Country music legend Bill Anderson discusses new autobiography

Jeff Hullinger interviews country music legend Bill Anderson

Legendary country singer and songwriter Bill Anderson released his memoir, “Whisperin’ Bill,” in 1989, when his music career, which had begun in the 1950s, was in a decade-long dry spell. In the years since, Anderson has staged a remarkable comeback, co-writing hits like George Strait's "Give It Away" and the modern-day classic “Whiskey Lullaby,” which was recorded by Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss. During that time, he’s also accumulated enough stories to fill another book.

On Sept. 1, the University of Georgia Press — Anderson’s alma mater — will publish his second autobiography, “Whisperin’ Bill Anderson: An Unprecedented Life in Country Music.” The 360-page book will have a retail price of $29.95 and will include 42 black-and-white photos. An audiobook version also is in the works.

In this memoir, written with Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum writer/editor Peter Cooper, Anderson discusses his triumphant return to country music in the 1990s after approximately 10 years away. “I had that 30-year (music) career and got away from (it). … I was hosting game shows and appearing on soap operas and trying to get into the restaurant business,” said Anderson, sitting in a rocking chair at the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame exhibit inside the Music City Center. “I’d quit dancing with the one who brought me to the dance. But then I came back, and the second dance was better than the first.”

The sign Anderson needed to get back into songwriting came in 1992 when Steve Wariner recorded his song “Tips of My Fingers.”

“I wrote that song 32 years before he recorded it,” Anderson said. “I stopped and realized, ‘Okay, now I've had a No. 1 record in 1992, but what have I proven? That I used to be a songwriter?’ And that’s when the light went on.”

Anderson decided to begin his country music comeback by throwing himself into co-writing, which was a new venture for him at the time. “I always thought co-writing would really be hard,” he confesses. “I thought, ‘You can’t make an appointment to write a song, and you can’t really bare your soul in front of somebody like you can sitting in a dark room by yourself in the middle of the night.’

“I was wrong on both counts, and I’m so glad I was.”

Now an enthusiastic collaborator, Anderson wants to shine a light on the co-writing process. His new book will include chapters in which he “dissects” the songwriting sessions behind the hits. “People ask me all the time: ‘How do you co-write a song? How does this work?’

“I tried as best as I could remember to detail how Jon (Randall) and I wrote ‘Whiskey Lullaby' — what the background was, what the room looked like where we wrote it, what I contributed, what he contributed. … I hope it will be something that people will think is informative.”

This summer, Anderson will celebrate his 55th anniversary as a member of the Grand Ole Opry. He still performs regularly on the program and is scheduled to appear on both the Friday and Saturday night Opry shows this weekend.

At 78, with more than 40 studio albums and countless concerts behind him, he’s at an age where some of his contemporaries are considering retirement. But Anderson’s enjoying the second phase of his career far too much to walk away from it. He says with a laugh, “The whole time I was in the studio making the audiobook, I was thinking, ‘Golly, I need to be making some new music.’ ”


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