Just another milestone in a career that’s been full of them. The Maud native, 72, was a young country and gospel artist who began singing rockabilly in the 1950s on the advice of her mentor and then-boyfriend, Elvis Presley
Widely considered the first female artist to sing rock ’n’ roll, she had a rockabilly hit with "Fujiyama Mama” in 1958, which became a major success in Japan. Her version of "Let’s Have a Party,” which Elvis had cut earlier, was a U.S. Top 40 hit in 1960, and she scored Top 10 country hits in ’61 with "Right or Wrong” and "In the Middle of a Heartache.” "The Box It Came In” and "Tears Will Be the Chaser for Your Wine” reached the Top 20 in 1966.
Nominated twice for a Grammy, she’s toured the world steadily ever since, recording country and gospel albums, and playing rockabilly and country festivals in Europe. Wanda’s career began a resurgence in 1995, when alt-country/rockabilly revivalist Rosie Flores
named the Oklahoma singer as a major influence, and invited her to sing two duets on Flores’ album, "Rockabilly Filly.” Flores and Wanda then embarked on a major U.S. tour that year.
Associations with other new-generation rockers followed, and in 2003 she worked with Dave Alvin, the Cramps, Lee Rocker, the Cadillac Angels
and another Elvis
— last name Costello
— on her comeback album, "Heart Trouble.”
Costello was also one of the stars who championed Wanda’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, which finally took place in April. White is only the latest in a long line of modern rock luminaries who’ve professed a love for Wanda Jackson’s music.
And her hometown finally recognized her importance this year by christening a Bricktown alley "Wanda Jackson Way.”
"Yeah, some big things happenin’ since all these big stars like Bruce Springsteen
and of course Elvis Costello and guys like that have been sayin’ how much I influenced them,” she said. "And so that’s pretty heady stuff for an old lady.”
But with all the touring, recording and international attention she’s been getting, the rockabilly queen can still find time to help celebrate 66 Bowl’s half-century birthday.
"Yeah, my goodness, I’ve gotta sing at home once in a while,” she said.