A genial account of a gentleman musician’s life in and around Nashville.
They don’t make them like Whisperin’ Bill Anderson (b. 1937) anymore, though, as co-author Cooper (Country Music History/Vanderbilt Univ.) suggests, it is the coda to his career that has made it extraordinary, “the most thrilling, exhilarating, and unprecedented part of his journey.” By 1980, Anderson had been considered washed up, on the verge of bankruptcy, and hurting physically, his success as a songwriter and as an unlikely performer of his own songs long gone. Yet a decade later, he began a resurgence as a co-writer with younger artists such as Vince Gill and Jon Randall, enjoying a success that not only rivaled his former songwriting glory, but earned him far more in royalties, as country music royalties were far more lucrative than they had been during Anderson’s 1960s heyday. Country fans know Anderson as the writer of “City Lights,” a big hit for Ray Price when Anderson was still a college journalism student, and for his own hit recording of “Po’ Folks,” which became the name of his band and led to an adventure in restaurant franchising that almost left him broke. Some know of his pivotal role in the careers of Connie Smith and others and maybe even how he helped establish the popular Fan Fair as a Nashville tradition. Though Cooper has established himself in the first rank of country journalists and historians, Anderson’s voice is what makes this narrative so distinctive, as he recounts how he was “happier than a pig in a mud puddle” when he landed his first job at a radio station and was so flustered around women that he “didn’t know whether to wind my watch or take a bubble bath” when a pretty one asked him to dance. There are also plenty of anecdotes about the rigors of touring and the process of writing hit songs.
Anderson is a uniquely country personality, and that personality shines through.