Here’s a clip of Rockabilly queen Wanda Jackson with her song “I Gotta Know”, found on her 1960 album Rockin’ With Wanda. The thing I most like about this is that it’s so playful. Wanda goes from a straight-forward country song, to rockabilly, back to country, and so on. She gives away a bit of her background in country, and undercuts it with a bit of blues-influenced twang. Where this is not an example of her mean and dirty delivery, I think it shows another side of her – the demure side that hints that she may not be demure at all.
Rock n’ roll is largely a man’s man’s man’s world. But, Wanda Jackson is a scorching exception to the rule, and has been since the late 50s. Apart from laying down some of the grittiest, purest rockabilly ever committed to vinyl, she rocked Elvis’ world for a while in more than one sense of the word. He recorded versions of “Hard-Headed Woman” and “Let’s Have A Party”, both of these being Wanda Jackson staples.
Native to Oklahoma City, Jackson made a name for herself while still in her teens in the mid-50s. Raised on country music radio, Wanda took an interest in performing herself, and did so on a regular local radio program which brought her to the attention of country singer Hank Thompson, through whom she was able to make her way as a professional musician. She finished school, went out on the road, and signed to Decca records in a short span of time. She joined a tour with Elvis, who took a shine to her, in 1955-56. And it was Elvis who encouraged her (directly in this case, unlike the rest of us) in the direction of rockabilly, away from the country music she’d been doing previously. She later signed to Capitol records and charted on the country charts well into the 60s.
She’s toured ever since, gathering an audience all over the world, and twice nominated for a Grammy.