Career-Defining Tracks from the Queen of Rockabilly, 29 A & B Sides from the Original Mono 45 Masters!
Idolized by three generations of rockers, from Las Vegas to Stockholm, Wanda Jackson, the “Queen of Rockabilly,” has never worn her crown as to the attitude born. Debuting on country radio when she was still too young to drive, she would enter middle-age singing joyfully for the Lord. But in between, she would meet Elvis Presley and record her legendary Capitol singles, some of them fueled by rock ’n’ roll nitroglycerin. Yet, to hear this selection now is to also marvel at how wildly Wanda veered from style to style, as if the gorgeous, spaghetti-strapped Oklahoma rockabilly cared no more for the confines of genre than she did for a respectable neckline.
For every A-side rave-up like “Mean Mean Man” or “Fujiyama Mama,” she offers a B-side weeper like “(Every Time They Play) Our Song” or the hillbilly tragedy of “No Wedding Bells For Joe.” In one giddy jukebox pairing, her “Little Charm Bracelet” flips to a distaff remake of The Robins’ “Riot In Cell Block Number Nine.” Punch side A, you hear “Little charm bracelet, means so much to me.” Punch side B, it’s “Pass the dynamite, Molly, ’cause, man, this fuse is lit!”
She tore through songs that Elvis sang, The Cadillacs sang, Betty Hutton sang. She drew from jazz greats, R&B legends, and writers revered in the Nashville song factories. But none gave her better Wanda Jackson songs than Wanda herself, her pen opening the microphone range from “Cool Love” to “Right Or Wrong.”
Were it not for the riot of her rock ’n’ roll, she might be revered as a wayward princess, if not the queen, of sawdust-soaking honky-tonk. It’s all there in her Capitol debut, “I Gotta Know,” the stop-and-go-go-go three minutes of dance-floor fun that kicks off this collection. Upon its release in 1956, Capitol’s own ad men scratched their heads, then gamely pitched the record as a “jumping rock-’n’-waltz novelty.”