What happens when Oklahoma's “Queen of Rockabilly” meets Detroit's dean of daring guitar dynamos?
Why, a party, of course.
That's what Wanda Jackson's been all about since she hit the Top 40 with “Let's Have a Party” in the late '50s. Back then it was boyfriend/mentor Elvis Presley who taught this country girl from Maud how to rock 'n' roll.
Now she's learning some 21st century tricks from one of alternative music's most successful eccentrics — Jack White.
The result is a new album, appropriately titled “The Party Ain't Over” (releasing Tuesday), and working with the White Stripes frontman in the producer's chair has truly been a learning experience, to hear Jackson tell it.
“I became a little apprehensive, I'll have to be truthful and say, because knowing his status, knowing his type of music, I was wondering and a bit scared that he was going to want me to do this contemporary music and the more contemporary style, whatever that might be. I don't even know,” she admitted.
“But I couldn't see me singin' songs like Britney Spears and Beyonce, and so I was a little bit afraid of that.”
Jackson said it all started when she was kicking around some ideas for a new album with husband/manager Wendell Goodman and her publicist, Jon Hensley, awhile back, and they were thinking along the lines of a “Wanda and Friends” project. Jackson was no stranger to contemporary artists, having recorded the 2003 album “Heart Trouble” with the help of another Elvis — last name Costello — and such new-generation rockabilly rounders as Dave Alvin, The Cramps, Rosie Flores, ex-Stray Cats bassist Lee Rocker and The Cadillacs.
It was Melanie Shelley, hair stylist to many stars in the Nashville, Tenn., musical community, who recommended White as a collaborator. Jackson had heard of him, of course, but was unfamiliar with his music until she began to sample some of it. Here was a guy nearly 40 years her junior with a distinctly experimental bent that has taken in everything from minimalist noise-pop and garage rock to blues, punk and metal.
But there were some occasional touches of country in some of his work, and he had produced “Van Lear Rose,” the 2004 comeback album that had introduced Loretta Lynn to a whole new generation of music lovers.
So Jackson's people contacted White's people about possibly doing a duet project. White responded with interest in working with Jackson, but in a producing capacity.
A deal was struck to record a single, see how that went, then possibly cut an entire album on White's Third Man Records label, which is distributed by Nonesuch/Warner Bros.
“And he began pushin' me on this,” Jackson said. “Especially one of the first songs we did; I think the second one we actually recorded together was the Amy Winehouse song, ‘You Know I'm No Good,' which was my first single. But he had to keep pushin' me and pushin' me.