High School Yearbook Photo

"More than a place, the Shady Dell was and will forever remain a state of mind." - Shady Del Knight

"More than a place, the Shady Dell was and will forever remain a state of mind." - Shady Del Knight

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Elvis Presley Meets His Match! The Very Worthy Challenger is Unveiled!

 Is your brain BURSTING yet? 

In my last post I presented a few of my favorite songs by Elvis Presley, the King of Rock "N" Roll. I announced that I would be naming in today's post the one artist who has all the right stuff to snatch the crown away from Elvis. To help you guess who that might be I offered a multiple choice.

 When it comes to rockin' and rollin' 
 and reelin' with the feelin'..... 
 who can match or beat Elvis? 

 A. Disco Tex & the Sex-O-Lettes 
 B. Tiny Tim 
 C. Milli Vanilli 
 D. The Singing Nun 
 E. Soupy Sales 
 F. Napoleon XIV 
 G. All of the above 
 H. None of the above 

The majority of you guessed correctly, although there was one vote for Soupy Sales along with one write-in vote for William Shatner. The answer is "H" - none of the above, and before I reveal the challenger you can rest assured that Elvis retains his title as the King of Rock "N" Roll. However, there is a queen who belongs up there on the throne with the king and I am proud to introduce her to you.



















For 50 years I was under the mistaken impression that the top 40 hit "Let's Have a Party" was all there was to know about Wanda Jackson.

 "Let's Have a Party" - Wanda Jackson 
 (from 1958 album Wanda Jackson
 single charted in October 1960, highest 
 chart position #37) 

How wrong can a guy be? "Let's Have a Party"
is just the tip of the iceberg...a very big iceberg!

I recently watched a documentary on Wanda Jackson's life and career entitled The Sweet Lady With the Nasty Voice and it opened my eyes and ears to her amazing talent. Simply put, Wanda Jackson is the biggest blind spot that
I ever had - the greatest artist of the 20th century that
I somehow overlooked!

Wanda was only a child when she made up her mind to become a singer. Wanda's father encouraged her by purchasing a guitar for her in an Oklahoma City pawn shop. Wanda was still in her mid teens in 1954 when she was discovered by country & western star Hank Thompson and invited to perform with his band. Wanda toured and started making records, establishing herself as a traditional country music artist. She dressed the part, wearing Dale Evans style western attire including boots and a cowgirl hat. Wanda didn't feel comfortable with that look and soon made drastic changes in her appearance and singing style.

Wanda began to show off her petite but curvaceous figure with low-cut, form-fitting dresses made by her seamstress mother. She threw away the rule book, put a growl in her voice, and started rocking hard, coming across like a female version of Little Richard or Jerry Lee Lewis. It wasn't ladylike. No other women were doing it. At the time other female vocalists were dishing out safe, middle-of-the-road pop pablum like "How Much is That Doggie in the Window."

Wanda Jackson turned the music world upside down, becoming the first woman to sing rockabilly and rock & roll, covering male songs and making them very much her own, paving the way for female rockers of the future like Janis Joplin, Chrissie Hynde and Joan Jett.

 "Riot in Cell Block Number Nine" 
 - Wanda Jackson (1961, uncharted) 

Hearing Wanda sing is thrilling enough, but to realize the full extent of her greatness you have to see her perform. In this clip from a 1958 broadcast of the country music TV and radio show Town Hall Party, the spunky spitfire punches out one of her greatest and best known songs, an original composition entitled "Mean, Mean Man."

 "Mean Mean Man" - Wanda Jackson 
 (live 1958 performance on Town Hall Party
 1958 single uncharted USA, #40 UK 

Singers and musicians who appeared on Town Hall Party also performed on the syndicated music program Ranch Party. Both shows are noteworthy for bringing country artists, rockabilly artists and rock & rollers together in harmony on the same stage. Here's Wanda singing one of the cutest and cleverest girl power anthems that you'll ever hear, "Hot Dog! That Made Him Mad!"

 "Hot Dog! That Made Him Mad!" 
 - Wanda Jackson (live on Ranch Party
 1956 single uncharted) 

Wanda Jackson dated Elvis for a short period of time. The King took her under his wing and taught her how to rock the country and roll the blues to produce a new and exciting style of music called rockabilly. Before Elvis could say "don't be cruel," the little lady with the powerful pipes was teaching him a thing or two about rockin'...about charismatic stage performance...and about sex appeal!

Wanda was a spark plug, a real live wire. She loved to shock audiences. During that same Town Hall Party broadcast Wanda playfully conned the audience with an intro that suggested she was about to sing a tender love ballad. Wanda then proceeded to destroy with a killer cover of Elvis Presley's "Hard Headed Woman," a performance that made old Swivel Hips himself sit up and take notice and left no doubt that a star was born!

 "Hard Headed Woman" - Wanda Jackson 
 (live 1958 performance on Town Hall Party

Watch, listen and learn as Wanda delights the Ranch Party audience once again with a blistering performance of her 1957 song "Cool Love." It's way too cool for old school!

 "Cool Love" - Wanda Jackson (live on 
 Ranch Party, 1957 single uncharted) 

Wanda Jackson loved "Be-Bop-A-Lula," the top 10 single recorded by rockabilly star and Capitol Records label-mate Gene Vincent. Determined to produce a similar sound, Wanda put the rock in rockabilly with "Honey Bop."

 "Honey Bop" - Wanda Jackson 
 (1958, uncharted) 

Even when Wanda dials it back and replaces the growl in her voice with a purr the results make the male of the species squirm with delight! Listen for the similarities to the vocal style of Jerry Lee Lewis as Wanda sings "Savin' My Love."

 "Savin' My Love" - Wanda Jackson 
 (1958, uncharted) 

Wanda goes even deeper on "You Don't Know Baby," a smoldering ballad that gives me fever every time I hear it!

 "You Don't Know Baby" - Wanda Jackson 
 (from 1962 album Wonderful Wanda

The All Music Guide calls Rockin' With Wanda "absolutely the best collection of Wanda Jackson's rockabilly recordings" and "the leading candidate for the best female rock & roll album of the 1950s." I'm not about to argue. "Rock Your Baby," one of Wanda's career best, is included on the 1960 album and here's Wanda performing the song around the time that it was released as a single two years earlier.

 "Rock Your Baby" - Wanda Jackson 
 (live 1958 performance on Town Hall Party
 1958 single uncharted) 

Incredibly, only a couple of Wanda Jackson's rockabilly classics saw any action at all on the domestic pop chart or even the country chart. (Go figure!) When one of her songs did chart it was almost always something safe and traditional like "Right or Wrong" (#9 country, #29 pop). Wake up America! The far more interesting song is the killer bee on the flip side, the dark and dreamlike "Funnel of Love."

 "Funnel of Love" - Wanda Jackson (1961, 
 uncharted B side of "Right or Wrong") 

As is often the case it took fans in other countries to point out what Americans were missing. Wanda's "Fujiyama Mama" did nothing stateside but rocketed to #1 in Japan. Folks, when it comes to flat out rockin' this is as good as it gets!

 "Fujiyama Mama" - Wanda Jackson (1957, 
 uncharted USA, #1 in Japan) 

Today Wanda Jackson's still rocking, still giving concerts and her voice still sounds as great as it did in the 50s. Wanda's the real deal, a pioneer, the first woman to harness the true spirit of rock and roll. Wanda's got pizzazz, spunk, heart and soul. Along with Elvis Presley, Wanda Jackson is one of the greatest and most exciting performers of the 20th century.

 Wanda Jackson 
 doesn't just sing 
 a song. She plays 
 with it, toys with it, 
 chews it up, spits it 
 out, and owns it. 
 You can hear her 
 smiling as she sings. 
 You can tell that her 
 eyes are twinkling. 
 Wanda exudes the 
 kind of confidence that comes to those 
 few who have mastered their chosen craft. 

 I'm stopping this bout on a 

 TKO and declaring a winner. 

 Elvis, head for the showers. 



Have a Shady day!


  1. Once again, I will have to confess my ignorance. I'd never heard of her before, but I wish I had. My goodness, that girl can sing, but more than that, she knows how to rock a song!

    It's really interesting the connection she had to Elvis. That they could be mutually beneficial to each other is a terrific thing.

    I wonder if the same people who initially objected to Elvis's hip shaking stuff had anything to say about Wanda.

    Thank you, friend Shady, for casting light on someone I would never have heard of otherwise!

  2. Hi, Shelly! The impression I got from watching Wanda's documentary is that she did not meet very much resistance when she chose to rock. If you watch those old film clips of Wanda or better yet watch her documentary which is frequently repeated on cable channels, you will see in her eyes and demeanor that she was unstoppable... confidence and charisma personified. While she chose to perform with a nasty voice and a rock 'n' roll attitude Wanda was, at the same time, a very sweet and gracious young woman. That combination of talent, personal power, charm and accessibility won people over, broke down existing barriers and opened doors of opportunity for young Wanda Jackson. Thank you very much for being my early bird again today, dear friend Shelly! Have a great Thursday!

  3. OK, where do I send the check? I feel like I've been to a concert of a lifetime and have been absolutely entertained. WOW!!!!
    That lovely creature was rocking when I was only 9 or 10 so I missed out on her fabulous talent. When I think of awesome talent especially for females I tend to think of Patsy Cline and she is right there at the top with Patsy.
    Don't know if you have the answer but I sure would like to know the name of the guitar picker with the fancy cowboy outfit. He was awesome as well.
    You have hit a lot of home runs my old buddy but this time you hit it clean out of the park. The king surely has to step aside for the queen. Thanks for blessing us with her wonderful talent.

  4. Hi, Odie! I'm glad you see and hear in Wanda the same things I do. She was the definition of a star. She stirred the pot, owned a song and commanded attention on stage. I don't happen to know who the guitar picker was. You might try reading the comments posted on Wanda's YouTube videos (there are lots of them) and maybe somebody mentioned who it was. I love the looks on the faces of her backing musicians in those old clips because you can tell they knew they were witnessing history in the making. Thank you very much for coming to the Wanda Jackson show this morning, Odie. Have a great day!

  5. Wow, Wow, and Wow again my friend! What a find for us today. I've never heard of Wanda Jackson, and I just can;t believe that she isn't more well known. I was literally bopping away from the very first notes of "Let's Have a Party". She certainly had the same raw voice as Elvis had when he first started out. Well done you on finding her for us. She is absolutely amazing, and what a voice! I fully agree with you, Elvis is the undisputed KING of rock, but Wanda surely is the undisputed QUEEN. I just can't believe with a voice like that, and those songs, that I've never heard of her before. I shall be listening to these songs a few times, you can bet on that! This post, combined with the Elvis one, is one of your very best in my books. (You can see that I'm an old rocker at heart!!).

  6. Hi ShadY!
    Odie sent me over here and I'm sure glad I followed his advice! This is way before my time but I grew up listening to what we now call the Oldies and i love it! Thank you I will be back often!

  7. Thisisme - My goodness, dear friend, I had no idea a post like this would resonate with you to such an extent! I'm delighted! As you know I am often enthused about an artist or a certain type of music and can find few others who relate to it. It's gratifying to find that other readers are getting the same jolt from Wanda that I experienced. As I noted very few of Wanda's records charted at the time but today she's more popular than ever, idolized by millions around the world including Bruce Springsteen. Thank you very much for the sweet comments, dear Thisisme! You made my day and I'm happy to know that I put a bop in yours as well!

    Craziness abounds - Well hello and welcome to Shady Dell Music & Memories! It was very kind of my buddy Odie to plug my Wanda post on his blog today and I very much appreciate your visit. Throughout the year I offer a mixed musical menu here on SDM&M. I also guarantee that you will receive a warm welcome and a personal reply whenever you are nice enough to drop in. Thank you very much for coming to see me, C-a, and please come back again soon!

  8. Melynda - I also want to thank you for choosing to follow my blog and wanted to let you know that I have your book and am enjoying it very much!

  9. Wanda was definitely a powerhouse, and versatile voice!!! I have heard her many times, however, it certainly has been a while! Thanks for sharing her today! :)

  10. Kristina - You often remind me of Wanda Jackson, dear friend. You ooze confidence and that gets you where you wanna go. I'm hoping things are going well for your grandma today. Thank you very much for stopping by, Ms. K, and please say hello to Wyatt for me!

  11. Tom, I applaud you for your choice! Wanda is actually one of my favorite singers right next to Doris Day! I really love all the songs you put on here too. Although I noticed you didn't put, "I Gotta Know" on here it's a fantastic song and quite genius it's half country and half rockabilly! If you haven't heard it(you prob. have) but if you haven't you should definitely take a listen! Anyway, awesome post Tom I thoroughly enjoyed it! :)

  12. Wow, I've never heard of her either!!

    Very interesting Shady, thanks!!
    I only had time to listen to one of those but enjoyed all the info you shared with us!

  13. Hi, Presley! Thank you so much for coming by, my dear friend! You are absolutely right. I should have included "I Gotta Know" because, like "Hot Dog," it's a very clever song that switches back and forth between an uptempo rockin' beat and slow tempo traditional country & western style accompanied by fiddles.

    For the convenience of other readers here's a link to Wanda's performance of "I Gotta Know" on Ranch Party:

    I own Wanda' greatest hits CD collection and love to play it while I exercise. I never get tired of Wanda and "I Gotta Know" is indeed one of my favorite tracks on her CD. I highly recommend the CD because Wanda is backed by some of the top C&W and rockabilly musicians of the period and the production quality is superb. I'm so glad you and I are on the same wavelength about Wanda Jackson, Presley. Thank you again for your visit and kind words and I hope to see you back here real soon!

    Jamie Jo - Hello, my friend! I'm thinking that Odie must have sent you over. Your face is very familiar to me because I seem to see it everywhere I go in blog land. I'm so glad you took a moment to stop by and sample the sounds of Wanda Jackson. If you like good music and great friends this just might be the place for you. Thank you so much for your visit and comment, Jamie Jo, and please join me again soon!

  14. Oh hell yeah! She is so amazing! Seriously cant get enough of her. Have you heard the album she did recently with Jack White? Its just as good as her early stuff. I mean even at her age she still rocks it. I am gonna have to check out the documentary you mentioned. I would love to learn more about her. She definitely rivals the King for sure.

  15. Wowzer, what a gal Wanda was! They don't make figures like that anymore ;) How have I never heard of her/seen her before?! Have a great day over there Shady!

  16. Hi, Amber Blue Bird! This one's on you, baby! I got inspired to do this post because you included "Let's Have a Party" on one of your oldies play lists months ago. That got me interested enough in Wanda to tune into the documentary when it showed up on the schedule. You really need to see that documentary because Bruce Springsteen practically pees his pants with excitement when he gets a chance to attend a Wanda concert! The program is loaded with vintage clips and great stories and yes, I've heard some of her Jack White material, too. Wow, I'm so glad you came over for a look and a listen, dear friend Amber. Thanks so much and I'll be checking out your tracks tomorrow!

    Gawgus - Hello Emma! Wanda Jackson seems to be a best kept secret just about everywhere in the world except Japan, doesn't she? And yes, she had an hourglass figure and wasn't afraid to show it off. I'm glad to be helping the talented lady gain some new fans through this post. Thank you very much for sampling these sounds, dear G-T, and good night to you, Ellie and Alfred in France!

  17. I think Wanda Jackson had a fantastic voice and did sing like Elvis! She does deserve to be Queen. I noticed in her ballad how soft and lovely her voice can be and then how charged with electricity when she is singing rockabilly. It is like hearing two different women. 'Savin My Love' didn't work for me, but I will go to Youtube and hear it.

    Wanda's looks reminded me of Jane Russell. I was surprised when you said she is still singing and I'm going to look her up doing some recent songs also. I am also surprised most people don't know her. Too bad Ed Sullivan didn't have her on his show. Sometimes that is all it took for the country to go wild about a singer.

    Rockabilly isn't my favorite kind of music, but you have taught me this year to open my heart to different styles of music. I really enjoyed listening today, sweet friend.

  18. Belle - And you are my sweet friend! I'm so happy to be expanding your horizons just as you are expanding mine. You gave me heart failure because I thought perhaps YouTube had yanked one of my embedded videos on the very first day. I just tried "Savin' My Love" and it plays just fine for me. I'm glad you appreciate the versatility in Wanda's vocals. She could handle a ballad as well as an un tempo song and traditional country & western as well as rockabilly or rock 'n' roll. She seemed able to make every type of song her own which is the mark of a great talent. I really hope you can find her documentary because it's interesting and inspirational. Thank you very much for coming down for a visit, dear Belle. Have a wonderful evening in B.C.!

  19. Hi, Tom!

    I was expecting to see an article about Little Richard, but you faked me out! I was glad to see that a couple of hits by Wanda Jackson, which both made it to #1 on WSBA prompted you to dig even deeper about a rock'n'roll legend. Until this blog, "Right Or Wrong" and "Let's Have A Party" were my favorites, in that order. But now, "You Don't Know Baby" is my #1 WJ song. I like her up-tempo take-no-names songs, but her contrasting ballads impress my even more, probably because they are such a contrast. She states her case even in a ballad. An excellent blog, buddy. Keep up the good work!

    Your friend,

  20. Hi, Ron! I couldn't agree with you more, good buddy. Others have also pointed out that Wanda makes it work with or without the nasty growl in her voice. Her ballads smolder with understated heat and "You Don't Know Baby" is a perfect example. Thanks so much for coming to the Wanda Jackson block party, Ron, and you're up next with Dueling Doo-Wops #5 next Tuesday! Have a great weekend and I'll see you then!

  21. I just added her to my Pandora, along with Elvis. I reallllly enjoyed reading this :) Thanks for introducing me to another great performer!

  22. Ashton - Yessum, you're very welcome! It is my pleasure to introduce you to great performers. If you reallllly (5 l's...reallllly?) enjoyed Elvis and Wanda Jackson then just wait till you sink your teeth into my 30-part series on Disco Tex and His Sex-O-Lettes! (LOL) It always pleases me when you come for a visit, Ashton. Thank you very much for your encouragement and support and have a wonderful 'Bama weekend!

  23. Great job Tom, I really enjoyed this post. keep up the good work and give us more like this. A Dell Rat All Ways

  24. Hey Greg! Thank you very much for the kind words, good buddy! Please stay close. Dueling Doo-Wops is next followed by a spring filled with surprises that even I can hardly believe! Have a great weekend, Greg!

  25. Well what a nice surprise this was!! Wanda Jackson rocks. I'd never heard of her - my guess is that she was a little before her time. 10 years later and she'd have been Janis Joplin or Grace Slick. Or how about Lydia Pense of Cold Blood? Thanks for this fun post so we could be exposed to this amazing artist.

  26. Hi karen (small "k")! Now you're talkin', Kiddo (capital "K")! Lydia Pense and her Cold Blood band have been favorites of mine since "You Got Me Hummin'" and the awesome B side ballad "If You Will" is my all time favorite by them. How about the beautiful poster worthy artwork on their San Francisco record label?

    Lydia's voice was similar to Janis' but a little more refined. I actually liked Lydia's vocals more. I like to think of Janis as a raging fire and Lydia as a controlled burn. You still got heat but it was easier to take. I'd be interested in your thoughts on the subject. I'm so glad you enjoyed the Wanda show and I wish you a safe and happy weekend, my dear friend lil' k!

  27. Hi Shady, sorry I'm so late. I viewed most of your post on Thursday, but was unable to finish until this morning. I do remember Wanda Jackson and know that she is still around. You got me on this one...actually, I was thinking of Terry Stafford! I believe he was born in OK and his family moved him to Texas. Up until about 15 years ago, I would have bet money that Elvis did 'Suspicion'-I swore he did it. But it was Terry Stafford, so, that was my guess. Wanda Jackson is unique, my father loved her. And, she really put Elvis to the test with 'Hardheaded Woman"! Actually, a fitting song for a woman to sing. Loved her video of it. And, you're right about the female singers of the time. I remember Petula Clark just barely moving during live was like she was afraid to let go! Hooray for go-go girls. They helped to uninhibit us ladies!

    What a presentation! Great photos and videos of Ms. Jackson, and, her voice does belong to her alone! Thank you Shady and have a wonderful spring weekend!

  28. Hello hello hello, dear Susan! You made it over with a couple days to spare and I appreciate your visit. Actually Terry Stafford's "Suspicion" was recorded by Elvis and appeared on one of his albums. Therefore, Terry's sound-alike recording is a cover of the version by Elvis. I'm so glad you recognize Wanda Jackson's greatness. Listening to her voice is one thing but she really "pops" when you see her perform. You're right. Pet Clark and many other female vocalists seem like wooden totem poles when placed next to live wire Wanda. Thank you very much for coming by, dear Susan, and have a wonderful week ahead!

  29. You always amaze me with the detail and information you provide in every wonderful post! I love learning from you xo

  30. Hello, Katie! Thank you very much. I try to inform while entertaining and Wanda's is a very exciting story that deserves to be told. I'm glad you had some fun reading and listening, dear friend, and I wish you a very happy week ahead!

  31. Yes, I'd agree with your assessment of Janis and Lydia's voices. That would maybe partially explain why Lydia is still rockin' and Janis is, sadly, gone. I have a friend in San Leandro (SF area) who organizes a street fair every year in his community. And every year, Lydia comes and performs. So cool!

  32. Hi, special k! Thanks for the update on Lydia. I wasn't aware that she was still rockin'. I'm wondering if you liked some of the other bands that I loved during the late 60s and very early 70s such as the trippy, new age, psychedelic band called It's a Beautiful Day. Their self titled album containing "White Bird," and "Girl With No Eyes" remains a big favorite in my CD collection. Another fave is the psychedelic folk-rock band called Love led by Arthur Lee. A third favorite would be Pearls Before Swine, Tom Rapp's experimental, underground art rock ensemble that debuted with the album One Nation Underground featuring as the cover artwork the Hell Panel detail from H. Bosch's triptych Garden of Earthly Delights:

    Thanks for the follow-up, dear friend karen. You're the best!

  33. Sorry for the confusion - sometimes working and reading blogs simultaneously doesn't work... Not familiar with Arthur Lee or Tom Rapp - although that cover art is amazing! (You'll have to remember I was growing up in Orange County. In the 60s and early 70s. A bit more protected.) But It's a Beautiful Day is one of my all time favorites! I had three of their albums at one time: The self titled one, Marrying Maiden and one with a camel on it - the name escapes me. (My memory is going...) I realize that the band members had changed and there was a lot of turmoil. They never really made any money off of White Bird - what a shame! Anyway YES - they are a huge favorite of mine!

  34. karen - Thanks, dear friend! I'm glad you got my message. It's a Beautiful Day was one of the last acts to play at the Fillmore and I'm sure you know that Pattie Santos, the band's female vocalist, was killed in a car crash just before Christmas in 1989. I am reminded of that fact whenever I hear her sing and it makes me sad; yet the music they produced is so poetic and brings back that era so effectively that I listen to them quite often. Thank you so much for taking time to play tag and reminisce with me, dear friend karen!


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