What would Elvis Presley's life have been like had he been born a woman?
Ask Wanda Jackson.
The onetime teen Queen of Rockabilly is in as good a position as anyone on the planet to answer.
"America was just not ready to accept this screaming rock 'n' roll from a girl," says the now 65-year-old singer who has an album coming out Oct. 14. "Heart Trouble" includes a new version of her biggest hit, the rockabilly classic "Let's Have a Party," as well as other songs old and new on which she's joined by guest admirers including Elvis (Costello, that is), Dave Alvin, Rosie Flores, Raul Malo and, improbably, L.A. psychobilly band the Cramps.
"I started out in country and country was my first love," she says from her home in Oklahoma City. "But after Elvis came along, I saw what happened with him, and he encouraged me to try this kind of music. I was 17 and I started trying my hand at it, and I recorded all this rock material. But nothing was happening. I didn't have a hit until 1960 with 'Let's Have a Party' and by that time, I'd gone back to country music."
She also spent a couple of decades singing nothing but gospel music after becoming a Christian in the early '70s. Still, to legions of rock fans, she'll always be "the female Elvis," as she was often promoted early on.