Written by Dick Pryor on Friday June 5, 2009
Growing up in Oklahoma in the 1950's and 1960's, as I did, you saw and heard¬†Wanda Jackson.¬† I knew a little more about Wanda than most, since my mother, Nell, was a teacher at Capitol Junior High School in Oklahoma City while Wanda was a student there, and she¬†told me about the young, musical dynamo who rocked south Oklahoma City, and then the nation.¬† So, it was great fun to sit down with the rockabilly legend and talk about her music and life.¬†
Her story is fascinating.¬† Born in Maud, reared in California and Oklahoma, she won a talent contest and with it, a regular gig on KLPR radio in Oklahoma while still in junior high school.¬† By 16 she had a recording contract and was touring with such stars as Johnny Cash, Buddy Holly, Carl Perkins and Elvis Presley.¬† Elvis convinced her to stretch her vocal talents and mix in the new "rockabilly" sound with country.¬† Wanda became a hit (she's called the female Elvis) and launched a style and sound that swept the country, and made her an international star.¬† From country to rockabilly to rock "n" roll and to gospel, Wanda Jackson has released more than 50 albums worldwide and is seeing a resurgence in popularity, almost 60 years after her singing career began.¬†
To say I was struck by Wanda's warmth and charm would be an understatement.¬† It was easy to see how she makes such a strong connection with her audience.¬† She is not just an entertainer, but a communicator, who instantly lights up the room and the faces around her.¬† When our conversation was over we even did an impromptu song and dance together in the studio (that will surely be the highlight of my musical career!).¬† And, then the line formed as several of her fans from our station magically appeared in the studio to have their picture taken with the Rock and Roll pioneer.
I was really struck with her sincerity - about her life, career, and the music industry.¬† Staying in Oklahoma probably hurt her career opportunities, but she thought being close to family and rearing her children here was the right thing to do.¬† Wanda admitted she was helped early on by mentors and she has done what she can to "pay it¬†forward" to other performers.¬† One of her early "finds" was Roy Clark, who joined her Party Timers band on the way to his own superstar career.¬† And just last summer, Wanda appeared on stage at a concert in Norman and welcomed two granddaughters and a young woman who sings the Wanda Jackson way on-stage with her.¬† It was the highlight of a magical evening.¬† You'll see them in the program, too.
As usual, Mickie Smith and Jessi Crino did an outstanding job in editing the program, and we were helped immeasurably by Wanda's husband and manager, Wendell Goodman.¬† I hope you enjoy A Conversation With... Wanda Jackson, our opening act for the¬†2009 season of our A Conversation With... series!¬†¬† Thanks for watching.¬†
Until next time,¬†Dick Pryor