Today's Out of the Chute is a bit different. Rather than the basic eight questions, I've put something together based on a recent phone interview. When you're finished here, I hope you'll hop over to Bill Anderson's website Bill Anderson - where you'll find lots of great information as well as goodies in his store... including a FREE download. The song, Gone Away, was recorded with the Oak Ridge Boys in January 2012.
In my earliest recollection of listening to country music, one of the names that stand out in my memory is Bill Anderson. As a songwriter, a radio and television personality and as a human being, Whisperin’ Bill Anderson is the complete package. Fans may think that from the moment Ray Price took City Lights (link takes you to a YouTube of Mr. Price performing the song) to the airwaves Bill’s life was changed forever. But the change really began long before then… a change Bill Anderson himself was not aware of.
He first saw the Grand Ole Opry at the age of fourteen. At the time he felt being a part of something so grand was the ultimate dream for someone who loved country music. While it was a far-fetched idea for a teenager from Georgia, little did he know his dream would become his reality. Mr. Anderson says he is “grateful and blessed for the opportunities and wouldn’t change his life for anything.”
One of his greatest thrills came in 1961 when he was asked to join The Opry family. I asked him if when he got the call, he was caught off guard and had a moment of wondering if they had called the wrong person. ‘If they had, I wasn’t going to tell them,” he replied with a laugh. Joining the Opry then wasn’t the big coronation it is today. Back then, they asked you to join then made it official during the Opry broadcast. A simple ‘we’ll be seeing a lot more of you from now on’ summed up the festivities.
However, his heart-felt accomplishment has been his induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame. For someone with his heart and soul in country music, that is the top of the ladder.
With over sixty years in the business, and having worked with every conceivable person in the industry, there’s one person Bill Anderson said he would like to have had the opportunity to work with. He told me when it came to singing and song writing, Hank Williams, Sr. was the best there was.
While talking with him, I began to see things a bit differently than I have for some time. When I think Bill Anderson, I think Country Music but oddly enough, in the 1960’s he was considered a ‘cross-over’ artist- more contemporary, not country. For years I’ve been digging my heels into what classifies as country music in my opinion. He enlightened me to the fact that everything changes. “The only thing constant is it is constantly changing.”
Does that mean that what I listen to today isn’t country? Or that Nashville is sacrificing its roots for dollar signs? No. It means that categorically, music has to evolve to tap into its present audience. But I still have to wonder how many of today’s ‘country’ listeners are aware of the foundation on which their contemporary country is built?
While the powers-that-be in Nashville continue to bring us what is current, Bill Anderson and Larry Black work diligently to preserve the roots with programs like Country Family Reunion and Larry’s Country Diner. Both shows, broadcast on RFD-TV, provide a mix of songs and stories from some of the great artists who paved the way for today’s performers. The format for both shows reach an audience radio doesn’t, while letting viewers know the men and women of yesterday’s country are still alive and kicking.
I am thankful to have had the opportunity to speak with the legendary Bill Anderson and for his pearls of wisdom that can only come from someone who has seen so many changes in this business. For as much as the industry has been shouting that THIS is country music... I heard it better in a whisper.
With that said, I’ll leave you with the words from a George Jones classic…
Who’s gonna give their heart and soul to get to me and you… Oh I wonder. Who’s gonna fill their shoes.
For the rest of the song, check out this YouTube video