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Singer Wanda Jackson's hit songs climbed both the country and rock charts in the 1950s and 1960s, earning her the "Queen of Rockabilly" title.
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Of her outfits, she told NPR, "I've never been able to wear a full skirt; haven't to this day. And the cowboy hats and those little clubby boots. And I just didn't like it. I didn't feel like that was me, because I was a big fan of Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor, and I wanted to look like them." She was so sexy, in fact,
that she was not even allowed onstage at the Grand Ole Opry until she covered her shoulders.
For the next six years, through the late 1950s and into the early 1960s, Jackson put out both rock and country singles, refusing to work in just one genre and finding considerable success. She insisted on using only the highest-quality session musicians; their polished sound, combined with her gravelly and wild voice, produced some of the best rock of her time.
The songs that Wanda Jackson recorded and performed during this period—such as "Hot Dog! That Made Him Mad," "Mean, Mean Man," and "Fujiyama Mama"—pushed the envelope in other ways as well. Her lyrics were ahead of their time, featuring sexually suggestive innuendo and depictions of strong women who did not put up with controlling men. More than anything, her songs conveyed pure, unadulterated good times. "Fujiyama Mama," a huge hit in both the United States and namesake Japan, contains the lyrics: "Well you can talk about me, say that I'm mean/ I'll blow your head off, baby, with nitroglycerine!"
Her most famous song was 1959's "Let's Have a Party," which combined her wild energy, sex appeal, and rebellious spirit. Presley had sung the tune a year earlier in a film, and Capitol considered it a filler track for Jackson's first album, but she made the song all her own. Jackson rocked out harder than the King himself, and "Let's Have a Party" remains her biggest hit to this day.
By the turn of the 1960s, Jackson was headlining her own tours backed by a band she named The Party Timers and releasing country hits that climbed the charts as well. Hoping to profit from her popularity in the early 1960s, Capitol released compilation albums of her earlier hits from the 1950s such as Rockin' With Wanda and There's a Party Goin' On. However, her rock albums did not bring in as much money as her country records, so she released Right or Wrong, Love Me Forever, and Wonderful Wanda, three country albums that sold by the millions.
In 1961, Wanda Jackson married IBM computer programmer Wendell Goodman, and they had two children and raised their family in Oklahoma City.
In 1963, Jackson's album Two Sides of Wanda, which included songs like "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On," "Honey Don't," "Rip It Up," and "Searchin,'" combined rockabilly and country sounds to win a Grammy for Best Female Country Vocal Performance.
Unfortunately, her image as a sexually liberated and independent rock star was too far ahead of her time and her rock and roll career dwindled. She slowly embraced country full-time and went on to release dozens of country hits through the late 1960s. She even had her own television show, Music Village, from 1965 to 1967. She recorded singles in German that became huge hits abroad, later becoming an album Made in Germany (1968) and headlined a show in Las Vegas as well.
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In the 1920s, women like Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith were the first—and for a while, the only—artists to record the blues. American women of this era made great strides toward gaining equality and basic human rights for themselves and others in society, including attaining the right to vote and working toward social justice. The 20th century was a wide-open opportunity for women to embrace the modern world, outside of the traditional bounds of the home.
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