You can now enjoy the complete run of pics taken during one of the earliest Wanda Jackson recording sessions held at the famous Capitol Tower, located at 1750 North Vine Street in Hollywood ; these photos were taken either on June 8, 1956 (the 'I Gotta Know' session) or
on September 20, 1956 ('Baby Loves Him' - I would favor that second date).
Wanda seems totally at ease in the studio. One can clearly catch sight of both Joe Maphis and Buck Owens on guitars ; also visible is drummer Pee Wee Adams.
These precious photos were initially published in the January 1957 issue of that much missed US music mag, 'Country & Western Jamboree'.
Those two studio sessions
were the only ones that Wanda cut during 1956 and they clearly illustrate
her transition from hillbilly singer to rockabilly artist. The Decca years
had produced quality country sides, so producer Ken Nelson took few risks
at the June session ; three country songs were canned : 'Step By Step' (first
issued in France in 1975), 'Half As Good A Girl' (b-side to her first Capitol
single) and 'Cryin' Thru' The Night'. However, Thelma Blackmon's 'I Gotta
Know' was chosen as the top deck of her first purple label record ; the construction
of the song itself shifted constantly from a hillbilly melody to a fast-paced
rockabilly passage, bit like Arlie Duff's then recently released 'Alligator
Come Across' on Decca. Wanda delivered the goods effortlessly. Ably supported
by a stellar cast of country sidemen who had already tried their hand at the
new rockin' music - notably Joe Maphis whose sound
& style cannot be missed -, the result was more than satisfactory.
The September session was even better ; this time, there was no doubt that Wanda had chosen to follow the rockabilly route. Only one country song was cut, the super fine 'Silver Threads & Golden Needles' which later became a minor standard (check out The Everly Bros' version on their WB album from1963, 'Sing Great Country Hits') ; the other three recordings were top-rate slices of rockabilly : 'Baby Loves Him' (Jackson's own composition-see picture at left), the Gene Vincent-flavored 'Honey Bop' and 'Hot Dog! That Made Him Mad'. Don't know if the late Joe Maphis had his carpet slippers on that day but he did produce some of his best soli - especially the growling sound in 'Baby Loves Him'. Joe did not back up Wanda Jackson again on record but he definitely left his mark on these early rockabilly recordings. The lead guitar spot was filled by Buck Owens and then Vernon Sandusky until Roy Clark came along with his lightnin' fingers.
As for Wanda's voice, it had begun to show much promise - which would eventually bloom at an April 1958 session at the Capitol Tower when she cut the classic 'Let's Have A Party'.
© PAUL VIDAL * Privas, France * January/February 2002