Wanda Jackson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009. That might never have happened if she hadn't met Elvis Presley in 1955, when she was 17.
Until then, Jackson was making waves in country music. Hank Thompson invited her to sing with his band, the Brazos Valley Boys.
After graduating from high school, Jackson, who performs at the High Noon Saloon on Sunday, Aug. 29, crossed paths with Presley on tour. They became friends and briefly dated.
Jackson, who is now 73, recalled by phone last week how Presley encouraged her to sing rock. She took his advice, mixing rock and country on hit singles like "I Gotta Know." Today, Wanda Jackson is commonly known as the Queen of Rockabilly.
Is there any one conversation or moment that stands out for you during the time you spent with Elvis?
We were just two normal teenagers. Our conversations wouldn't have been too much different from what teenagers talk about today. But I do remember one time when we did a matinee show in Shreveport in 1956 and we had a couple of hours until our next show. A few of us were getting a bite to eat in between, and I remember Elvis came in and said, "Will you step outside for a minute?" We walked out to his car, and he asked me if I would be his girl. I said yes. So he took a ring off his finger and he gave it to me. I wore that ring on a necklace around my neck.
What influence did Elvis have on your career?
Until then, most records were geared toward older people. But Elvis would say, "Young people have money now, and this is the kind of music they want." He wanted me to get in on it. I would say, "Well, you can do it because you're a handsome guy, but I don't think I can." He just kept saying, "Yes, you can." He would play part of a record for me and say, "See if you can sing this part this way." I'm just so grateful, because if it hadn't been for him, I would never have tried that style of music.