Songwriter-Singer Liz Anderson, Mother of Lynn Anderson, Dies at 81

Songwriting Credits Include Merle Haggard's "The Fugitive"

Songwriter and recording artist Liz Anderson, the mother of country/pop singer Lynn Anderson, died Monday (Oct. 31) in Nashville of complications from heart and lung disease. She was 81.

Her songs played a key role in Merle Haggard’s early career. Haggard and Bonnie Owens had a No. 28 hit in 1964 with Anderson’s “Just Between the Two of Us,” and her “(My Friends Are Gonna Be) Strangers” netted him his first Top 10 hit a year later. He later named his band the Strangers. But her biggest success with Haggard was “The Fugitive” in 1966, a song she co-wrote with her husband, Casey Anderson. It was Haggard’s first No. 1.

Born Elizabeth Jane Haaby in Roseau, Minn., she married Anderson when she was 16, gave birth to her daughter at 17 and moved to California with her family when she was 21. She began writing songs in 1957 and experienced her first commercial success in 1961 when Del Reeves scored a No. 9 hit with her “Be Quiet Mind,” the third of her songs he had recorded.

In 1965, Chet Atkins signed her to RCA Records. Over the next five years, she charted 15 singles for the label, 11 of which she wrote or co-wrote. Her biggest hits were “Mama Spank,” her own composition, and “The Game of Triangles,” written by Cy Coben. Both songs went to No. 5. After leaving RCA, Anderson recorded for Epic Records and charted four singles there.

She also wrote the first three singles Lynn Anderson charted, including “If I Kiss You (Will You Go Away),” which reached No. 5 on Billboard’s country chart in 1967.

During the 1980s, Liz and Casey Anderson co-hosted the Side by Side travel show on TNN: The Nashville Network.

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to