The Wanda Jackson Connection

Following on from previous entries into Bear Family Records‘ Connection series, including Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison and Gene Vincent, the German label has opted to focus its latest entry on “the queen of Rockabilly” Wanda Jackson. This compilation features thirty Jackson-associated tracks, recorded before and after the fact. Is the thirty-track collection, The Wanda Jackson Connection, worth picking up?

From what inspired Wanda to record tracks, to hearing people taking heavy inspiration from her, these albums are always a wild ride. It is fair to say that aside from a couple of tracks, the general public may not be as familiar with Wanda’s vast catalogue of recordings. When listening to this album, I certainly had trouble thinking of Wanda when I heard Brenda Lee sing Kansas City, Jenny Luna perform Stupid Cupid or even Chuck Berry lay down his original version of Brown Eyed Handsome Man.

I have no such trouble with Wanda’s mega-hit, Let’s Have A Party, which features heavily on this compilation. Initially written by Jessie Mae Robinson for Elvis Presley, Wanda’s reading seems more heavily inspired by The Collins Kids’ (Great harmonies) interpretation of the track. The other versions featured here, including Rikki Henderson, Bix Bryant and The Raiders take the formula and shake things up. Henderson, for example, approaches the energetic number like a (sort of) American crooner backed by a swing orchestra. The Ladybirds’ renamed version, entitled Man, We Had A Party, shows the adaptability of the composition. All that being said after hearing all these versions, I think I prefer Wanda’s interpretation.

It is debatable whether I feel the same about her take on Fujiyama Mama. When I heard her version for the first time during a recent review of a Wanda-themed vinyl release, I was taken by the boppy arrangement and her ability as a vocalist. While some of this still holds true, there is no doubt that Annisteen Allen’s powerfully soulful and funky original laid the foundations for Eileen Barton and then Wanda’s reading of the track.

I appreciate the nice mix of known and obscure artists contained here. There’s a nice pre-Alvin Stardust Shane Fenton & The Fentones recording of Sparkling Brown Eyes, rocking through the less-than-ideal quality. A few of these recordings appear for the first time, including Bix Bryant, Betty McQuade, and Shirley Jean Wiley. Also included are big-name artists including Ray Campi, Brenda Lee, Skeeter Davis, Fabian, Connie Francis, Chuck Berry, Bobby Bare, and Roy Orbison. Wanda herself even features on a track with Velvetone; A souped-up groovy version of Funnel of Love.

A Little Something Extra…

Inside a nicely printed one-CD digipak is a thirty-six-page booklet featuring liner notes by Bill Dahl with a foreword by Rosie Flores. The notes tell the story of Wanda’s career, while also detailing information about each of the acts featured. It also includes rare photographs and illustrations.

  1. Joyce Hahn – I Gotta Know
  2. Ray Campi & His Rockabilly Rebels – Honey Bop
  3. Betty Hutton – Hot Dog! That Made Him Mad
  4. Sunny Gale – Hot Dog! That Made Him Mad
  5. Terry White – Cool Love
  6. Annisteen Allen – Fujiyama Mama
  7. Eileen Barton – Fujiyama Mama
  8. Lydia & Her Melody Strings – Just A Queen For A Day
  9. The Collins Kids (Larry & Lorrie) – Party
  10. Rikki Henderson – Let’s Have A Party
  11. Thelma Blackmon – I Wanta Waltz
  12. Shirley Jean Wiley – Long Tall Sally
  13. Terry White – Mean Mean Man
  14. Brenda Lee – Kansas City
  15. Shane Fenton & The Fentones – Sparkling Brown Eyes
  16. Vicki Young – Riot In Cel Block No. 9
  17. Skeeter Davis – Right Or Wrong (I’ll Be With You)
  18. Velvetone feat. Wanda Jackson
  19. Betty McQuade – Tongue Tied
  20. Fabian – Tongue Tied
  21. Connie Francis – Fallin’
  22. Jenny Luna – Stupid Cupid
  23. Chuck Berry & His Combo – Brown Eyed Handsome Man
  24. Bobby Bare – So Soon
  25. Roy Orbison – Candy Man
  26. Ria Vailk – Santo Domingo (Fernando, Alfredo En Jose)
  27. Bix Bryant & The Raiders – Let’s Have A Party
  28. Lou Ann Barton – Mean Mean Man
  29. Rosie Flores With Rumble On The Beach – I Gotta Know
  30. The Ladybirds – Man, We Had A Party


This edition of the Connection series continues the stellar work in showcasing an artist’s back catalogue of songs they’ve recorded, through the recordings of other artists. These albums are always extremely interesting and bring up a lot of questions and answers. Who did it better? What would it have been like if Wanda had done it like that? Would the artist have recorded it had Wanda not been a hit? All these and more make these albums a curiosity that you either appreciate or don’t. Even when you take Wanda out of the equation, you’re left with a nice collection of songs, sung in a variety of genres by a neat mixture of known and obscure artists. Everybody wins.

The Wanda Jackson Connection is available from Bear Family Records.

The Wanda Jackson Connection




Jamie Dyer

Jamie Dyer is an experienced writer, broadcaster, musician and social media marketer. He enjoys Old Time Radio, vintage TV, collecting vinyl and supporting the New York Knicks.

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