Whisperin' Bill Anderson: An Unprecedented Life in Country Music

Whisperin' Bill Anderson: An Unprecedented Life in Country Music


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Whisperin’ Bill: An Unprecedented Life in Country Music presents a revealing portrait of Bill Anderson, one of the most prolific songwriters in the history of country music. Mega country music hits like "City Lights," (Ray Price), "Tips Of My Fingers," (Roy Clark, Eddy Arnold, Steve Wariner), "Once A Day," (Connie Smith), "Saginaw, Michigan," (Lefty Frizzell), and many more flowed from his pen, making him one of the most decorated songwriters in music history. But the iconic singer, songwriter, performer, and TV host came to a point in his career where he questioned if what he had to say mattered anymore. Music Row had changed, a new generation of artists and songwriters had transformed the genre, and the Country Music Hall of Fame member and fifty-year Grand Ole Opry star was no longer relevant. By 1990, he wasn’t writing anymore. Bad investments left him teetering at bankruptcy’s edge. His marriage was falling apart. And in Nashville, a music town where youth often carries the day, he was a museum piece—only seen as a nostalgia act, waving from the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. Anderson was only in his fifties when he assumed he had climbed all the mountains he was intended to scale. But in those moments plagued with self-doubt, little did he know, his most rewarding climb lie ahead. A follow-up to his 1989 autobiography, this honest and revealing book tells the story of a man with an unprecedented gift, holding on to it in order to share it.

Known as “Whisperin’ Bill” to generations of fans for his soft vocalizations and spoken lyrics, Anderson is the only songwriter in country music history to have a song on the charts in each of the past seven consecutive decades. He has celebrated chart-topping success as a recording artist with eighty charting singles and thirty-seven Top Ten country hits, including “Still,” "8 x 10", "I Love You Drops," and “Mama Sang A Song.” A six-time Song of the Year Award-winner and BMI Icon Award recipient, Anderson has taken home many CMA and ACM Award trophies and garnered multiple GRAMMY nominations. His knack for the spoken word has also made him a successful television host, having starred on “The Bill Anderson Show,” “Opry Backstage,” “Country’s Family Reunion,” and others. Moreover, his multi-faceted success extends far beyond the country format with artists like James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Dean Martin, and Elvis Costello recording his songs. Today, thanks to the support of musical peers and a few famous friends who believed in him, Anderson continues to forge the path of lyrical integrity in music, harnessing his ability to craft a song that tells a familiar story, grabs you by the heart and moves you. Modern day examples include "Whiskey Lullaby" (Brad Paisley and Allison Krauss), "Give It Away" (George Strait), "A Lot of Things Different" (Kenny Chesney), and "Which Bridge to Cross" (Vince Gill).

A product of a long-gone Nashville, Anderson worked to reinvent himself, and this biography documents Anderson’s fifty-plus-year career—a career he once thought unattainable. Richly illustrated with black-and-white photos of Anderson interacting with the superstars of American music, including such legends as Patsy Cline, Vince Gill, and Steve Wariner, this book highlights Anderson’s trajectory in the business and his influence on the past, present, and future of this dynamic genre.

Editorial Reviews

Brad Paisley

Very few songwriters or artists will be prolific or talented enough to enjoy two or maybe three decades of success. Bill Anderson is going on seven. His words and melodies are part of the very foundation upon which country music is built. What an amazing life and career. I'm so glad he chose to pick up his hammer and chisel . . . excuse me . . . pen and paper (things have changed since he first began) to write down his story for all of us fans and friends.


A great read for country fans and non-country fans alike: the unlikely tale of a true innovator who succeeded against all odds . . . and then did it again.

No Depression - Henry Carrigan

Whisperin’ Bill Anderson takes us on a roller coaster ride with Anderson, leaving us with stories as memorable as his songs. Indeed, many of his songs, such as 'Mama Sang a Song,' grow out of his experiences. Anderson’s new autobiography is worth reading just for the opportunity it gives us to take in his sparkling, wink-and-a-nod voice that speaks of his own foibles with laughter and grace.

The Clermont Sun - Terri Schlichenmeyer

Whisperin’ Bill Anderson is so filled with easy tales that you’ll feel like you just pulled up a chair by a dear old friend. . . . Anderson has a gentle, playful sense of humor that shines in his best memories and, through his recollections, we get to know singers and a way of doing business that are both long gone. But this isn’t entirely a happy-happy book: readers also see the not-so-sunny sides of a fledgling (and racist) recording industry; of touring, before investors got involved; and of being an older star in a 'new century.' While anyone can read this book, I think fans of old-time country music will love it best because it contains all the tales you’ll want to know. For you, start Whisperin’ Bill Anderson, and you’ll be hooked before long.

Daily Corinthian - Rheta Grimsley Johnson

I like this book, written with Peter Cooper, music historian. I especially like the part when Bill Anderson describes his personal song-writing process, always a mystery to me. Which came first, I wondered, the lyrics or the tune, or was it different with each artist, or perhaps each song? Anderson is a lyrics man. . . . It's a funny book, a story told without excess ego or exaggeration like some I've read in this genre. Despite great success, he's kept his humility and remains accessible to fans. . . . This book won't be in the inspirational section of your local book store, but it probably should be. The main message is to follow your passion, never give up and be nice to people.

Trisha Yearwood

The thing about Bill Anderson’s career, for me, is that he still maintains it on the highest of levels. He’s been writing hit songs for over fifty years and is one of the most successful songwriters in our history. Wow! He continues to write and collaborate with young artists and writers, keeping himself current, and continues to win awards for his successes. As a person, I love how Bill always makes everybody feel at home. As a veteran member of the Grand Ole Opry, he made me and my whole family feel comfortable on my first, nervous performance on the Opry back in 1992. He was always so kind to my family, my dad in particular. They both went to the University of Georgia and had much in common. He was one of the family when I was honored to take my place as a member at the Grand Ole Opry in 1999. I know Bill was born in South Carolina, but he was raised in Georgia so I’ll always own him as a Georgia boy! He’s an iconic singer (everybody knows when you hear that whisper EXACTLY who it is on the radio), a legendary songwriter, and he’s one of the nicest folks you’ll ever meet. He’s definitely one of the good guys. I’m proud to know him!

Vince Gill

As a lifelong lover of songs, I had no idea what a profound impact Bill Anderson would have on me. Still to this day when I hear one of my favorite songs, Bill undoubtedly wrote it. When I asked him to write some songs with me in the early 1990s, I was shocked to hear him say he didn't write much anymore because he didn't think my generation was interested in what he had to say. I told him I believed he was one of the most prolific and important songwriters in our history, and it would mean the world to me if we could try to write something together. 'Which Bridge to Cross (Which Bridge to Burn)' was the result of that collaboration, and in Bill's words, it lit a fire to want to keep writing with some of us kids. Well, believe me, we kids are better songwriters because of Bill Anderson.

Dolly Parton

It is not often you get a chance to say good things about people that you love and respect. Well, I've been given that chance and I cannot say enough good things about this good person. Bill Anderson has been an inspiration to me as a writer since I was young and new in Nashville. It was songs like 'Still' and 'Once a Day' that made me want to become a better writer. Bill has written so many wonderful songs and is a major force in country music, not only as a writer but as an entertainer, a singer, and a host. It would be impossible really to measure his worth in this industry, but it's BIG! I also love and respect him as a gentle and wonderful human being. Though he speaks softly, he carries a big stick and is a wise and effective businessman. I've always admired him for that, too. I've known him since my early days in Nashville and he has remained a friend, even though we have lost so many of our old friends of that era. Thankfully Bill and I are still friends, still hanging in and still going strong. In the words of one of my own songs, I would like to say, Bill Anderson, I will always love you.

Kirkus Reviews

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780820352916
Publisher: University of Georgia Press
Publication date: 09/15/2017
Series: Music of the American South Series , #1
Pages: 352
Sales rank: 409,206
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.90(d)

Customer Reviews