James William "Bill" Anderson III (born November 1, 1937) is an American country music singer, songwriter and television personality. He has been a member in long standing of the weekly Grand Ole Opry radio program and stage performance in Nashville, Tennessee. He has released more than 40 studio albums and has reached No. 1 on the country charts seven times: "Mama Sang a Song" (1962), "Still" (1963), "I Get the Fever" (1966), "For Loving You" (with Jan Howard, 1967), "My Life (Throw It Away If I Want To)" (1969), "World of Make Believe" (1974), and "Sometimes" (with Mary Lou Turner, 1976). Twenty-nine more of his singles have reached the top ten.
One of the most successful songwriters in country music history, Anderson is also a popular singer, earning the nickname "Whisperin' Bill" for his soft vocal style and occasional spoken narrations. Artists who have recorded his material include Ray Price, Wanda Jackson, Connie Smith, Lynn Anderson, Jim Reeves, Conway Twitty, Eddy Arnold, Roy Clark, Con Hunley, Lefty Frizzell, Brad Paisley, Kenny Chesney, and George Strait.
Anderson has made several television appearances, including two stints as a game show host: The Better Sex (with co-host Sarah Purcell) in 1977, and the country music-themed quiz show Fandango (1983-1989) on The Nashville Network. He has also hosted an interview show called Opry Backstage and was a producer of a talent show called You Can Be a Star, hosted by fellow Opry member Jim Ed Brown, both shows on the former Nashville Network, and has made guest appearances on several other television series.
Rise to fame:
Although Anderson was born in Columbia, South Carolina, he was raised in Griffin, Georgia and Decatur, Georgia. He studied journalism at the University of Georgia with an eye toward sports writing, and worked his way through school as a radio DJ at WGAU(AM), when he first tried songwriting and singing. He earned a degree in journalism from the university's Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication and landed a job at the Atlanta Constitution. He also became a member of the Kappa Sigma Fraternity.
His composition "City Lights," written when he was 19-years-old while working in Commerce, Georgia, at WJJC-AM, was recorded by Ray Price in 1958 and Mickey Gilley in 1975 and both versions went to the top of the country charts. Anderson took full advantage of his big break, moving to Nashville, Tennessee, and landing a recording contract with Decca Records.
1959 - 1978: Career as a country music singer:
Before signing to Decca, Anderson recorded for the small TNT label between 1957 and 1959, where he released three singles that failed to hit the country charts, including a version of "City Lights". After signing with Decca in 1959, he left TNT.
His first chart hit came with 1959's "That's What It's Like to Be Lonesome," and he had his first top ten entry with 1960's "Tip of My Fingers." Early hits like "Po' Folks" (1961), "Mama Sang a Song" (his first No. 1, from 1962), and "8 X 10" (No. 2, 1963) still remain among his best-known. Anderson recorded his biggest hit and signature song, the partly spoken ballad "Still," in 1963, and it not only topped the country charts, but crossed over as well. The song climbed to No. 8 on the pop chart, as well as No. 3 on the adult contemporary chart. He also wrote the song Papa's Table Grace which was later covered by Bobby Hankins.
On February 15, 1965, Anderson appeared--along with two "imposters"--on the game show To Tell The Truth, challenging the panel to determine "the real Bill Anderson." According to the affidavit read at the beginning of his segment, Anderson was at the time "generally considered to be the top composer of country music in the nation." Only two of the four panelists successfully identified Bill. At the end of the segment, he sang one of his own compositions, "Po' Folks." (During questioning, Anderson got a laugh when Kitty Carlisle asked, "Why are you wearing this costume?" After looking down at his brightly decorated suit--featuring sequined snowflakes--he deadpanned, "Well, it's all I had.")
Anderson reached the top five 19 times through 1978. This included the No. 1 songs ones "I Get the Fever" (1966), "For Loving You" (a 1967 duet with regular partner Jan Howard), "My Life (Throw It Away if I Want To)" (1969), "World of Make Believe" (1974), and "Sometimes" (1976), a duet with Mary Lou Turner.
Anderson hit the top ten for the last time in 1978 with "I Can't Wait Any Longer," and by 1982, he stepped away from his country career.
Besides his whisper of a singing voice, he was also known for his whispering recitations during songs, such as in "Mama Sang a Song" and "Still." In songs such as "Double S," he whispered through the whole single, telling about his fictitious one-night stand with a woman who would not give her name, but mysteriously called herself "Double S."
Anderson has been voted and nominated Songwriter Of The Year six times, Male Vocalist Of The Year, half of the Duet Of The Year with both Jan Howard and Mary Lou Turner, has hosted and starred in the Country Music Television Series Of The Year, seen his band voted Band Of The Year, and in 1975 was voted membership in the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. Ten years later, he was chosen as only the seventh living performer inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. In 1993, he was made a member of the Georgia Broadcasters' Hall of Fame. In 1994, he was inducted into the South Carolina Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame. And in 2001, he received the ultimate honor, membership in Nashville's Country Music Hall of Fame.
Anderson has written songs for many country music singers, since first writing for Ray Price, among others in the late 1950s. He wrote many of country singer Connie Smith's biggest hits in the 1960s, including her best-known song, "Once a Day," which topped off at No. 1 in 1964 and spent eight weeks there, the longest by any female country music singer. He was also wrote Smith's "Cincinnati, Ohio" in 1967, among others.
In 1995, Billboard magazine named four Anderson compositions--"City Lights," "Once A Day," "Still," and "Mama Sang A Song"--among the top 20 country songs of the past 35 years, more than any other songwriter.
Anderson ended the 1990s with a pair of No. 1 hits, "Wish You Were Here," by Mark Wills and the Grammy-nominated "Two Teardrops" by Steve Wariner. His song, "Too Country," recorded by Brad Paisley along with Anderson, Buck Owens and George Jones, won CMA Vocal Event Of The Year honors for 2001. The following year saw Kenny Chesney soar with his version of the Anderson-Dean Dillon composition, "A Lot Of Things Different."
Acting and game show career:
Anderson was the first country artist to host a network game show, starring on ABC's The Better Sex, and later hosting Fandango on cable network TNN. He also appeared for three years on ABC-TV's daytime soap opera, One Life to Live.
For six years he hosted an interview show, Opry Backstage, and found time to be co-producer of another TNN show called You Can Be a Star. In addition, Anderson has appeared frequently as a guest star on variety and game shows, including The Tonight Show, The Today Show, Match Game, Family Feud, Password Plus, Hee Haw and others.
1990 - present: Career today:
Anderson's autobiography, Whisperin' Bill, was published by Longstreet Press in 1989. The book, which he personally wrote over three years, made bestseller lists all across the south. His second book, a humorous look at the music business titled, I Hope You're Living As High On The Hog As The Pig You Turned Out To Be, was published in 1993 and is in its fourth printing. He has been a member of the Grand Ole Opry since 1961 and performs there regularly. In 2000, his latest album, A Lot Of Things Different, received rave reviews. Each song was written or co-written by Anderson. His 1998 release, Fine Wine, was produced by Steve Wariner and released on Warner Brothers' Reprise/Nashville label. Anderson's Greatest Hits Volume I & II have been released on Varèse Sarabande Records along with The Best Of Bill Anderson on Curb. In 2004 Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss scored a hit with Anderson and Jon Randall's "Whiskey Lullaby." On November 5, 2002, BMI named him its first country songwriting Icon, placing him alongside R&B legends Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and James Brown as the only recipients of that award. His compositions can be heard on recent or forthcoming releases by Vince Gill, Lorrie Morgan, John Michael Montgomery, Sara Evans, Tracy Byrd, and others.
July 15, 2006, marked Anderson's 45th year as a member of the Opry. He also hosts a show on Sirius XM radio entitled Bill Anderson Visits with the Legends where he interviews various country music legends. Based on the 1958 release of the Anderson written song "City Lights", in 2008, XM broadcast a special Visits and interviewed Anderson to celebrate 50 years in county music. According to BMI, various artists have recorded and released over 400 different Anderson written or co-written songs in that 50-year period.
The video for the song "Whiskey Lullaby" won Anderson Video of the Year and Vocal Collaboration of the Year in 2004. "Give it Away", co-written by Anderson and performed by George Strait, won the Academy of Country Music Song of the Year for 2006. In November 2007, "Give it Away" was named the Country Music Association Song of the Year, an award that goes to the songwriters, Anderson being a co-writer. On August 29, 2008, Anderson performed "Whiskey Lullaby" at the Opry.
For over 10 years, Anderson has been hosting Country's Family Reunion, a DVD video series featuring groups of country music legends from the 1950s through the 1990s gathering mainly on the Ryman Auditorium stage. With a mix of reminiscing and songs, they remember country's glory days and stars who have passed on. Many of the legends who have participated have died since the series started--over 30 at the last count. Country's Family Reunion can be seen in the UK on digital channel 280, Horse & Country. It airs regularly in the United States on RFD-TV.
In the 1980s, Anderson served as a spokesperson for the Po' Folks restaurant chain, whose name was taken from his song.
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license