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Bill Anderson Interview


 

Country Stars Central spoke to Grand Ole Opry legend, singer/songwriter, and country music hall of fame member; Bill Anderson. Bill has written hit songs for some of the biggest names in country music. His latest release, “Whisperin’ Bluegrass” is his first ever bluegrass project. The album features duets with the likes of Dolly Parton, Vince Gill, Willie Nelson, and Jan Howard. It truly is an honor to speak with one of the best in the business!!

 

(CSC) 1. Tell us about your latest release “Whisperin’ Bluegrass” what inspired you to record a bluegrass album and where did the idea come together?

 

(Bill Anderson)

Well, the idea was kind of a combination of ideas from myself, a guy named Steve Ivy, who is the president of IMI records and a mutual friend, a newspaper columnist down in Georgia named Don Rhodes. Steve Ivy and I didn’t know each other. Steve knew Don Rhodes and I knew Don Rhodes and Don had been after me to do a bluegrass album for quite some time and he just thought that it would be something that would fit with me and my style, so he contacted Steve and had Steve contact me and we kind of went round the mulberry bush a few times until we all got together. I realized it was something that I really wanted to do because I cut my teeth on acoustical music long before they even called it bluegrass music, they called it “hillbilly music” and it was the kind of music that I always appreciated and I realized I had some songs that would fit into that type of a format and it just kind of grew from there!

 

(CSC) 2. What was it like working with the lovely Dolly Parton on “My Perfect Reason?”

 

(Bill Anderson)

Well anytime you can share something with Dolly Parton, it’s pretty special!! She and I have been friends for a long long time and I was really honored that she came in and gave her time and talent to be a part of this project because I know she doesn’t have a lot of spare time. And to think she spent a few minutes of what time she does have to help make this a better project; it meant a lot to me. She’s a great lady!!!

 

(CSC) 3. What would you say you enjoyed most about doing this album?

 

(Bill Anderson)

Well, I felt a lot of freedom with this album. I felt like it was pretty much up to me as to kind of how we wanted to arrange a lot of the songs and do them and make them fit Bill Anderson’s style. If you listen to a lot of these song, there’ a lot of what I call breathing space in them, in these arrangements. We let the pickers have freedom to play. We probably made a few of them longer than we might have otherwise. I wanted the instrumentation, as well as the vocals to be a big part of this and I was given the freedom to kind of do the record this way and anytime that you’re free to create, I think that when you’re a creative person, whether you’re writing the songs or making the records or whatever, anytime that you don’t have pressure on you to do it a certain way or fit it into a certain kind of a little box, it’s a lot more fun!! I had a lot of freedom on this record.

 

(CSC) 4. I’d also like to talk about your induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame and can you tell us about the special comment your daughter made about your plaque in the rotunda?

 

(Bill Anderson)

Yeah, of course anything connected with that which happened back in 2001 was pretty special. My daughter looked at my plaque and of course on your plaque they have you know, vital information about your career. They have your birth date and for the members of the HALL OF FAME that are deceased, of course they have the date of their death. My daughter looked at my plaque and saw my birth date and the other part where, I assume someday, the date of my death will be recorded, being blank. She looked at it and she pointed at the blank space and said “Dad, that’s what I like the best of all.”

 

(CSC) 5. You starred on the daytime soap “One Life To Live,” what was it like working on a soap opera and did you get any slack from the folks in Nashville about that?

 

(Bill Anderson)

(Laughing) Well, my whole life has been a soap opera, so it was natural for me to play myself on one!! It was really quite an interesting experience. I gained a whole new appreciation for the people who make their living doing that kind of work. It’s a grind, it really is. You have to be at the studio very early in the morning. You have to be prepared, know your lines, know your part, rehearse it two or three times, for all the camera shots. Do a dress rehearsal, do the actual taping. Go home and learn your part for tomorrow and come back the next day and do it all over again. Of course, I wasn’t on there like everyday, just back-to-back, you know thirty to forty days at a time. I was kind of in and out of the various scenes. But for some of those people that are on there every day, it’s really a tough way to make a living. I have an awful lot of appreciation for the people that are able to do that.

 

(CSC) 6. Do you miss The Nashville Network, and do you think that the closing of it has hurt the careers of the legends of country music in any way?

 

(Bill Anderson)

Yes, to all of the above. I miss it both as a performer, entertainer as well as a fan because I watched The Nashville Network an awful lot at home at various times of the day and the night I think when The Nashville Network went away, I think it not only hurt the legends of country music, I think it even hurt the entire city of Nashville, because we were the only city in America that had a television network named after it. I mean there’s not even a New York network. There’s not a Chicago Network. There’s not a Los Angeles Network, but there was a Nashville Network and it drew an awful lot of attention not only to our music and our performers but to our city. I think when it went away it was loss to all of us.

 

(CSC) 7. You also hosted a show on “The Nashville Network” the country music game show, “Fandango” what did you enjoy most about hosting that program?

 

(Bill Anderson)

I think just the opportunity to talk about country music and to be around country music fans who were the contestants on the show. I was amazed and blown away many times with the knowledge that some of these people had about country music and its history and its people. Some of these contestants that came in there were just like walking encyclopedias and I just didn’t know that that many people like that existed. It was fun to do the show. It was fun to be around those people and of course the exposure on television was wonderful, too!!

 

(CSC) 8. Getting to the Grand Ole Opry, I wanted to ask you what do you enjoy most about playing the Opry and what special memories do you recall from your induction into the Opry?

 

(Bill Anderson)

You know, when I was inducted in 1961, they didn’t make a big thing out of it like they do today. It was just like OK, here’s Bill Anderson, he’s our newest member and uh sing a song, you know??!! (Laughing) There wasn’t a lot of press build up or anything to it. In fact, I’ve gone back in recent years and I’ve tried to find a photograph from that night and if one exists, I don’t know where it is!! There was just a little blurb in one of the Nashville papers that said “This past Saturday night, Bill Anderson became the 61st member of the Grand Old Opry” and that was all that it was, so today they make such a big thing out of it. It becomes such an event and such a media blitz and a media event that I wonder what my career would have been like if we would have had all that behind it, you know?!? But I’m just very grateful to have been there all these years. I enjoy the friendships. I enjoy the opportunity to interact with the other entertainers and with the fans. It’s terrific to stand on that stage and know that people are there in the audience and have come from all over the world, literally. And now that we’re on satellite radio, we’re on the internet as well as on WSM. I mean people can hear us virtually all over the world!! So, it’s tremendous to be a part of it. I consider it to be a great honor. I hope to be at the Opry for a long, long time!!

 

(CSC)

Maybe you can renew your membership this year!!!

 

(Bill Anderson)

Renew my membership??!! (Laughing) And then I can make the big induction! I think that’s a good idea!! Thanks!!

 

(CSC)

I’ve been there several times myself. I think the coolest thing Is that this month; it celebrated its 82nd birthday. I just think that’s really unique that it’s one of the longest running radio shows and the best thing about it is that it combines the newer generation of artists that people will expect to see like Carrie Underwood and Lee Ann Womack and whatnot. But the legends and I think that it is really cool that people can go there and get a great mixture of both. That’s what’s really unique about it!!

 

(Bill Anderson)

What you have to realize is that the star is actually the Grand Ole Opry!! It’s made up of a lot of stars. But when we all get together there on a Friday or Saturday night or a Tuesday night, the Opry itself is the star. That’s why I think that’s why it’s lasted for 82 years. The Opry is bigger than any one individual that’s ever walked on that stage. That’s the way it should be and that’s the way that I think it has survived for all these years. And I learned that early on. I learned it from Roy Acuff and I learned it from Minnie Pearl. I learned it from Ernest Tubb, that everybody kind of puts aside their own personal ego when they walk on that Opry stage because the Opry, as somebody wrote in a song one time “it’s the grandest lady of them all.”

 

(CSC) 9. As a songwriter you’ve written many hit songs for other artists, did you ever regret not recording them first?

 

(Bill Anderson)

No, not really because I had a good recording career and I’ve wrote many songs than I could ever have recorded myself. I kept the ones that I thought fit me the best. But obviously, I was only going to have two or three records out a year, or two or three single records, maybe one album or something. I was writing a lot more songs than that so I was very happy anytime anybody recorded one of my songs and I still am!!

 

(CSC) 10. Out of all your many wonderful accomplishments in your career, what would you say you’re most proud of and why?

 

(Bill Anderson)

Oh goodness!!! Probably a couple of things!! Number one of course would be my membership at the Grand Old Opry and the fact that I am still part of that. And the other would probably be just the fact that I’ve had a career that has spanned actually into six decades now, cause I made my first record and wrote my first songs back in the late fifties and here we are in a whole new century and all and I’ve been able to have successful songs that I’ve written and records that I’ve made, you know, throughout this period of time. I think the longevity of it, just the fact that I’ve endured and lasted and the fact that some of the young artists are recording my songs and all now and I’m still relevant and I’m still a viable part of the business.

 

(CSC)

Well, the cool thing is that the songs that you’ve written for the artists of today, you know it’s like you’re living on through them, because those are your songs that you wrote and they’re being sung by them.

 

(Bill Anderson)

Well, it’s introducing Bill Anderson to a whole new generation of fans; like my association with Brad Paisley for example. Just the few things that he and I have done together, the recording of “Two Country Kung Pao Buckaroos” things we’ve done on his albums and the fact that I’ve toured with him some, and all this has introduced Bill Anderson to people that never would have heard of Bill Anderson and the dame is true of the songs I’ve written that Kenny Chesney has recorded or George Strait has recorded because their fans look beyond that and say” well let’s see who wrote that.” “Let me see what I can find out about him.” Oh yeah!! And so there it continues to grow, my own fan base and I’m very grateful for that.

 

(CSC)

Those recordings that you do with Brad Paisley are hilarious!! I’ve heard them on his album.

 

(Bill Anderson)

Yeah, we’ve had a lot of fun with those.

 

(CSC) 11. Looking at country music today, (the current trends) what are your thoughts on the current trends of country music and are you satisfied with what you’re hearing on the radio?

 

(Bill Anderson)

Well, I don’t know that you’re ever fully satisfied with it. Everybody kind of has their own tastes and their own judgments and all, about songs and things. There’s some wonderful, young talent out there today and they are blossoming at a much earlier age and all, it seems to me than ever before. Now I look out there sometimes and see these kids that are 16, 17, 18 years old out there that are playing some of those instruments and singing some of those parts and things that they do and it’s just absolutely mind boggling!!! I miss a little bit of the, I don’t know if the word “traditional” is the right word to use, maybe the heartfelt emotion is what I miss in a lot of country music. I think a lot of the songs today are just kind of fluffy. I think they’re just kind of in one ear and out the other. Just happy little songs that you really don’t go around humming or whistling but they’re just kind of easily forgettable. I miss the great songs of people like the Merle Haggard’s and the George Jones’s and people that have come along down through the years. But you know country music is always taking a lot of twists and turns. It goes through different periods of time when it’s featured one way. I remember back in the sixties when we used all the string arrangements and I was guilty of that on songs like “Still” and “8x10.” Traditional true country music seems to always come back around and I have every confidence and every belief that it probably will again.

 

(CSC) 12. What advice would you give to someone who wants to break into the music business either as a performer or do something behind the scenes?

 

(Bill Anderson)

Well, you better be prepared to be a hundred percent dedicated to it, because this is not a business for the faint of heart. You gotta really want to do it!! The people who are successful in this business are not the people who get into it to see how much money they can make or see how famous they can become. They’re the people who get into it because they love it. They do it because it’s just in their blood. It’s just as natural and normal to them as breathing. And you gotta be dedicated and willing to make a whole lot of sacrifices to be a part of this business. If you got all that in, ya, then more power to you and go for it!!

 

(CSC) 13. I’d also like to talk about a special memory that you cherish, you had the opportunity to work with the legendary Roy Acuff on “I Wonder If God Likes Country Music,” what special memories do you treasure from working with him shortly before he passed?

 

(Bill Anderson)

Well, we actually recorded that song twice. We did it once in the late seventies when I was still on MCA records and then later on, we recorded it again on stage at the Grand Ole Opry and we performed it many, many times on stage at the Opry. We did it on a 50th anniversary television show that they did on NBC on the life and the music of Roy Acuff. It was always a special time anytime we walked out on stage together or when I would go out and start the song and he would walk on through the wings when it came time for his part. He was such a professional!! I think the thing I remember about it the most, was that no matter how many times we did it, no matter where it was gonna be, Mr. Roy always wanted to rehearse it before we went on the stage and did it!! That just said to me what a true professional he was and the fact that every time we performed it, he wanted it to be just as good as it could possibly be. And it didn’t matter how many times we’d done it or how many times we had rehearsed it, he’d always want to rehearse it again, just to make sure that this particular time would be the best that we could do it. I learned a lot from that.

 

(CSC) 14. Did you get to become friends with him as well?

 

(Bill Anderson)

Oh yeah, sure. We became friends. Many nights I would spend time sitting there, talking with him in his dressing room or he’d come over to my dressing room and I’m very proud that in his last years of his life I could call him a good friend.

 

(CSC) 15. Getting to your show “Bill Anderson Visits with the Legends” who are some of your favorite interviews and what prompted you to start a show on XM radio?

 

(Bill Anderson)

Well, they came to me and approached me about doin’ a show. You know my background was in radio. I started out as a disc jockey down in Georgia many years ago. I’ve always loved radio and they offered me a format with the “Visits with the Legends” which gave me again the word “freedom.” I used that a while ago when I was talking about my record. I had all the freedom in the world on this radio show to talk with my friends, to play their music, to take the shows just about anywhere I want them to go and I thought what an interesting opportunity. And to do it on satellite radio, where people can pick it up all over the country, all over the hemisphere, in fact, and it’s opened up a new audience for me. I get people who write to me all the time and say “Golly I didn’t know all that much about you until I started hearing you on these “Visits with the Legends” and I enjoy what I hear and I like it!! So, it’s something that I really have enjoyed doing and I just signed a new contract with XM and I hopefully will be able to continue to do this show for quite a while.

 

(CSC) 16. Is it recorded in Nashville at a certain place or where does it take place?

 

(Bill Anderson)

Well, we record most of them in a little studio called Spotland Studios, which is in the suburbs of Nashville. We don’t always record them there. I’ve done a couple of them from the Country Music Hall of Fame. I did one with Vince Gill in front of a live audience at the Blue Bird Café here in Nashville. I’ve been to several at the artist’s homes. I went to Earl Scruggs’s home and visited with him and Louise not too long before she passed away. I went out to Mack Wiseman’s house and did a show with him. I did one from Barbara Mandrell’s’ home. I went to Ricky Skagg’s studio, recording studio and did the interview with him there. So, we’ve actually done them in quite a few places. But most of them are done at Spotland Studios.

 

(CSC)

I read that for your interview with Dottie Rambo you went to see her as well.

 

(Bill Anderson)

Yes, she was in a nursing home or rehab facility. She had just had a terrible accident. She had broken her leg. She was in a cast, and had her leg propped up on a chair. But you know what, she was so radiant and lovely and such a professional and that was one of the most memorable visits I think I’ve done.

 

(CSC) 17. I’d like to get to the CMA awards, I wanted to ask you some questions about the CMA’s. What are your thoughts about the CMA’s moving out of the Opry house because for many years the CMA awards, I believe was one of the most prestigious and exclusive awards shows and it seems like it has become a fan fest. Do you feel that it is starting to lose its charm?

 

(Bill Anderson)

I liked it better when it was in the Opry house. Realizing that the Opry house only seats 4400 people and the Sommet Center where we do it now in downtown Nashville seats 17,000 to 18,000 or whatever, but you’re right, it was an industry event mostly all the years. Most of the people who filled up the seats were people who worked in and around the music business. And now it has opened up to the fans. I think on the one hand its good that the fans can come and see it, because goodness we all owe our careers to the fans but, on the other hand I think there was a certain charm about having it done in the Opry house. It was a little more intimate, a little more close up, a little more personal and if it was up to me and if I had to control the dollars and cents of it all, I’d move it back to the Opry house.

 

(CSC)

I wish they would!!

 

(Bill Anderson)

I don’t think they will anytime soon!! (Laughing) I mean you just look at it in terms of dollars and cents, I guess it’s a bottom-line business when you get down to it!!

 

(CSC) 18. Lastly, what can fans look forward to next from YOU?

 

(Bill Anderson)

I don’t have the foggiest idea!!! (Laughing) And I mean that!! I say that with all sincerity and honesty. I’ve done so many different things in my career. I’ve been so blessed to be able to do so many different things. I never know where the road’s gonna wind or where it’s gonna take me. I just kind of relax and go along for the ride and enjoy it. I don’t plan to make any real major changes in what I’m doing. I hope to continue to write songs, continue to do my shows on XM, continue to tour occasionally, continue to play at the Grand Old Opry. I mean I got a pretty full life as it is. I don’t have room for a whole lot of new adventures!!!

 

(CSC)

Well, thank you for your time and if there is anything you’d like to say to your fans that may be listening now, you can do so if you’d like!!

 

(Bill Anderson)

Well, I just hope they know how much I appreciate all the years that they have given me in the country music business. I hope I can continue to do things that they will be entertained by and entertained with. And I hope someday every one of them that’s listening right now, that I can meet them face to face because I enjoy that!!! Long before I was a singer or a songwriter, I was a country music fan, so I understand what it’s like to be a fan. And as an artist I appreciate my fans very very much!!!

 


 

 

 


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