Wanda Jackson was certainly into recording a new album last year. But the 73-year-old rockabilly veteran and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer had some initial apprehensions about making the just-released "The Party Ain't Over" with Jack White.
"He's a big star, as big as they come anywhere on the planet, so that was exciting," Jackson tells Billboard.com. "But he also is a rock star, and I don't do this current, contemporary rock-style music. So that's where the apprehension came in. I wasn't sure if we'd see eye to eye."
Jackson quickly found out they did, however.
"He told me, 'I'm not changing your style. I just want to give you fresh material and a fresh sound,'" Jackson recalls. "He pushed me a lot, having me do songs that were out of my comfort zone. It didn't really bother me but it was a little hard to understand what he was wanting from my performance, so it just took a little while to settle in with him. But as we worked together I settled down, and I realized that he had my best interest at mind and he was going to produce a really fine album."
While it does nod to the present with a version of Amy Winehouse's "You Know I'm No Good" -- which Jackson says she was pleased to see that "I could make it my own" -- "The Party Ain't Over" features mostly covers of Jackson's vintage, including Johnny Kidd's "Shakin' All Over," Eddie Cochran's "Nervous Breakdown" and the DeCastro Sisters' "Teach Me Tonight." Little Richard's "Rip It Up" is a staple of Jackson's concerts, while she found "Like a Baby" by Elvis Presley, who Jackson toured with and famously dated for a short time, on a cassette compilation.
"I was listening to it on an airplane," she recalls, "and when that song came on I just played it over and over and over. He did it so beautifully, and the song just captivated me. I just loved it. It was a very well-written song, easy to sing, very commercial, I thought."
Jackson and White chose Jimmie Rodgers' "Blue Yodel #6" after her husband and manager, Wendell Goodman, told White she could yodel. And Jackson recorded Bob Dylan's "Thunder on the Mountain" at the request of the man himself.
"Jack and Bob have, I think, a rather special relationship," she notes, "so Jack wanted me to do a song of (Dylan's), and he called him and asked which song would he choose? And Bob Dylan is also a fan of mine, which I wasn't aware of, and he said, 'Well, it has to be "Thunder on the Mountain." There's just no doubt about that.' "
Jackson has just finished a short run of concerts and TV appearances with White and his Third Man House Band to promote "The Party Ain't Over's" release. She resumes touring with her own band in early February, starting in Europe and then continuing in the U.S. She'll also play on May 1 at the Stagecoach festival in Indio, Calif.