Word to the Guise: Wanda JacksonPosted on Nov 21, 2011 | 9 comments
An unmarked, massive wooden black door creaks open, quietly beckoning us inside the green room at Marathon Music Works. We tentatively leave the backstage darkness and creep inside to the brightly lit, exposed brick space. Wanda Jackson peacefully sits on a black leather couch as her backing band, Heath Haynes and the Hi-Dollars, relaxes before the show. She smiles to greet us as we bend down, and takes both of our hands in hers. “You must forgive me,” she earnestly says. “I haven’t quite changed into my stage top yet.”
Impeccably turned out in a silver sweater and metallic scarf, she waves her ruby fingertips in the direction of her garment bag and laughs as one of the Hi-Dollars notes that the fuchsia pocket squares of their suit jackets won’t match her current outfit. “No, no. That is what I’ll be wearing.” Her aquamarine eyes glimmer distinctively against her dark features as she describes her trademark fringed, pink stage outfit while others trickle in and out, heels muted against the brushed concrete floors.
“Fifteen minutes until we go on,” Heath Haynes announces to the room. On cue, a few of the Hi-Dollars don their jackets and grin at us—the stage-ready group is spotlessly coiffed, dressed, and geared up to perform, yet the ambiance backstage is almost absurdly, alarmingly serene. Wanda’s husband, Wendell Goodman, sits adjacent to her, supervising as a few well-wishers prattle admiration towards the rockabilly legend, who politely nods and speaks with all of them.
The Hi-Dollars disappear to embark the stage, warming up the crowd in preparation for Wanda’s arrival. After a few minutes, Wanda and her husband emerge from the green room, walking arm-in-arm up the concrete ramp to wait in the wings. With his left hand, Wendell protectively grasps the curtains to the stage tightly closed; with his right, he touches the small of Wanda’s back, steadying her. Eyes closed, inches away from the curtains, she dances in place, tassels swaying, until her final cue.
She then points to the curtains, and Wendell releases them. For a split-second, Wanda pauses at the threshold, taking in the lights, the band—her dancing, rollicking crowd illuminated. She then emerges from the shadows, immediately welcomed by fervent screams. She greets the crowd, proclaiming, “No place I’d rather be tonight!” The crowd roars. Finally, the queen of rockabilly has arrived.
Photos by: Heidi Jewell
Interview by: Anna Arata