Bill Anderson
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Bill Anderson probably needs a separate home, just for his trophies.

He is easily one of the most-awarded songwriters of all time, having been named "Songwriter Of The Year" six times by the Music City News, in addition to being named "Male Vocalist Of The Year" in 1963 by the same publication.


(Courtesy Decca)

Anderson was also honored with the "Duet Of The Year" award by Record World in 1967 and 1970 (with Jan Howard) and in 1976 (with Mary Lou Turner). He has been selected to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, the Georgia Broadcasters Hall of Fame and the South Carolina Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame.

Many of the 500-plus songs written by Anderson have become country music standards, from his first hit, Ray Price's 1958 recording of "City Lights," which spent over two months atop the country chart and crossed over to the pop chart as well, to Merle Haggard's first Top Ten hit, "(All My Friends Are Gonna Be) Strangers," to Connie Smith's career-making hit, "Once A Day."

And, as an artist, Anderson has also recorded over 50 albums and 80 singles, with his first chart success being the 1960 hit, "The Tip Of My Fingers," which was later a hit for Roy Clark and Eddy Arnold in the 60s and Steve Wariner in the 90s.

Anderson's best-known singles include 1961's "Po' Folks" (later the name of a national restaurant chain for which he was a spokesman), 1962's "Mama Sang A Song" (also a pop hit, twice, with the second version coming from actor Walter Brennan), and the 1963 hits "Still" (which also fared well on the pop charts) and "8 X 10."


(Courtesy Curb Records)

Those latter hits was the beginning of a mixture of singing and recitation, which he later termed "sing a little, talk a little," that would become an Anderson trademark. His quiet, breathy style earned him the nickname "Whisperin' Bill," coined by Don Bowman, a comedian on Anderson's 1965-74 syndicated television series.

"I wasn't too thrilled with that at first," he told me, concerning the nickname. "But Bill Anderson may not be all that easy to remember, and 'Whisperin' Bill' is, so ultimately I think it helped a great deal; it helped people to remember me."

The hits continued through the mid-60s, with "Five Little Fingers," "Three A.M.," "Bright Lights And Country Music," "Golden Guitar," "I Love You Drops" and "I Get The Fever," the latter being so influential in Nashville studios that its tempo became known as "the 'Fever' beat," or "the Bill Anderson beat."


(Courtesy Drive Archive)

His songs by now were becoming well known for recordings outside the mainstream of country music, with entertainers Dean Martin and Debbie Reynolds, rocker Jerry Lee Lewis and R&B greats Ivory Joe Hunter and Aretha Franklin, among others, recording his songs.

By the late 60s, Anderson had also absorbed some tricks from the newer breed of country writers, such as John Hartford, and, while "Wild Weekend" was a more typical Anderson song, other hits, such as "My Life (Throw It Away If I Want To)" and a cover of the First Edition's "But You Know I Love You" showed his ability to adapt his sound to the times.

His association with producer Bradley ended in the mid-1970s, shortly after the hit "The Corner Of My Life," with a former contemporary, Buddy Killen, assuming the role of producer. By the late 70s, Anderson again pulled a new wrinkle from his bag of tricks, and scored a Top Ten country hit with "I Can't Wait Any Longer," a disco-rhythm tune that also crossed over to pop. Killen, who was also producing R&B singer Joe Tex at the time, brought in the same musicians to play on Anderson's record. Wisely, however, after one additional hit in that vein, "Double S," he moved away from that novelty approach.

His association with MCA ended in the early 1980s, although many up-and-coming artists realized that Bill Anderson songs were almost guaranteed hits. Over the last two decades, artists such as Alabama, Lorrie Morgan, Wade Hayes, Ricochet, Tracy Byrd, Ricky Skaggs, Rick Trevino, Doug Supernaw, Joy Lynn White and Chely Wright all recorded his songs.


(Courtesy MCA)

In a 1995 ranking of the top twenty country songs of the previous 35 years compiled by Billboard magazine, Anderson was represented more than any other writer, with "City Lights," "Mama Sang A Song," "Still" and "Once A Day" making the list.

In more recent years, Anderson has co-written hits with other artists, such as "Which Bridge To Cross, Which Bridge To Burn" with Vince Gill, and the #1 "Two Teardrops" with Steve Wariner. Mark Wills also topped the country charts with the Anderson co-written "Wish You Were Here."

Anderson was the first country music performer frequently seen on such top network television game shows as Match Game, Password and Hollywood Squares, and in 1977-78 co-hosted, with Sarah Purcell, The Better Sex, a game show which featured competition between teams of six men and six women.

Anderson also appeared for some three years in the popular soap opera One Life To Live, and hosted the country music trivia game show, Fandango, for six years on The Nashville Network (now known as The National Network). He also hosted Opry Backstage, a news and interview program that aired prior to the Saturday night simulcast of the Grand Ole Opry, for the network.

He has also had success as an author, as his 1989 autobiography, Whisperin' Bill, was a best-seller and is now in its fourth printing, while a 1993 collection of humorous stories and anecdotes, I Hope You're Living As High On The Hog As The Pig You Turned Out To Be, is now in its third printing.

In the last few years, Anderson has returned to recording, with his 1998 album Fine Wine and his most recent, A Lot Of Things Different, released in 2001.

He added another trophy, the 2001 Country Music Association (CMA) "Vocal Event Of The Year" award, for the song "Too Country," from Brad Paisley's Part II album. The song, cowritten by Anderson, was recorded with Paisley, George Jones and Buck Owens.

Anderson also marked his fortieth anniversary with the Grand Ole Opry, the world's longest-running radio show, in 2001, and, later in the year, was honored with the ultimate career achievement for a country performer, induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Mr. Anderson was the first performer to consent to be interviewed exclusively for the Whitewolf Zone in 2001, before this site had its name (or even existed, beyond an idea). We are most appreciative and thankful for that, and for his support down through the years.

Interviewed by telephone from his Nashville home, Anderson actually delayed a business meeting to allow us extra time to talk. It is impossible to cover a 40-plus-year career in these few pages, but we did try to touch on a few of the many highlights.

 

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