Wanda Jackson Learned to Sing Rock from Boyfriend Elvis

Wanda Jackson
Wanda Jackson at the Green River Festival.

Yesterday morning on Monte’s show on ‘RSI, he played a recording of one of the highlights of the Green River Festival. Funny, I too had recorded the same slice of the show as I stood near Wanda Jackson below the stage.

The tiny singer, who is in the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, recounted the days in 1955 when she was convinced to begin singing rock songs, by none other than Elvis himself. She said they were on tour, and they used to date, going out to get pizza and to movie theaters as a couple.

At the time Wanda was a country singer, but she said that he told her about this new music, which in those days she explained was just called ‘Elvis music,’ since rock hadn’t been invented yet. He showed her how to play the guitar, and shake your hips a bit, and how to sing this new fangled way, she said to a breathless audience up on stage.

“And to think that how his career was exploding at the time, yet he took the time to help me with my career…well, that was really special. He was a wonderful guy, Elvis, and I am proud to still have the ring he gave me that I wore around my neck when we dated.”

With that she launched into an Elvis tune and the crowd roared their approval. She’s a lovely fiesty rockabilly woman, in her 70s who plays gigs around the world and keeps up a fast pace. The next day I saw her guitarist, with his trademark pompadour, up on stage taking photos of Emmylou Harris.