Rockabilly queen Wanda Jackson sang her ever-lovin’ heart out at Toronto’s Cadillac Lounge, for two nights of high-energy partying, Fri. & Sat. Oct. 14 & 15, 2005. This writer saw the latter of these two amazing performances, and it’s a memory that will be cherished as long as I’m around.
Wanda Jackson was the first female singer to record rock ‘n’ roll, back in 1956 -- and for a while back then, was Elvis Presley’s girlfriend. In ’61 she recorded her best-loved hit "Let’s Have a Party", that’s on her album Rockin’ With Wanda. It had previously been recorded on the soundtrack album for the 1957 Elvis movie, Lovin’ You.
The Cadillac Lounge where Wanda performed this night, is known for its top quality name bands who’ve graced its illustrious stage over the decades, including Robert Gordon, Rompin’ Ronnie Hawkins, Jack de Keyzer, Paul James, Buzz Thompson, The Weber Brothers (Ronnie Hawkins' current backup band The Hawks), and Cadillac Bill & The Creeping Bent. They've also recently featured 1950s RCA recording artist and rockabilly singing sensation Janis Martin, who since the '50s is billed as 'The Female Elvis': http://www.rockabillyhall.com/JanisMartin.html
This night with Wanda Jackson was definitely very special, and there was an unmistakable electric spark permeating the upbeat audience and band alike. Some of Wanda’s fans pressed close to the stage, while others found nooks and crannies to dance to her intoxicating rockabilly warblings and country/blues standards she made famous.
Wanda’s outstanding backup band The Rizdales, fit her to a ‘T’, and played an inspiring set of their own original tunes prior to her performance. So did some of their band members in the opening act Atomic 7, in this 3-band highly entertaining evening of rockabilly, rock ‘n’ roll and country/blues.
The Rizdales, (from London, Ontario), also opened for Wanda in her May 2005 concert at the Cadillac Lounge. There’s a real 1960 Cadillac with fins, perched above the marquee outside -- evoking the image, atmosphere and music found inside this very cool Queen St. W. hotspot.
Wanda held her fans in the palm of her hand, while delighting them with several of her major hits, including the gospel standard "I Saw The Light", and rebel-rousers like "Rip It Up", "Fuji Yama Mama" and "Mean, Mean Woman". Her effortless and tantalizing vocals captivated this packed house -- with all eyes and ears ‘glued’ to Wanda’s every lyric and vocal nuance.
The Rizdales’ inspired rhythms and background vocals helped Wanda shine through in the best way possible. Towards the end of her concert, she sang a hand-clapping version of "I Saw The Light", which led into "Let’s Have A Party" -- which this exuberant audience were definitely doing!
At this point in the proceedings, Wanda’s extremely enjoyable concert seemed to be over, but her fans clamored for more of her vocal ‘magic’. She happily obliged with a rousing encore medley of Jerry Lee Lewis’ "Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On" and Little Richard’s rousing "Rip It Up", that led into more of "Let’s Have A Party".
Wanda’s fans showed their undying appreciation with tumultuous applause, after this finale to an incredible evening’s entertainment; and Wanda graciously accepted their unrestrained and highly deserved accolades. She then introduced The Rizdales, who also received this same energetic response from the Cadillac Lounge crowd.
Wanda signed autographs after the show, in the Cadillac Lounge’s large outdoor patio area (the 'Caddy Paddy') at the back of the club. While her fans waited in line to meet their musical hero, their excitement at being there was quite evident. Some of them bought Wanda Jackson CD’s which she happily autographed for them. Many others just wanted to have their picture taken with this living legend of rockabilly.
This writer asked Wanda if she’d ever played on a bill with another living legend, rockabilly great Ronnie Hawkins? Her answer was, "No ... but I’m sure our paths crossed from time to time over the years."
There’s a campaign presently underway to have Wanda Jackson inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall Of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. Wanda’s one of the original rockabilly and rock ‘n’ roll music pioneers and innovators from the ‘50s. Her nomination and induction into this prestigious group of talented artists, seems as natural as ‘Campbells’ and ‘tomato soup’ being a pop culture music icon herself. Wanda’s a significant contributor to the roots of rock ‘n’ roll, that the present day music scene as we know it, owes its existence to!
All in all, this night out at the Cadillac Lounge, was an incredible evening of the highest quality rockabilly and raw country/blues this writer has attended in many a ‘blue moon’ performed by one of its earliest and best-loved entertainers, Wanda Jackson -- who’s still goin’ strong! As such, this memory of Wanda’s concert and meeting her afterwards, will be a cherished one for this writer, as it will I’m sure for her many fans who attended this delightful Wanda Jackson concert at Toronto’s (and possibly Canada's) finest rockabilly and country music night club -- the Cadillac Lounge!
Wanda Jackson Official Website: http://www.wandajackson.com/
The Rizdales website: http://www.rizdales.com/
Cadillac Lounge website: http://www.cadillaclounge.com/
Cadillac Lounge location:
1296 Queen St. W.
open 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.