It’s hard to think about working and playing music and smiling onstage right now following the terrible destruction that tore through Nashville earlier this week, but I guess at some point we need to get back to doing the things we normally would be doing. So I sat down this afternoon to write to you.
Thanks for all your messages of concern and your prayers for me, my family, and all of us in Music City. As I wrote in my Journal and on Facebook, I was personally very fortunate to have suffered no damage here in Whisperville. It’s been a real nightmare for many others, though, but Tennessee folks are tough and resilient and we will survive.
The band and I fought and survived the snows up in Wisconsin back in February, then came home and worked the Opry a few times before the month was out. I wrote a couple of new songs, and began laying the groundwork for some exciting things coming up later this month and beyond.
We have our first meeting with the Hall of Fame folks regarding the Bill Anderson Exhibit on March 11th as we begin planning what the exhibit will look like when it opens in November. I’m recording some new songs on March 19th, then hoping to get away from it all the next day when I head south to make sure my Atlanta Braves are doing everything right in Spring Training. Gotta get them into the World Series this year!! I’ll head back into the studio when I get home on the 27th
I have been asked to host and co-produce the pilot episode for a new country music television game show (sound familiar?) called “Name That Country Tune.” I can’t tell you much about it at this point other than to say it’s an interesting concept and I’m looking forward to being involved. We had our second meeting today. When I have more details, I’ll pass them along.
They say life repeats itself and comes full circle at times, and I’m experiencing a couple of examples in my world right now. First, the radio station in Commerce, Georgia, where I started my career, has gone from being known as WJJC Radio to being branded as Whisper 95.1 which, of course, is in my honor. I’ll be going to Commerce on May 1st for the official dedication. And as we speak, I am in the process of purchasing the copyright to “City Lights,” the song that I wrote in Commerce and which jump-started my career years ago. This means I will not only own the writer’s share of the song from here on in but the publisher’s share as well.
I go back to remembering when I wrote the song and begged everybody in the country to publish it. And back to when I tried to talk every radio station in Georgia into hiring me as a disc jockey. Now I’m owning the song and the radio station is being named for me. God sure is good, isn’t He??
My son, Jamey, will agree with that last statement. He just learned he will be moving up the ladder at Delta Air Lines, going from piloting the MD88 airplane to flying the much newer and larger 757 later this year. He’ll be flying longer trips, coast-to-coast, but says he’ll have more time at home than before. I can’t tell you how proud I am of all my children and grandchildren. They make ol’ PawPaw smile every day!
By now most of you have heard that Ziggy Johnson, our longtime keyboard player and vocal arranger, got married on Valentine’s night backstage at the Grand Ole Opry. It was a brief but beautiful ceremony as he exchanged vows and rings with his longtime girlfriend, Irene Kelly. I’m sure you join me in wishing them both many happy years together.
I hope this month is good to each of you, and we’ll look forward to seeing many of you when we hit the road again in April. Check out our schedule and come see us if we’re anywhere close. And thanks for continuing to be the best friends and fans a guy could ever hope to have.
1) What role did you play on the soap operas? I watched them once in a blue moon when I got a day off work but I never saw you. And where do you get all that energy? Do you have some special foods you are keeping secret?
I played the role of Bill Anderson, country singer, on the soaps. Wasn’t that a stretch? And, no, I don’t have some secret foods that give me energy. I do try to eat healthy, though, and I try to get eight hours sleep as often as I can. I try to exercise every day possible, and I laugh every chance I get. My work is something I enjoy, and combined with all the above, the love of my friends, fans, and family gives me all the energy I need.
2) I have two-part question: Who are the background singers on “Mama Sang A Song” and what inspired you to write such a tear jerker?
The vocal group was the Anita Kerr Singers, and Miss Anita’s is the beautiful, angelic voice that is predominately featured. I wrote the song because my mother inspired me so much as a youngster by singing the old hymns and gospel songs around the house. I didn’t mean for it to be a tear-jerker. I intended it as a tribute to a lady who brightened my world by singing from her heart.
3) You don’t ever mention Mary Lou Turner. How is she? Her children must be grown now with children and maybe even grandchildren of their own.
I don’t see Mary Lou very often, but your question inspired me to give her a call. She had just returned from a cruise with some of her label mates from Heart Of Texas records. She has a new record out called “Sentimental Music Journey,” she sings every other Sunday at the Cowboy Church in Branson, where she continues to live, and refers to herself as “semi-retired.” Her daughter, Leslie, is working as an RN in Rogers, Arkansas, and her son, Tommy, just retired after 22-years in the Navy. They both have children. Her husband, David, plays piano in and around Branson, playing dinner music at the Chateau on Saturday nights. She sounds happy, and I look forward to seeing her in October when I’m in Branson.
4) The only album Barbara Eden ever recorded was re-released on CD and colored vinyl in February. Your song, “I Get The Fever,” is included. Do you still get royalties on re-releases such as these?
I’m supposed to, but ask me again in about a year. I’ll let you know then whether I did or not.
5) How long did you live in Columbia, S.C.? My grandmother swore that she taught you at Taylor Grammar School on Laurel Street.
I lived in Columbia until shortly after my 8th birthday. I went to Schneider Elementary School in the Shandon area, though, so I’m afraid your grandmother was not one of my teachers. Sorry.
Thanks for some great questions this month. See if you can send me some more for April. My address is firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 888, Hermitage, TN. 37076. Stay curious.
It was a chilly night in Nashville, and I didn’t want my buddy, Little Jimmy Dickens, to get cold, so I loaned him my overcoat as I was leaving the Ryman. His statue stands on the plaza outside, reminding me every time I pass what a special friend and special entertainer he was. Another special person, my keyboard player, Ziggy Johnson, married his longtime girlfriend, Irene Kelly, backstage in the Green Room at the Opry House on Valentine’s night, and we were all there to help them celebrate. I tried to tell Mark Wills that a handshake would be sufficient, but he insisted on kissing my cheek on board the Family Reunion cruise. I guess he was just trying to thank me for all the nice things I said about him on our shows. Next time, Mark, just buy me a drink!
Thank you for your many kind messages tonight regarding the passing of my good friend and longtime singing partner, Jan Howard. She was a true artist, a wonderful singer, a talented writer, and, above all, a gracious lady, We knew each other for over sixty years and rode a whole bunch of rivers together. Some were smooth, some were rocky, but with Jan I can assure you that none were ever dull. I’m told she died peacefully in her sleep and I’m glad she didn’t suffer. Rest peacefully, J.B., and know that like our song says, “I’ll never once stop loving you.” Star.