Roots of Rock Welcomes Legend Wanda Jackson

Wandajackson2_2Post by guest author Rebecca Agiewich.

Are you ready to rock? The Roots of Rock workshop starts in less than two weeks. The gathering will not only give you the chance to learn from master musicians, but to meet (and play with!) rock legend Wanda Jackson (aka “The First Lady of Rock” and the “Rockabilly Filly.”)

Grammy-nominated Jackson, who has been inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame and the Oklahoma Country Music Hall of Fame (among other honors), will be on hand to share wisdom from her storied 50+ years in the rock business.

Jackson got her start playing guitar and singing country music as teenager in the 50s, and– after encouragement from her friend Elvis Presley–turned her hand to rock. With hits like “Fujiyama Mama” (which made her a sensation in Japan) and a cover of Elvis Presley’s “Let’s Have a Party, ”which became a top 40 hit in the 60s, Jackson made an indelible mark on the music world at a time when women were supposed to be keeping house and having babies.

WandajacksonBut she did a lot more than that, according to Daryl Davis, who is running the Roots of Rock workshop. Jackson had a black piano player in her band—Big Al Downing—at a time when rock music was just starting to break down the racial divide between black and white people, but when bands still weren’t integrated, says Davis.

Because of that, that there were places her band couldn’t play if she brought her piano player. But, says Davis, Jackson refused to play without him. “I really, really admire her for that,” says Davis, a Grammy-winning piano player and an author who has written about race relations in his book Klan-Destine Relationships.

“She was a big contributor to integrating musical groups. She integrated her band; she didn’t care what color they were; she didn’t care about someone’s political leanings – she just put her band together according to what she liked. And this was at a time when women did not have a voice in things. It really took a lot of courage for her to do what she did.” 

As a Roots of Rock participants, you’ll learn about these kinds of social, cultural, issues as they relate to the birth of rock. You will also, of course, learn to play it, with tracks for guitar (taught by Keith Grimes), piano (taught by Davis), and bass (taught by Eduardo "Cha Cha Mundo" Garcia-Maynez).. Stay tuned over the next few days as we post more blog entries about the upcoming workshop and about Daryl, Wanda, and the other teachers! 

Meanwhile, to see Wanda in action, check out this recent video of her singing Fujiyama Mama

or this oldie but goodie of Let’s Have a Party.

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