Wanda Jackson headlined the Cowhide Cole Rockabilly Revue 25th Anniversary with openers Cowhide Cole, the Panther City Ramblers, and Gene Summers.
Rockabilly isn’t the largest genre around, but it’s fans are passionate about the music. It preceded rock n’ roll and was an instant hit, especially with a young Elvis Presley leading the way.
The faithful crowd at the Texas Theater were in the mood for a good show as it was the annual Rockabilly Revue. The eclectic audience got everything they expected and more.
On a beautiful Saturday night when the temperature began to drop, the concert-goers enjoyed sitting outside until the music started. Once inside the venue, the evening’s host, Cowhide Cole of KNON radio, kicked off the entertainment. He and his band delivered an eight-song set to start the night of Americana music.
The Panther City Ramblers came out next for seven songs that went by quickly. The dancers twirled beside the stage to Merle Haggard, Johnny Walker, and the classic “Rock And Roll Ruby” written by Johnny Cash and recorded by Warren Smith.
After a quick stage change, Duncanville, Texas-native Gene Summers began his ten-song set. The Rockabilly Hall of Famer shared wonderful stories and told how each song came to fruition.
Gene played his hits, such as “Rockin’ Daddy (from Ding Dong Tennessee),” “Rock And Roll Mama,” “Alabama Shake,” and “Straight Skirt.” He continued to thrill the audience with “Johnny Yuma,” “Turnip Greens,” and “Big Blue Diamond.” Summers finished his time onstage with the classic hit “School Of Rock And Roll” as he basked in the standing ovation he so richly deserved.
It was now time for the legend everyone came to see. With a little help from her son, 78-year-old Wanda Jackson came out to a standing ovation as most members of the audience had seen her before and knew what to expect. Ms. Jackson had undergone three knee surgeries in the previous few months and had to sit on a stool, but that didn’t slow down the eternally young Rock and Roll Hall of Famer.
Wanda still had the voice that made her a star as she showed on “Riot.” She spoke to the crowd, as she did all night between songs, and was appreciative of the support from her fans. She gave back the love when she sang the hit “Rock Your Baby.”
The dancers came out for “I Gotta Know,” her crossover song from country to rock. She talked of how she toured with Adele, who wrote and sang the hit song “Rolling In The Deep” after being influenced by Wanda’s beautiful song “Funnel Of Love.”
Ms. Jackson then went back to her country roots for “My Big Iron Skillet.” In a crowd-pleasing moment, she also showed she still has her yodeling skills during “I Betcha My Heart I Love You.”
Following a great story about touring with Elvis, who convinced her to switch from country to rock, she performed “Heartbreak Hotel” in his honor. A terrific keyboard solo accompanied her booming voice as she belted out her tribute to The King.
From her album with Jack White, The Party Ain’t Over, she sang “Shakin’ All Over.” She even gave the crowd a shoulder shimmy for the adoring crowd while still seated. Jack convinced her to sing the next song on the album and it turned out to be her favorite song. She let out the deep growl on “You Know I’m No Good” by Amy Winehouse.
The crowd then roared as they had waited for her No. 1 hit, “Fujiyama Mama,” which she said was a bigger hit in Japan than it was in the US. That was followed by the beautiful ballad “Right Or Wrong (I’ll Be With You).”
Wanda said she must have dated someone when she wrote her first rock song, “Mean Mean Man.” “I Saw The Light” was a touching Gospel song, especially after hearing how her heart was touched and she was allowed to minister all over the world after meeting a new minister in 1971.
Ms. Jackson finished with a rocker, though, as she covered Elvis Presley’s “Let’s Have A Party.” She dug deep and screamed it out to cheers. She kept rocking on the stool until it was over and she left to another standing ovation.
The time flew by as the upbeat music kept the fans charged up. The audience heard several No. 1 hits and classic songs from yesteryear, and they have stood the test of time.
The crowd was a mixture of young and old, and country and rockabilly lovers. There were fans who heard the music when it first came out, but the number of new fans was surprising. The genre, and Wanda in particular, had three generations of fans and every one was adoring, vocal, and supportive.
Special thanks to Dave, Dave, and Charlie of Texas Theater and KNON.
Joe Guzman was on hand to record the event for National Rock Review.