published Friday, February 24th, 2012

Queen of Rockabilly Wanda Jackson at Track 29

IF YOU GO

What: Wanda Jackson.

When: 8 p.m. Saturday (doors open at 7).

Where: Track 29, 1400 Market St.

Admission: $15 in advance, $17 at the door ($3 additional fee for ages 18-20).

Phone: 521-2929.

Venue website: www.track29.co.

It didn't take Wanda Jackson long to start setting precedents.

In the early 1950s, Jackson was discovered in Oklahoma City by Western swing frontman Hank Thompson through a broadcast of a daily radio show she performed on. With Thompson's help, she became one of the first female recording artists to break into the previously male-dominated country music industry.

In 1955, as she started out on her first tour after graduating from high school, Jackson soon would make similar waves in the burgeoning world of rock 'n' roll thanks to her touring partner, Elvis Presley.

"I had never seen music like that," Jackson said. "I didn't know who he was at the time or anything about this [style of] singing.

"After I got over the shock, I could see why he was so popular. He was the one who encouraged me to try this music and gave me a lot of pointers."

Over the years, Jackson has explored many genres of music, from folk to gospel, but she earned her nickname, The Queen of Rockabilly, for her efforts as one of the genre's pioneers. Many of her songs became national -- or even international -- hits, including "Fujiyama Mama" and an uptempo cover of Presley's own "Let's Have a Party."

Now 74, Jackson's career is experiencing a late-life resurgence of popularity thanks to the help of former White Stripes frontman Jack White.

Similar to his work with Loretta Lynn on 2004's "Van Lear Rose," White produced and performed on Jackson's last album, "The Party Ain't Over," which was released early last year to critical acclaim.

He shepherded Jackson's comeback with a selection of songs covering classic and modern artists such as The Andrews Sisters and Amy Winehouse. Although she was initially leery of White's selections, Jackson said she soon realized he was molding the project to emphasize her strengths.

"As he began sending me songs, I realized they were all songs I knew, but he put his style on them and revved them up a notch or two," she said, laughing. "He told me, 'I don't want to change you or your voice or your style. I want to give you fresh material to sing.' That's what he's done."

At Track 29 on Saturday, Jackson will perform a concert pulling material from every period of her career, including a tribute to Elvis, her biggest early hits and a sampling of songs from "The Party Ain't Over."

As she performs in the wake of the album's release, Jackson said she continues to be touched by the strong response her music is getting so late in life.

"It's been amazing to me and wonderful to experience," she said. "I wish every artist could see this, to see a younger generation excited about the songs they recorded 50 years ago."

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, young adults, technology and people of interest. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German. He previously worked as the features editor for Sidelines at Middle Tennessee State University. Casey received the East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists Award of Excellence for Reviewing/Criticism in ...

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