Wanda Jackson Talks Elvis
Q. How did you and Elvis meet?
Wanda Jackson: After I graduated from high school, I had a couple of songs by that time. I was ready to go on tour. I'm an only child, so daddy decided he should go with me. So for the first couple of nights, we toured with a guy named Elvis Presley. I've never heard of him. That was in 1955.
The thing that Elvis did for me was giving me the courage to sing this new music, like he was doing. I would tell him, 'I can't do that Elvis because I'm just a country singer! Besides, I'm a girl. I can't sing that stuff'. And he said, 'I know you could if you try'. He made me promise that I would try. I kept my promise. When I moved to Capitol Records, that's when I recorded one of my first rock 'n' roll songs, 'I Gotta Know'. It was especially written for me. It has a little bit of a country kickoff.
It was a transition song for me. I recorded a lot of rock 'n' roll songs. They mostly had to be cover songs because nobody thought a girl's point of view would sell... I began writing stuff and they all did well... Seems like I always had to be pushed a little bit.
Q. Tell us about your relationship with Elvis Presley.
Wanda Jackson: He asked me to be his girl and I had his ring. I wore it around my neck for about a year... But I lived in Oklahoma and he lived in Tennessee. So we didn't see each other except on the tours that we did together.
My daddy traveled with me. He wouldn't let me go out with guys usually. But he liked Elvis really well.
He knew Elvis was a gentleman. So he would let me go out with Elvis to a movie or for a burger afterward. Then it wasn't long until he became so popular that we couldn't go out after the show. When they would see that pink Cadillac, they knew Elvis was in there! So it got hard to get together. We were together until the first part of 1957. Then he went to Hollywood to start his film career.
I still have that ring! My mother made sure she held on to it for me. She figured I wouldn't keep it or something. But she did. She's got a little note in there and it says it was given to me by Elvis in 1955. Come to think of it,
I guess it didn't take us long to like each other! We had a lot in common. He took me to his home. We sang and played records. He showed me what he does to a rock song.
So I have to admit, I had a good teacher. Once I recorded rock 'n' roll, I loved it. I knew I could sing it. After I tried it, I thought, 'Boy, I found a home!' That's why I recorded so much of it. For a good while, we'd put country songs on one side of the single and a rock song on the other, hoping to get air play from one or the other. We were then doing my albums that way... people liked them.
Q. You gave country music sex appeal. How did you manage that?
Wanda Jackson: You have to realize, back then, all the girls wore what was called 'cowboy suits'. Full skirts with maybe some fringe on it, a shirt and maybe a cowboy hat... I just never did feel comfortable with those big ol' heavy boots, the hat and the guitar around me... I was already wearing tight skirts and heels.
I thought, 'I need to dress more like a lady. I need more glamour'. We came up with tight skirts, silky fringe and high heels. I was a big fan of Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe. So I wanted to dress up like they did.
Also, I thought, I was covering up my assets, with the guitar and all that garb on! I was like a bird out of a cage once I got my look down.
Wanda Jackson: The wild men? Well, my dad didn't let me hang out with the guys during the tours... but I heard about their antics. And there were a lot! But they were great guys. They were my buddies. I liked them. But I did not get involved in their antics. My reputation stayed intact!
Q. You refused to return to the Grand Ole Opry for 50 years. Why?
Wanda Jackson: They wouldn't let me go on stage in the dresses like I was wearing. So I had to put a jacket on and it broke my heart because I designed a special dress just for them and it was so pretty. But I couldn't go on stage showing my shoulders... Elvis had a worse experience. They didn't like his style of performing. And he said, 'I'm never coming back'. And he never did. I said the same thing. When I did go back, I wasn't dressing that way anymore. At 80, you can't be so skimpy. You have to do a bit of covering up... It all worked out fine.
Wanda Jackson 'Queen of Rockabilly' new autobiography 'Every Night is a Saturday Night' book is out now.
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Tupelo's Own Elvis Presley DVD + 16 page booklet.
Never before have we seen an Elvis Presley concert from the 1950's with sound. Until Now! The DVD Contains recently discovered unreleased film of Elvis performing 6 songs, including Heartbreak Hotel and Don't Be Cruel, live in Tupelo Mississippi 1956. Included we see a live performance of the elusive Long Tall Sally seen here for the first time ever.
This is an excellent release no fan should be without it.
The 'parade' footage is good to see as it puts you in the right context with color and b&w footage. The interviews of Elvis' Parents are well worth hearing too. The afternoon show footage is wonderful and electrifying : Here is Elvis in his prime rocking and rolling in front of 11.000 people. Highly recommended.