The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame + Museum

Interview with 2009 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee Wanda Jackson

Thursday, August 16: 11:30 a.m.
Posted by Rock Hall
Wanda Jackson talks about her conversations with Elvis Presley

In February 2009, a who's who from the world of rock and roll convened in Clear Lake, Iowa, for the Fifty Winters Later series of events honoring the anniversary of the tragic deaths of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper, whose plane crashed in Clear Lake on February 3, 1959. As part of the weeklong celebration of those pioneering rockers, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum's education department led a number of interviews and panel discussions, featuring the likes of Maria Elena Holly, Graham Nash, Sir Tim Rice, Geezer Butler, the Crickets and more. 

On February 2, Rock Hall VP of education and public programs Lauren Onkey interviewed Wanda Jackson in Clear Lake as part of the Rock Hall's Hall of Fame Series. "I was just doing straight country, and that's all I had ever planned on doing," explained Jackson of her early days performing. "[Elvis] started talking to me about his kind of music – we didn't really have a name for it at that point. I said look, I love it of course, but you're a guy, you can sing it, and I just don't think I can do it. He just kept insisting that I could do it – he said, 'you got the voice.' He took me out to his home in Memphis, and we played records that afternoon. 

"He made me promise that somewhere along the way that I would try this kind of music," recalled Jackson. "So, I promised him, and in 1956, I went from Decca Records to Capitol [Records], and I thought well this might be a good time if I'm going to try this, because it was really big music by then. A friend of mine wrote a special song for me. It had a little country in it and rockabilly. It was called "I Gotta Know," so that was a good transition song for me."

In this clip, Wanda Jackson, who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009, shares more about her moment as a teenage girl, listening to music with Elvis Presley in a bedroom.

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