Rockabilly queen Wanda Jackson on covering Amy Winehouse and Jack White's powers of persuasion
Fans of Hillbilly rock goddess and country crooner Wanda Jackson might've thought the glory days of her 60-year musical career were behind her. Country and rockabilly listeners will remember Jackson's string of hits throughout the late 50s and 60s, like "Right or Wrong," "Tears Will Be The Chaser For Your Wine," and her Grammy-nominated rendition of Jerry Lee Lewis's "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On."
Jackson is nothing if not prolific -- enjoying a brief career resurgence in the 70s before embarking on a gospel kick, and recording a 2003 album with appearances from the likes of Elvis Costello and The Cramps.
After six decades in the music business, the one thing to take from a study of Jackson's career is that the old girl can't ever be counted out. In 2010, the now-74-year-old recording artist met Jack White, who persuaded her to record a covers album that he'd produce. The result is "The Party Ain't Over," an astounding testament to Jackson's continued powers of performance. Think Johnny Cash's American Recordings series, but with more sass and fun. Here are a few gems from a recent LA Weekly interview with Jackson, who played an astounding 86 live shows in 2011.
Jack White can crack the whip: "It was fun working with him. It was challenging also. He pushed me real hard. He wanted more of that 18-year-old Wanda Jackson [laughs]. And I said "Jack, you're pushing me awful hard." And he said "Yeah, but you can do it." And he just kept pushing ..."
Her curious choice of cover tunes: "I thought Jack did a marvelous job of making these songs all fresh and new. Songs like "Rum and Coca Cola" that goes back to the late '40s and "Teach Me Tonight" which is kind of a '50s song. I had fun doing it. It was quite a variety of material."
On channeling Amy Winehouse in "You Know I'm No Good": That's the one people talk about the most on the album. And that's the one that when I heard, I said "Jack, I can't record that song." And he said "Oh, but I think that you should though. It was popular just awhile back. It's just so different from anything of yours. I think it would be great." And so with his leadership and his help in getting me to sing it my style and not trying to do it like Amy, but making it my own song [it became successful]. And he helped me do that. It was the song of the album. It did sound like something of mine.
And that line about being upstairs in bed with an old flame? "... I told Jack "Well, now I can't sing that second verse that's in here. We'll just skip that verse." He said, "No. Let me just see what I can do with it ..."
Check out this clip of Wanda Jackson performing "Shakin' All Over" on David Letterman (with Jack White on guitar).