Elvis Presley during his time at Sun Records. Later in October 2008, Jackson traveled to England to appear with Jerry Lee Lewis at the London Rock 'n' Roll Festival. Also in 2009, Jackson begun working on a new recording with Jack White that would be called "The Party ain't over Yet." Once finished, it was released in January 2011 and it included a cover of Bob Dylan's "Thunder on the Mountain." The album received positive reviews from critics. Lastly, Jackson performed with Jack White on the David Letterman show January 20, 2011.


Wanda Jackson is a singer, songwriter and a lady who was ahead of her time. Because of her efforts, she helped to pave the way for female performers such as Janis Joplin, Rosanne Cash and Pam Tillis. Wanda has received various awards for her lifelong music career. She is a member of the Rockabilly hall of fame and the Oklahoma Music Hall of fame. Jackson was inducted into the Rock and Roll hall of fame in 2009 and she is number forty on the greatest women of country music. To this day, Wanda Jackson continues to be an inspiration to many musicians, fans and admires around the world.

Additional Information


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    • Coolmon2009 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Texas, USA

      @James A Watkins - Thank you for your comments on this Wanda Jackson article; yes she is quite the lady :)

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 

      6 years ago from Chicago

      Wow! I must confess that even as a lifelong musician well acquainted with all forms of music I had never heard of Wanda Jackson. She is great (and beautiful and sexy too). I do not know how she escaped my notice but I heartily thank you for mending this hole in my musical history knowledge. Good stuff!

    • Coolmon2009 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Texas, USA

      @thelyricwriter - Yes she is a talented singer; thanks for your comments :)

    • thelyricwriter profile image

      Richard Ricky Hale 

      7 years ago from West Virginia

      Votes up pal! I never knew of Wanda, but I am not big on rock either. This was a great bio though Coolmon. Very well written and presented. I like the song you put on here, she was really good.

    • Coolmon2009 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Texas, USA

      @Nell Rose - Thanks for your comments :)

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      7 years ago from England

      Hi, I thought I hadn't heard of Wanda but then when I listened to the music I realised that I had danced along to her quite a few times in my kitchen when listening to her on the radio, this was really interesting thanks, and the music was great!

    • Coolmon2009 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Texas, USA

      @Dolores Monet - Thank you for your kind words and as always it is nice to hear from you :)

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      7 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Coolmon - you always post such wonderful music hubs - and I really enjoyed this one as well as listening to Wanda sing. I enjoy Rockabilly music, so this was a real pleasure. Voted up!

    • Coolmon2009 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Texas, USA

      @prasetio30 - I am glad you enjoyed the videos and thanks for your comments on this article :)

    • prasetio30 profile image


      7 years ago from malang-indonesia

      Very interesting hub. I have never know Wanda Jackson. But I believe that she's very talented singer. I really enjoy all the videos above. Thanks for writing and share with us. Well done and vote up!


    • Coolmon2009 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Texas, USA

      @laurathegentleman - I am glad you enjoyed reading this article and thanks for leaving comments.

    • laurathegentleman profile image


      7 years ago from Chapel Hill, NC

      I'd never heard of Wanda Jackson, but tthis Hub was wonderful and I want to know more! :) Thanks for the information!

    • Coolmon2009 profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Texas, USA

      @Ralph Deeds - Thanks for your feedback and its nice to hear from you again :)

    • Ralph Deeds profile image

      Ralph Deeds 

      7 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      Great hub. I'd never heard of Wanda Jackson. I enjoyed the videos.


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