It was more than 50 years ago when Wanda Jackson started mixing country with rock and earned a crown as the unofficial "Queen of Rockabilly." The woman who once dated Elvis Presley and scored hits in the ‘50s and ‘60s is now 74, but she hasn't stopped rockin', nor has she been relegated to the oldies circuit. A 2011 record produced by Jack White of The White Stripes brought her back into the spotlight and to play for legions of new fans.
Born in Oklahoma to a musician father, Jackson started her singing career in Oklahoma City while still in high school and scored her first Top-10 country hit in 1954. Before long she was touring with (and briefly dating) Elvis, who encouraged her rock side. By 1960 she'd crossed over to the pop/rock charts with "Let's Have a Party" and other rockabilly hits. In the mid-'60s she recorded in Germany and established a toehold overseas. As interest in rockabilly waned back home she moved back into country in the American market. In the ‘70s she found Jesus and shifted into gospel. A European rockabilly revival in the ‘80s led to extensive touring in England, Germany and Scandinavia.
As a new century turned, she was still going strong. A new studio record in 2003 paired her with guests including The Cramps, Rosie Flores and the other Elvis (Costello), but that was just a blip compared to last year, which saw her career once again shooting skyward. It began when Jack White of The White Stripes, The Raconteurs and The Dead Weather asked her if she'd record a cover of Amy Winehouse's "You Know I'm No Good" for a 45-rpm release. That led to a full album of White-produced covers with the title The Party Ain't Over, echoing her '50s hit. Concert dates with White, with young Brit phenom Adele, guest spots on The Late Show with David Letterman and Conan followed, as well as a slot at Bonnaroo.
Jackson's latest tour with her band The Dusty 45s is working its way up the West Coast. The stop at HSU's the Depot pairs her with Portland neo-retro rockers Sallie Ford and The Sound Outside, riding high on their latest, Dirty Radio. Showtime is at 9 p.m. on Wednesday, April 18. Tickets are $25; $15 for HSU students. Call 826-3928 or check humboldt.edu/aspresents for further details.