The metro’s landmark bowling alley will close off lanes to make room for Wanda Jackson, the “Queen of Rockabilly” and 2009 inductee to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, on Saturday for 66 Bowl’s 50th anniversary celebration.
The alley is owned and operated by the Haynes family, who purchased the facility from original owner, Wiley Bell, in 1978. The 8 p.m. concert is part of Mike Haynes’ effort to heighten the alley’s musical footprint, which includes the annual Okie Twist-Off festival and weekly shows at its Silver Dollar Saloon.
When he got together with organizers to plan the 50th anniversary party, Jackson was an obvious choice. The Maud native was among the originators of rockabilly music and was one of the first women to record a rock ‘n’ roll album. She is also one of the few original artists to remain vital in the rockabilly movement, as she continues to tour year-round across the globe, hopping across Europe and Asia, playing to rabid fans of all creeds and nationalities.
“After we set up the show, I asked her husband, Wendell (Goodman), if he’d ever been to the Route 66 Bowl and he said, ‘It’s funny you ask. In 1961, Wanda asked me out on a date, which was unheard of at the time. Girls just didn’t ask guys out on dates in that era, and we came out to the 66 Bowl to go bowling,'” Haynes said. “So, not only are we celebrating the 66 Bowl’s 50th anniversary ” Wanda and Wendell are celebrating their first date.”
Jackson will perform atop a stage set up across the bowling lanes. Haynes said the alley has configured stages this way in the past ” the only way it will work.
“There will be sitting, standing, dancing ” it will be loose,” he said. “I want people to understand that we are having a party, and if people are upset that they can’t see Wanda because people are dancing, I apologize, but this is a party. We will even be providing shoes for people who want to dance on the concourse while Wanda is playing, and if we run out, they can dance in their socks.”
It won’t be Jackson’s first bowling alley gig. She’s rocked the lanes a few times before, including a show at the request of another rock icon, Bruce Springsteen.
“They put the show in a bowling alley in Long Branch, N.J., which is his home, so he and his wife, Patti (Scialfa), could come see me,” Jackson said. “Patti was sitting in the ball-return unit, which was funny to see, and they say Springsteen will play there sometimes, which I thought was odd. He’s that kind of guy, though. He really didn’t care.”
Haynes said the 66 Bowl anniversary party is especially relevant because of the venue’s status as a Route 66 landmark and its reputation as a beloved gathering point for the local rockabilly scene. Its first show was in 1994, when he brought in the metro’s seminal roots-rock band The Poison Okies for a one-off New Year’s Eve show. It went over so well that Haynes started bringing in more bands.
“It’s considered a rockabilly venue,” he said. “The Oklahoma History Center did a thing on rockabilly, and they featured the 66 Bowl; however I’ve tried to be more eclectic than rockabilly. I’ve had all kinds of weird stuff that runs the gamut from punk to whatever. I’m at the point where I book what I like, which can be just about anything.”
He admitted that rockabilly and other nostalgic music forms are a good fit for the historic bowling alley, which will help make the Jackson show special.
“In Oklahoma City, we are the place to visit on Route 66 and our marquee outside is one of the most photographed signs,” Haynes said. “Bowling is a bit of Americana that people are coming back to. We’re being bombarded by bad entertainment and forced popular culture that some people embrace and some people don’t, and when they look for alternatives, a bowling alley on Route 66? It can’t really get better than that.”
So, what does Jackson remember of 66 Bowl during that first date with her now-husband?
“I don’t really remember anything about it,” she said. “I was more interested in my date than looking at the bowling alley, you know what I mean?”
66 Bowl 50th Anniversary with Wanda Jackson and Brian Dunning & the Rock n Roll Trio begins at 8 p.m. Saturday at 3810 N.W. 39th. “Charles Martin