Wanda to reign at Bluesfest

GRASSROOTS: Wanda Jackson, who exemplifies the “roots” element of the festival, is performing at Bluesfest this year.
GRASSROOTS: Wanda Jackson, who exemplifies the “roots” element of the festival, is performing at Bluesfest this year. Contributed

SHE was making music - and dating Elvis - long before most of the Bluesfest audience was born.

Now 75, Wanda Jackson is still belting out tunes to an ever-expanding, younger group of fans.

To this day, Wanda credits Elvis with bringing her across from country into "the new music" of the time - a transition which led to her being crowned the Queen of Rockabilly, or First Lady of Rock 'n' Roll.

She also picked up some stage tricks from the King - including flirting with the audience and generally having fun - things to make sure everyone has a good time.

In the past half-dozen years her career has been revived by hip young musicians wanting to acknowledge her legacy, taking her into the studio and recording a couple of classic albums.

First off was Jack White, whose production style left her a little bewildered but brought out fresh aspects in her performances.

In her version of Bob Dylan's Thunder on the Mountain she replaces Bob's lascivious lines about Alicia Keys with her own about Jerry Lee Lewis.

Justin Townes Zandt, who is playing Byron on February 17, came next, and his more laidback approach allowed Wanda to play to her strengths. As a result we get memorable renditions of old favourites such as All Over Now and Woody Guthrie's California Stars.

Wanda is appearing at Bluesfest this year and it is difficult to think of another artist who so exemplifies the "roots" element of the festival.

Folk, blues and country were her birthright and a very raunchy rockabilly her later path.

She's performed with all the giants - not only Elvis but Jerry Lee, Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton.

Her Bluesfest appearance should be a Wandaful show.

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