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Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Wanda Jackson announces retirement from touring

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Wanda Jackson, recipient of the Oklahoma Cultural Treasure Award, does a quick dance move while speaking during the Governor's Arts Awards at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman Archives
Wanda Jackson, recipient of the Oklahoma Cultural Treasure Award, does a quick dance move while speaking during the Governor's Arts Awards at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman Archives

Rock and Roll Hall of Famer and Oklahoma native Wanda Jackson, 81, announced today that she is retiring from touring after more than 60 years on the road. 

"This retirement is solely based on health and safety. It has been a wild ride. Thank you all for all the years of continued fandom and support. This is not the end, just the beginning of a new chapter. Join us as we congratulate the Queen of Rockabilly on over six decades of rip roaring live performances, priceless stories and countless shimmies," reads the announcement made today on her official Facebook page. 


Gina Simpson, Jackson's daughter, confirmed for me that the iconic Oklahoma City singer is retiring after suffering a series of health difficulties since last summer. 

"She's been touring since she was 16, and to be doing it into your 80s in this business is crazy. It's a hard life. People don't realize what a hard life it is," Simpson said. "She has been blessed to be able to do this for as long as she has."

Simpson said her mother particularly hated to cancel two scheduled shows, but Jackson will not be making her planned appearances at the Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend and the Nashville Boogie Vintage Weekender

"In true rockabilly spirit, please still go out to these shows and keep the spirit of rockabilly alive," reads the Facebook post. 


A Maud native, Jackson launched her musical career while still a student at Capitol Hill High School in Oklahoma City, when country musician Hank Thompson heard her singing on a local radio station. When "You Can't Have My Love,” her 1954 duet with Thompson's bandleader, Billy Gray, cracked the top 10 on the country charts, Jackson hoped his label, Capitol Records, would sign her. But she was told there that “Girls don’t sell records.” Undeterred, she signed with Decca Records instead.

“My folks would tell me that when I was about 6 and people would ask me, ‘What are you gonna be when you grow up?’ I always said, ‘a girl singer.’ And so that’s been my goal, and I was able to obtain it as a young girl, teenager, and still I’m just passionate about it,” Jackson told me in a 2018 interview.

After high school, with her father managing her, she started touring, playing package shows with Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis Presley, who gave Wanda his ring and asked her to be "his girl." With the future King's encouragement, the Oklahoma native began applying her uniquely growling voice to an early style of rock ‘n’ roll called rockabilly. She became the first women to ever record rock ‘n’ roll with her 1958 single “Let’s Have a Party,” and she performed in glamorous fringed outfits her mother designed.

“I didn’t know I was setting a trend or blazing a trail at the time, so it’s very nice to have these young singers come up to me and say, ‘If I hadn’t heard your song, I probably wouldn’t be a singer today,” Jackson said last year. “Cyndi Lauper, it was so sweet, when she met me she took a hold of my hand and kissed it and then she looked at me and tears were running down her face. I said,’ What’s wrong, honey? What’s wrong?’ She said, ‘Oh, I’m just so happy to … get to meet you because you have helped all the girls in this business so much.’ So, it’s always a very nice thing for someone to appreciate what you’ve done.” 

With the help of her daughter, as well as her granddaughter, Jordan Simpson, Jackson was able to start performing again after her husband, Wendell Goodman, who managed her career for 55 years, died in 2017. The singer released her autobiography "Every Night Is Saturday Night: A Country Girl’s Journey to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame,” penned with Scott B. Bomar, in 2017.

Along with receiving the National Endowment for the Arts’ National Heritage Fellowship Award in 2005 and membership in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009, Jackson has received numerous honors from her home state: her 2000 induction into the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame and 2014 entrance into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame, the dedication of streets named after her in Maud and OKC, and in 2018, her designation as an Oklahoma Cultural Treasure.

"She's good about it," Gina Simpson said of her mother's retirement. "None of us like it, but it is what it is."

She said the focus will shift toward helping her mother regain her health. 

"It's been tough but she is strong," Simpson said. 

-BAM 





Related Photos
Wanda Jackson, recipient of the Oklahoma Cultural Treasure Award, does a quick dance move while speaking during the Governor's Arts Awards at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman Archives

Wanda Jackson, recipient of the Oklahoma Cultural Treasure Award, does a quick dance move while speaking during the Governor's Arts Awards at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman Archives

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-449c774be16d733f5c456f33fe35a1a8.jpg" alt="Photo - Wanda Jackson, recipient of the Oklahoma Cultural Treasure Award, does a quick dance move while speaking during the Governor's Arts Awards at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman Archives" title="Wanda Jackson, recipient of the Oklahoma Cultural Treasure Award, does a quick dance move while speaking during the Governor's Arts Awards at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman Archives"><figcaption>Wanda Jackson, recipient of the Oklahoma Cultural Treasure Award, does a quick dance move while speaking during the Governor's Arts Awards at the state Capitol in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018. Photo by Nate Billings, The Oklahoman Archives</figcaption></figure>
Brandy McDonnell

Brandy McDonnell, also known by her initials BAM, writes stories and reviews on movies, music, the arts and other aspects of entertainment. She is NewsOK’s top blogger: Her 4-year-old entertainment news blog, BAM’s Blog, has notched more than 1... Read more ›

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