Queen of rock still playing in the fast lane
BY JENNIFER CHANCELLOR World Scene Writer
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
11/17/09 at 8:09 AM
Check out our story, audio and
video archive of Wanda Jackson,
the First Lady of Rock.
A little more than 48 years ago, the First Lady of Rock made her first appearance at the 66 Bowl bowling alley in Oklahoma City. But she didn't sing. She didn't even pick up her guitar.
It wasn't rockabilly, rock 'n' roll, country or even gospel she wanted. Wanda Jackson wanted a man.
"I don't remember much about that first date, but I remember I sure had eyes for Wendell," Jackson said about her first date with Wendell Goodman.
"We went under the pretense that we were gonna talk about his girlfriend Norma Jean, who had moved away. But I was thinking about moving in on her territory."
Their first bowling date was in March 1961. By October, they were married. He soon became her manager, and Jackson went on to earn her lifelong, Cinderella-story career in the music business.
Back then, the alley, nestled along historic Route 66, was celebrating its second anniversary. This year, it will celebrate its 50th, and Jackson will be there to celebrate, too. And she'll be bringing Wendell, her husband of 48 years.
She'll also bring one heck of a party for what will be her first concert at the still-popular music and bowling venue.
Jackson, 72, is a tough-but-sensitive Oklahoma native — and a rock 'n' roll pioneer — who made her way with the big boys back in the day, touring with (and dating) Elvis Presley, who also persuaded her to record her first rock song, "Let's Have a Party," in 1959.
A young Jackson held her own, performing rockabilly, country and gospel with the rowdiest boys club around — including Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, Carl Perkins and Roy Orbison.
She also held her own on those glossy lanes. She doesn't bowl any more — knee surgeries keep her from it — but it's a sport she enjoyed for decades, especially during her earlier years while on the road with her band.
"I love the atmosphere of bowling alleys — especially in Vegas," she said.
"We bowled all we could. We'd form two teams with the band and just fight it out. I've had a lot of fun in bowling alleys."
The scrappy, sultry Maud native's career was bolstered in a big way by her 2009 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
"It's actually given me more confidence about my career, which is something I always lacked," she said in her soft-but-sure voice.
She also admits that she's quite possibly most confident with her intimate shows — and no show tops an Americana- and nostalgia-infused bowling alley for intimacy.
"I play a lot of bowling alleys — there's one I really like in New Orleans, then there's one I really like in Asbury Park (N.J.)," she said. "That's where Bruce Springsteen is from."
In fact, she performed for Springsteen and his wife, Patti Scialfa, on a tour a few years ago. "I'll never forget seeing him sitting on that ball return, listening to my show," she said.
Springsteen, along with modern-day rock performers including Elvis Costello and even Lemmy Kilmister of the heavy metal act Motorhead, helped lead the push for her Hall of Fame induction.
In the 2008 documentary about Jackson, "The Sweet Lady With the Nasty Voice," Springsteen summed up his fascination with her:
"There's an authenticity in the voice that conjures up a world, a very distinctive place and time, that is so specifically American."
Saturday, Jackson will perform her classics: "Funnel of Love," "Let's Have a Party," "Right or Wrong" and "Fujiama Mama," along with a bit of country and gospel.
"I just like to do the songs my fans request," she said. "It's gotten me this far, and that's a long, long way."
Jackson and Jack White
at work on a new single
The Queen of Rockabilly
recently announced that she’s
working with a king of modern
indie rock, Jack White.
Wanda Jackson’s career of
more than 50 years in music
spans country, gospel, rockabilly
and rock ‘n’ roll — she’s widely
known as the first woman to
record a rock tune, “Let’s Have a
Party,” in 1959.
She recently met with White
in Nashville, she told The Oklahoman.
She hopes to record a single
song first, but that might turn
into a full-length album.
For the full story, check out
66 Bowl 50th Anniversary
With special guest Brian
Dunning & the Rock-N-Roll
When: Doors 7 p.m., showtime
8 p.m. Saturday
Where: 66 Bowl, 3810 NW
39th St., Oklahoma City
Admission: All ages. $15,
tickets available at 66
Bowl and online at tulsaworld.com/Ticketstorm.
Note: Center bowling lanes
on the main concourse
will be closed and a stage
erected for this performance.
Dancing will be
allowed on the lane approach
with bowling shoes
Jennifer Chancellor 581-8346
Wanda Jackson, shown playing the Cain's Ballroom in March, recently finished a successful two weeks in Germany, the Netherlands and Austria. "We had full houses, every single night," she said. She'll perform Saturday in Oklahoma City for the 50th anniversary of 66 Bowl. CORY YOUNG / Tulsa World
Jack White of the White Stripes and Raconteurs is working with Wanda Jackson. Courtesy