This morning's screening of The Sweet Lady With The Nasty Voice, a documentary about legendary musician Wanda Jackson, not only brought the "rockabilly queen's" story to SXSW but also her mission to be added to The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Jackson's music career started in the '50s at a time when women weren't supposed to play rock 'n' roll, write their own music or wear sexy clothes. But Jackson bucked those conventions with her famous growl, aggressive voice and signature style, receiving support from the likes of Elvis (who she also dated) and Hank Thompson.
It is Jackson who paved the way for so many important female artists, including Chrissie Hynde and Joan Jett. In the documentary, Jackson's impact is brought to light through interviews with notable musicians, such as Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Rosie Flores, Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead and Slim Jim Phantom of The Stray Cats. Costello is one of the musicians trying to get The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to finally induct Jackson and, in the film, he's shown reading part of the letter he sent to the rock hall in her support. Following the film, audience members signed petitions supporting her induction.
At the close of the film, the two producers walked to the front of the theater along with Jackson and her husband/manager, who took audience questions. Looking fabulous in a sequined top and cardigan, the 70-year-old's personality really came through on a question about whether she'd ever played the Grand Ole Opry. She said once and that right before she was due to perform, she was told her bare shoulders weren't permitted at the Opry. She'd have to cover up in order to go on. Jackson threw on a jacket but was so offended by the demand that she never performed there again in her career.
Today's screening wasn't the first time Jackson had seen the film but she coyly admitted it was the first time she'd seen it in HD. "It shows every pore and every wrinkle," she said, a comment which drew many audience laughs and smiles.
After showing at several other festivals in March and April, the film will be aired on the Smithsonian Channel on May 18th at 9 p.m.