We got to talking about people we’d like to meet, or would have liked to have met. Abraham Lincoln came up quickly. Someone mentioned Babe Ruth. A golfer in the group wanted to play a round with Tiger Woods. The aviation nut among us chose Charles Lindbergh. Several agreed on John F. Kennedy.
It is an interesting proposition and I imagine we have all rolled it around in our heads at one time or another. Everyone is touched or influenced by someone famous. The notion of getting to “know them up close and personal” is a pleasurable and thought provoking idea.
The group finally turned to me, “Kes, you haven’t picked anyone.”
I pondered a brief second and replied emphatically, “Wanda Jackson!”
She was a rockabilly/country singer who blasted onto the music scene in the 1950’s. I believe she was from Oklahoma, maybe North Texas. She’d come on ABC-TV’s Ozark Jubilee and say, “Hi, I’m Wander (country for Wanda) Jackson” and she’d cut down on “Hard Headed Woman”.
She could rock the place…..before anyone knew women were supposed to do things like that! As a child she saw Spade Cooley perform. I know you all remember Spade; he was a great singer and western movie star whose career ended abruptly when he was sent off to prison for killing his second wife.
“Wander” was discovered by county music legend Hank Thompson and sang with his Brazos Valley Boys. She dated Elvis. Buck Owens, Big Al Downing and Roy Clark were a few of the (then) unknown musicians who played behind her.
She wrote and performed two of my all time favorite songs, “Right or Wrong” and “In the Middle of a Heartache.” She had that little edge in her voice.....like she was on the cusp of no good and she was enjoying it. Wanda was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009. I can’t for the life of me understand why it took so long!
She wore those fringed outfits like she was the queen of Sheba. She played a pretty mean guitar. She traveled the world over. Recorded songs in German for goodness sakes! Had a number one hit in Japan. She knew every entertainer of note during a career that spanned seven decades.
It’s easy to see why she’s someone worth meeting. I’d love to sit down with her and ask about Spade and Elvis. And the Ozark Jubilee and touring with Hank Thompson. What did she think of a young Buck Owens? Was she Right or Wrong? And how exactly do you get into the Middle of a Heartache…..
I would love to thank her for aiding and abetting my childhood.
And while we’re on country music, it would have also been a real hoot to have met Roger Miller. Backstage at the Opry one night Roger had his ear stuck to the wall. He motioned a friend over and asked him to do likewise. This friend did as requested and after several minutes of acute listening, turned to Roger and said, “I don’t hear a thing.”
Roger Miller grimaced and replied, “I know, it’s been like that all day.”
No wonder he wrote songs like, “You Can’t Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd”,
“(I wish I had your happiness and you had a) Do-Wacka-Do” and “Kansas City Star (that’s what I are).”
Times were hard for Miller in his early Nashville days trying to “make it” in the country music world. He ended up, broke and hungry, on the doorsteps of Darrell McCall, a friend who had toured with him in Faron Young’s band.
Roger stayed with McCall for a while, recorded an album on the Smash label and split for California, leaving his 1956 Thunderbird in McCall’s driveway. That last desperate album contained two songs, “Dang Me” and “Chug-A-Lug”, which ended up number 1 and 3 respectively on the country music charts. Roger Miller’s hungry days were over forever. Within a year he became, “King of the Road.”
But his old car was still parked in McCall’s front yard. Darrell called up his buddy, “Roger, your Thunderbird is in my way. What do you want me to do with it?”
Roger thought for a split second and said, “Let the air out of the tires. That way it won’t take up so much space.”
NOW, you tell me, had you rather embarrass yourself on an overpriced golf course in front of Tiger Woods……or spend an afternoon laughing your head off with Roger Miller!