At 73, Wanda Jackson has amassed a body of work that spans more than five decades. But it's this year's incendiary Jack White– produced record, The Party Ain't Over, that has given the first lady of rockabilly a fresh act in front of a new audience. Before playing Neumos on Friday, Jackson took a few minutes to talk about the Gospel, the party, and why she thinks her new fans are in need of a hero.
Wanda Jackson With Red Meat, The Billy Joe Show. Neumos, 925 E. Pike St., 709-9442, neumos.com. $20 adv. 21 and over. 8 p.m. doors, Fri., May 6.
Whose idea was it to do "Dust on the Bible"?
That was his (Jack White). Everyone assumes that was mine. I was rather shocked, you know. I think that he wanted to show all the different facets of my recording career, almost like a showcase album. You find country, and of course rock and roll, then the gospel.
Do you play your overtly Christian songs or gospel songs to secular audiences?
Uh-huh. I'm currently doing "I Saw the Light," something that the younger audience, most everybody knows that song. I give a testimony, and then I go into that song. And it's always very well-received. So that delights me.
Are you hoping you convert your audience?
I don't belabor the point, I just tell them in a few words about what's happened to me and the wonderful difference that Christ has made in my life.
Did you and Jack White talk about God much while you were in the studio making "Dust on the Bible"?
Not then. But we've talked, just in conversation, about the Lord. My husband was in the hospital recently for about four days—I'd get e-mails from [White] saying that he was praying for Wendell.
Two of your favorite topics, judging from your discography, appear to be having a party and praising the Lord. Has it been difficult to balance the two through the years?
I haven't found it difficult. I know that I'm doing God's will for my life right now. I just don't worry about mixing the two or anything. This is where he's got me at the moment. And I'm there for some reason. I'll probably never understand it.
But I do know that one time on a secular stage telling people what Christ's done for me is better than a year traveling around singing in little churches. It'll reach more ears that way. That's why I feel that I'm doing exactly what God would have me to do right now. It may change tomorrow. Whatever direction he turns me in, that's the way I want to go. It makes life so much easier. He opens the doors for you and he prepares the way when you're trying to stay in his will.
As you've performed for the younger record-buying public, as you say, have you learned anything about them?
I feel like they're needing a hero. They have latched onto me so willingly, I guess, and just hang on everything that I say from the stage. I think even Jack mentioned it. He said, "I've never seen this age of audiences be so quiet and listen to your talking." He said, "They just don't do that. They don't want talking, they want music."