In 1956, Wanda Jackson, rock-and-roll's first serious female practitioner, recorded "Let's Have a Party," one of the hottest rockabilly tunes ever committed to vinyl. "I never kissed a bear/I never kissed a goon/But I can shake a chicken in the middle of the room/Let's have a party/Whoo!"
Now, what do those lyrics mean, you might ask? I haven't the foggiest. But this is rockabilly, so it's not about literature, it's about getting "with it," and in the mid-1950s nobody was more with it than Jackson. She could whine a good old country tune like a honky-tonk angel (she was discovered by Hank Thompson, after all) or she could turn around and belt out rock-and-roll like she was one of the greasy guys. While touring together, an aspiring young singer named Elvis Presley advised Wanda to drop the hillbilly act (for a little while, anyway) and get real, real gone. The impressionable teenager may have taken Presley's advice a little too seriously. Recording first for Decca and later for Capitol, Jackson was nothing like the sweet girl singers of the day. She was not just sexy, she was frankly sexual, and her recordings, aided by hot guitar picking by the likes of Buck Owens and Joe Maphis, were music steamed with overt naughtiness.
Her record labels couldn't quite figure out what to do with their little spitfire, and after a few hits Jackson all but vanished from the American recording scene, though she remained wildly popular throughout Europe and Asia. Her signature song, "Fuijiyama Mama," became a huge hit in Japan in spite of (or, more likely, because of) the opening lyrics: "I've been to Nagasaki/Hiroshima too/The things I did to them, baby/I can do to you."
Jackson's most recent recording, Heart Trouble, includes appearances by such Jackson fans as Elvis Costello, Dave Alvin, and the Cramps. It showcases Jackson, the first lady of rockabilly, at her howling and growling best. If you miss Wanda Jackson when she plays the Hi-Tone CafÇ on Friday, April 2nd, you don't deserve to have your chicken shaken, and that's all there is to it.-- Chris Davis
Athens, Georgia, rock duo Jucifer play heavy, scuzzy rock that often carries a dreamy undercurrent, but if that grunge-meets-shoegazer description sounds oh-so-'90s, it both dates the birth of the band and flies in the face of their increasing popularity, as these longtime road warriors have become college-radio stars. The band plays Memphis pretty frequently and will be back in town Saturday, April 3rd, touring behind their solid new EP, War Birds. They'll be paired with locals The Lost Sounds, and that's who I'm most excited by. Newly signed to relatively high-profile indie In the Red, the Lost Sounds could be ready for a boost in name recognition when they release their debut for the label later this year. This prolific outfit just keeps getting better, lacing their noisy assaults with a nuance and passion that few of their more generic garage-rockin' scene (and now label) cohorts can match. They followed only the Reigning Sound as the best Memphis performance I saw at SXSW last month, and they should be even better back at the friendly confines of Young Avenue Deli. Hopefully, Jucifer can keep up. --Chris Herrington