She dated Elvis – then made him look tame with her growling, high-energy rock’n’roll. And at 83 years old, she still can’t quite embrace retirement
In 2019, Wanda Jackson announced her retirement from performing. She had been on the road for 65 years, during which time she had variously been a country star, a rock’n’roll pioneer, a gospel singer and a grande dame hailed as either the Queen of Rockabilly, or its First Lady. It was a career that had taken her from touring with Elvis Presley just as his career took off to collaborating with Jack White, but she was ready to stop travelling: she had suffered a stroke, “problems with my knees and such”, and Wendell Goodman, her husband and manager of 55 years, had died in 2017. She was, she says, “glad of the rest”.
And yet, here we are, two and a half years on. Jackson is peering out of my laptop screen from her home in Oklahoma: 83, sharp as a tack, fully madeup, elaborately coiffured and brushing aside queries about what happened to her retirement with a chuckle of “it’s hard to get a good girl down”.