Wanda Jackson

If Elvis Presley forever will be the king of rock 'n' roll, his queen has got to be Wanda Jackson. She was a teenage heartbreaker in the mid-'50s when, with Elvis's personal encouragement, she made the transformation from country singer to the first legitimate female star of rockabilly and rock 'n' roll. Earlier, honky-tonker Hank Thompson had heard Jackson singing on an Oklahoma radio program and asked her to join his Brazos Valley Boys. When Jackson subsequently went on tour in 1955 with a package of artists, one was Presley, then just on the cusp of phenomenal success. He convinced a skeptical Jackson to try the new style, and she was a natural, the sultry edge in her voice earning her hits ("Fujiyama Mama," "Let's Have a Party"), breaking ground for generations of female rockers, and still largely intact more than a half-century later. Jackson spent a long time doing strictly country and gospel until returning to her rockabilly roots with the encouragement of Rosie Flores, among others. Her last studio album was 2006's I Remember Elvis, featuring sharp covers of tunes associated with her mentor and onetime boyfriend, a dynamite band including Blondie drummer Clem Burke, an autobiographical new song ("I Wore Elvis' Ring"), a charming spoken reminiscence, vintage photos of the king and queen, and enthusiastic liner notes by another Elvis (Costello). Also on this bill will be Sherwin Linton and the Cotton Kings, rockabilly and country royalty from right here in the Twin Cities.
Sun., Oct. 4, 2 p.m., 2009

 
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