In the mid-1950s Elvis Presley was building his popularity. The singer was slowly but surely growing a passionate fanbase that would catapult him into stardom in the years to follow, but at the time, he was a humble Mississippi boy on the road with his guitar. On one tour he teamed up with country singer Wanda Jackson, and Elvis became besotted with her.
At the time Wanda was a young up-and-coming country singer straight out of high school. Looking back on her tour with Elvis – which spanned from 1955 to 1956 – she said: “After I graduated from high school, I had a couple of songs by that time. I was ready to go on tour.”
Before long, she was on the road with Elvis… and her father, Tom Jackson.
The sweet 18-year-old was accompanied by her dad throughout her entire music career at the time because she was so young. But she didn’t mind. She said of her father: “I’m an only child, so daddy decided he should go with me. So for the first couple of nights, we toured with a guy named Elvis Presley. I’ve never heard of him. That was in 1955.” (Via Fox News)
Naturally, Wanda’s father was extremely strict about where she would go with young men at the time. And considering she had a budding music career, he certainly didn’t want her to garner a reputation that was in any way untoward.
But, eventually, she took a shine to Elvis. And her father did too. She looked back: “My daddy travelled with me. He wouldn’t let me go out with guys usually. But he liked Elvis really well.”
Wanda and Elvis spent a lot of time together on the road singing songs and getting to know one another. But Elvis seemed to make a lasting impression on Wanda’s father. She remembered: “He knew Elvis was a gentleman. So he would let me go out with Elvis to a movie or for a burger afterwards.”
And things escalated between Elvis and Wanda for a while. Eventually, he even gave her a ring to solidify their relationship going forward.
At the time, young men would gift young women rings to wear around their neck in order to signify how serious their pre-marital tryst had become.
Wanda said of the gift: “He asked me to be his girl and I had his ring. I wore it around my neck for about a year.” But all good things must come to an end. And, eventually, the distance between Elvis and Wanda destroyed what could have been a long-lasting relationship.
“I lived in Oklahoma and he lived in Tennessee,” she revealed. “So we didn’t see each other except on the tours that we did together.”
The date of their break-up is not known, but they split amicably and remained friends.
Elvis even encouraged the young singer to make the transition from country music to rock and roll music.
Wanda had been a staunch country star for a few years when she first met Elvis, who was working on bringing rock and roll to mainstream audiences.
She said of the King’s music: “The thing that Elvis did for me was giving me the courage to sing this new music like he was doing. I would tell him: ‘I can’t do that, Elvis, because I’m just a country singer! Besides, I’m a girl. I can’t sing that stuff.'”
But eventually, she was encouraged to make the change. And in 2009 Wanda Jackson was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.