Wanda Jackson, rockin’ her story into print

Legendary rockabilly and country music pioneer Wanda Jackson will see her new autobiography Every Night Is Saturday Night: A Country Girl’s Journey to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame released by BMG on Nov. 14.

Known as the “Queen of Rockabilly” and the “First Lady of Rock & Roll,” she landed more than thirty singles on the country and pop charts between 1954 and 1974. Featuring over eighty photographs from her personal collection and a foreword by Elvis Costello, Every Night is Saturday Night is the rockin’ great-grandmother’s chance to finally share the story of her fascinating life and career in her own words.

Jackson’s debut single, “You Can’t Have My Love,” reached the Top 10 while she was still a sixteen-year-old high school student. She hit the road after graduation, playing package shows with Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis Presley, who gave Wanda his ring and asked her to be “his girl.” With Presley’s encouragement, the Oklahoma native began recording rock music, often releasing singles with country on one side and rock on the other during her decade-and-a-half tenure on Capitol Records.

Her energetic stage shows and pioneering presence as a female artist helped Wanda storm the charts with a series of hit singles, including “Let’s Have a Party,” “Right or Wrong,” and “In the Middle of a Heartache.” With over 40 albums to her credit, Wanda has proven to be an enduring and genre-defying legend of American music.

In Every Night is Saturday Night, Wanda tells the story of being discovered by Country Music Hall of Famer Hank Thompson; and why she refused to return to the Grand Ole Opry for more than fifty years,

She also shares the challenges she and her integrated band, The Party Timers, faced when touring in a less racially tolerant era and opens up on her personal memories of her relationship with Elvis; and how she ultimately found the love of her life.

Along the way, Wanda reveals details about her first boyfriend, who went on to become a well-known pioneer of country music’s Bakersfield Sound; how she launched the career of country star Roy Clark; the challenges she faced as a woman who introduced sex appeal to country music and growling femininity to rock & roll; her recent work with rock luminaries such as Jack White and Joan Jett; and how her deep faith has sustained her over more than seven decades of rocking, shocking, and thrilling audiences around the globe.

Wanda will launch the book with several public events and book signings around its release, including Tuesday, Nov. 14 at the GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles and Saturday, Dec. 2 at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville.

Country music’s Merle Kilgore focus of new book

When my country music career was in full swing in the 1990s, I loved spending a little time in the office of a country luminary who built credentials as a performer and behind the scenes in the business – Merle Kilgore. I was honored to know and work with him and included him in my Encouragers book series.

Known widely as the manager for Hank Williams, Jr., his career intertwined with some of country’s greatest names and those branches of his experience are explored in a new book “These Are My People” (WriteLife Publishing) available for purchase now at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and local bookstores across the country.

Merle Kilgore co-wrote “Ring of Fire,” carried Hank Williams Sr.’s guitar, managed Hank Jr. for more than two decades, and was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.  Now, his grandson, Mark Rickert, gives readers an insider’s look at Merle’s larger-than-life world.


“We had a very close relationship,” Rickert recalls.  “I listened to his stories for hours on end, summer after summer.  He was a character and his friends were superstars.  His was a story I always believed should be told.”


Mark Rickert grew up in a Country music household, just a few miles from the Opryland USATheme Park and the Grand Ole Opry, and only a block from the home of Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis Presley’s manager.  Mark’s father even worked as a Nashville tour guide. But it was his grandfather, Merle Kilgore, who showed him the backstage side of the business.  Before publishing his first novel, Mark served eight years a photo-journalist for the U.S. Army Reserve, spending a year of that service in Baghdad, Iraq, writing for military publications.  In 2008, he earned a Master’s in English Literature from Middle Tennessee State University.  Today, he works as chief of public affairs for an Army recruiting battalion.

Mark has told it well; imbuing each chapter with details that only Merle or those closest to him would know. Kilgore died in 2005 and his funeral service was held at the Mother Church of Country Music: The Ryman Auditorium.


For Rickert, Johnny and June Carter Cash, Johnny Horton, Faron Young, Elvis, and other legends were the people who ruled the radio airwaves and populated “Daddy Merle’s” tales.  From wrecking hotel rooms with Cash to explorations into the “other side” with Horton and the often-hilarious anecdotes of his life as a disc jockey and as a performer on the Louisiana Hayride and the Grand Ole Opry, Merle lived life to the fullest.  Blazing new career paths into the industry itself, Kilgore was undeniably a critical strand in the fabric of the Country music storyline.


“These Are My People” offers chapter after chapter of insights into the private lives of Merle and his friends, and includes a selection of more than 20 unique black and white photos.  It is an engaging read ably presented in a unique format. Published by WriteLife, “These Are My People” is in bookstores now. It is Rickert’s second book and follows the horror novel, “The Tone Poet.” 


As someone who knew and respected Merle and who had the opportunity to work side by side with him, I can attest, he was larger-than-life and this book provides a unique look into his life. You will enjoy it even if you didn’t know him or his contributions.