If anyone at the Hamilton had any reservations about how much petrol the legendary Wanda Jackson had left in the tank, those fears quickly went out the window with the first bluesy notes of her opening song, “Riot in Cell Block No. 9.” The diminutive 75-year-old “queen of rockabilly” with the honey-and-whisky-tinged growl sang about “serving time for armed robbery,” and it was easy to believe that’s exactly where she was during the titular jail fight. The rocking tune kicked off an raucous set of music that started great and somehow kept getting better.
She kept it rolling with “Rock Your Baby,” a hit from 1958, which Jackson told the enthusiastic crowd would be the start of a “musical journey through 58 years” of her career. The journey continued with 1956’s “I Gotta Know,” her second hit (after 1954’s “You Can’t Have My Love”) which reached #15 on the country charts. Her backing band, The In-Laws (more on them in a bit) performed the alternately rockabilly/honkytonk song brilliantly, as Jackson snapped her fingers through the frequent tempo changes. Jackson shrugged off the “rockabilly” label, however, noting that “they called it rockabilly - we just called it rock and roll.”
Proof of how far-reaching Jackson’s fanbase is was evident in her fourth song, the 1961 hit “Funnel of Love.” Jackson re-recorded the song in 2003 when she was joined by The Cramps, and the tune has been covered by the Meat Puppets, The Fall, and Mike Ness of Social Distortion. Jackson, however, proved that no one does it better than her.