By Isa Jones
By Mary Willson
By Brian Turk
By Drew AIles
By Taylor Boylston
By Bree Davies
By Emerald O'Brien
"Party," among Jackson's more unrestrained extravaganzas, was her first substantial pop success: It broke into the Top 40 in 1960 (two years after it first appeared) and paved the way for the modest successes "Right or Wrong" and "In the Middle of a Heartache," both from 1961. The latter ditties also made noise at country radio, which subsequently embraced straight C&W offerings such as 1966's "Tears Will Be the Chaser for Your Wine" and 1967's "A Girl Don't Have to Drink to Have Fun."
During the same period, Jackson enjoyed enduring popularity in Europe, where she was worshiped for her rockabilly exploits. "I had a number-one song, `Santo Domingo,' in Germany in 1965, and it's still popular there, even though, to me, it isn't really country," she discloses. "I sang it in the German language, which was the hardest work I ever did. I had to do it phonetically because I didn't have time to learn the language, and they liked my accent--they said if I learned to speak German I'd lose my accent, and they didn't want that to happen. It took me six hours in front of the microphone to get it, but I'm glad I did, because I'm still reaping the benefits from it."
In 1973, two years after her Christian transformation, Jackson left Capitol for Myrrh Records, but she was lost in a corporate shuffle the next year. As a result, she struggled through the remainder of the decade by recording and manufacturing her own church-music records and selling them at revival meetings where she performed. Fortunately, her European audience remained loyal. She's toured the continent annually for the past twelve years and recently rewarded her Old Country fans by releasing a new CD (Let's Have a Party, featuring pleasant but somewhat sedate versions of several of her classics) and Right or Wrong: The Wanda Jackson Story, part one of a scheduled two-volume autobiography.
Jackson's stateside status seems to be improving as well. She's always been looked upon as something of an outsider by the country establishment, but earlier this month she was asked to donate a guitar and an outfit for a display at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville. And she's currently touring with Rosie Flores--her first such jaunt in well over a decade. "So many of my fans are glad to hear that I'm getting some recognition now," she explains, adding, "Heck, they're just glad I'm still alive and kicking."
No, she's not the same Fujiyama Mama she once was. In fact, she sounds proudest not about her return to U.S. stages but about her grandchildren. "For Halloween, the youngest--she's three--was a ballerina. The other granddaughters were bikers." She laughs before revealing, "I was a biker babe, too."
Elvis would have been pleased.
Wanda Jackson & Rosie Flores, with Jim Lauderdale, 9:30 p.m. Friday, November 17, Mercury Cafe, 2199 California Street, $12, 1-800-444-SEAT or 294-9281.