Sunday, October 16, 2005

Wanda Jackson has been recording for 51 years, touring for 50, been married to her manager Wendell for 44, and, on Oct. 20, will turn 68. But the diminutive queen of rockabilly is showing few signs of slowing down, as her 70-minute set last night at the Cadillac Lounge indicated.
Following a Grade A set by The Rizdales -- which featured covers of Johnny Cash's Jackson and Daddy Sang Bass mixed in with the group's solid mix of traditional country and rockabilly tunes -- a large screen came down in front of the stage for a 15-minute video tribute to the woman who shamefully still hasn't been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Jackson hit the stage at 11:30, with The Rizdales acting as her backing band, and launched into Carl Perkins' Rockabilly Fever. That was the first song of many from her most recent album, Heart Trouble, which I was fine with since it was one of my favourite records of 2003. Other songs from the disc included the title track, Mean Mean Man, Funnel Of Love, Riot In Cellblock #9 and the Louvin Brothers' Cash On The Barrelhead.
The set list really wasn't that much different from when I saw Jackson at the same club in May, as she also treated the crowd to favourites like I Gotta Know, Hot Dog! That Made Him Mad, Fujiyama Mama and a cover of One Night, which her former beau Elvis Presley had a hit with in 1959.
I can't figure out why Jackson didn't bring her own guitar, but she borrowed one from local singer/musician Steve Good and sat down to play Happy, Happy Birthday Baby -- which was quite appropriate since it just happened to be Good's birthday. With Jackson's birthday coming up on Thursday, club owner Sam Grosso came on stage mid-set to present her with a cake.
Jackson and her husband were both born again in 1971 and, after taking a few moments to talk about it, she expressed her faith with a rendition of Hank Williams' rousing gospel classic, I Saw The Light.
Jackson then closed the set with what may be her best-known song, Let's Have A Party, which got the sold-out bar even more in a festive mood as it urged the Oklahoma City resident to return for an encore consisting of a medley of Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On and Rip It Up before reprising Let's Have A Party to end the performance.
The narrow confines of the Cadillac Lounge present major obstacles when it comes to seeing the stage, and that problem is exacerbated when you have an artist like Jackson who probably isn't even five feet tall. But that's about the only quibble I can come up with. Jackson's voice may not have quite the ferocity it once did, but she still gives it her all when she's not charming the audience with her between-song banter. And this woman has a lot of stories to tell.
The diverse crowd enjoyed the gig and two of my friends brought their parents along for the night, which made it even more special for them.
After the show, Jackson moved to the back of the club and sat there for more than an hour talking to fans, signing autographs and posing for photos. She told me that her forthcoming album of Presley songs had been delayed, but she's hoping to have it in stores in January. And she says that she'll be touring behind it and hopes to come back to Toronto again in six months.
If Elvis Costello, The Cramps, Dave Alvin, Rosie Flores, Lee Rocker and many other connoisseurs can be Wanda Jackson fans, you should be too.

np Zumpano - The Moment Business

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