Wanda Jackson at the Hamilton
When I told my co-workers I was going to see Wanda Jackson at the Hamilton this Tuesday night, none of them could put a finger on who the singer was. Even those with a professed love of classic rock couldn’t remember what she was known for. The truth is that Jackson is a real genuine article of rock and roll, a living legend among the likes of Chuck Berry, who’s played with greats from Elvis Presley to modern stalwarts like Jack White. A brush up on her hits include “Let’s Have A Party,” “Fujiyama Mama” and “Stupid Cupid”.
At 75-years-old, Jackson is charming and unassuming. Country group Jonny Fritz and the In-Laws, who opened the show, sat in as Jackson’s band. Jackson doted on them like they were her own grandchildren. The Oklahoma native even sang a few lines of “Boomer Sooner,” OU’s fight song and demonstrated her prowess as an air guitarist.
The night was like a music history lecture or, in her words, a “musical journey.” Jackson’s entrée into rock and roll was largely due to her relationship with Elvis Presley, whom she dated and toured with. “I never saw a man with yellow before,” Jackson said, before performing the Elvis classic “Heartbreak Hotel.” After all her years of performing, her pipes are, for the most part, intact. Her gutty, playful squeal is one-of-a-kind, and she can still yodel with the best of them on her country songs like “Betcha My Heart I Love You.”
In 2011, Jackson’s career had resurgence with her album The Party Ain’t Over, on which she collaborated with Jack White, who has a penchant for working with classic female vocalists. In 2004, he also breathed new energy into Loretta Lynn’s career with their album Van Lear Rose. Jackson recounted her work with him. “I would liken him to a velvet-covered brick.” She blazed through two of the songs she recorded with him, “Shakin All Over” and her cover of Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good.”
After decades of performing, it was interesting to see that such an experienced performer could still have green moments. During some songs, Jackson might take a break, or forget a few of her lyrics. Despite these small road bumps, she could shrug it off with aplomb. “I’ll have to work that out in rehearsal,” she told the In-Laws. Much like a grandmother cooking without a recipe, Jackson served up a great performance even with the road bumps. Her fans ate it up. She brought the room to their feet with her final two songs, “Let’s Have A Party” and “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On.”