Bill Anderson Reflects on His Career Ahead of Songwriters Hall of Fame Induction & Talks Plans for Future Music | Billboard


The career of Bill Anderson has seen many career triumphs come his way over the years, dating all the way back to his composition “City Lights” becoming a 1958 chart topper for Ray Price. That innate ability to craft a memorable lyric continues to pay dividends with last week’s announcement that he would be among the writers who have been selected for the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame.

“It’s very special. There’s some very talented people going in, and I’m just thrilled and honored that to be among them,” he says of the 2018 class, which also includes fellow Country Music Hall of Famer Alan Jackson, Robert “Kool” Bell, Ronald Bell, George Brown & James “JT” Taylor P/K/A “Kool & The Gang,” Steve Dorff, Jermaine Dupri, John Mellencamp and Allee Willis. “It’s quite an honor, and I feel very humbled and blessed by it all.”

Anderson says that seeing his name among the previous honorees is a feeling that he still can’t process. “It’s an honor for someone like me who is basically writing three chords and the truth most of his life, to think that my name will be included along such names as Irving Berlin and Bob Dylan… It’s made me stop and think back over the years to all the people who have helped me along the way — going back to the man who published my first songs, to all the artists who have recorded them down through the years. I owe a lot to a whole lot of people.”

In a career that has seen many of the biggest stars in Nashville recording his material – ranging from Ray Price and Connie Smith to George Strait and Kenny Chesney — “Whisperin’ Bill” has also had his lyrics covered by some of the top artists outside of the genre. What are a few that stand out?

Aretha Franklin recorded a song that Buddy Killen and I wrote called ‘I May Never Get to Heaven,’ and she did it in her own style, which was thrilling,” Anderson recalls. “Anytime that someone from outside of country cut one of my songs, such as Dean Martin or Debbie Reynolds, it was a great feeling. But, if I had to narrow it down to one, it would be James Brown’s version of ‘Still,’ which he did somewhere back in the 1980s. It was the most unusual recording of a Bill Anderson song. The fact that James Brown — an artist who transcended all the musical formats — spent about seven minutes of his life recording ‘Still’ is a unique feeling.”

Anderson’s songwriting career received a boost in 1995 with the Vince Gill co-write “Which Bridge to Cross (Which Bridge To Burn),” which ushered in a new era of his composing career. “I think that hanging around with these young writers and artists has kept me fresh,” he offers of his continued relevance. “They keep me posted on what’s going on. Ii might come up with a line in a co-writing session with a kid, and he’ll say ‘Hey, Grandpa. That’s from yesterday. We don’t say that today.’ That kind of keeps me on my toes. It also enables me to work with them, and maybe teach them a thing or two. But, I think that staying with the Brad Paisleys, the Vince Gills, the Chris Jansons, and the Charlie Worshams have kept my writing fresh.”

And, at age 80, Anderson isn’t slowing down anytime soon. “I’ve got more things happening in 2018 than I’ve had in a long time. I’ve got a new song and video that should pop out in a few weeks. I’ve got an acoustic album that is very different than any album I’ve done. It’s got twenty songs, with ten being vocal and ten being instrumental. I’m also working on another album that should be out by the middle of the year, so I’m trying not to let any grass grow under my feet.”

There hasn’t been much opportunity for grass to grow under his feet since that first Price hit — which he wrote on the roof of a hotel in Commerce, GA, where he was working as a radio personality. Through the years, Anderson has had success as a writer, an artist, an author and even as a game-show host and actor. What would he tell that 19-year old who was eager to put his lyrics down on paper, if he could give him a message from the future?

“I’d tell him to get a good seatbelt and hang on for the ride. It’s been a heck of the journey. I was thinking the other day about how it’s a long way from the roof of the Hotel Andrew Jackson in Commerce, Georgia to the Songwriters’ Hall of Fame in New York, but it’s been a wonderful journey, and a wonderful trip. I would tell that kid to hang on – and enjoy it. Don’t let the business drag you down. Enjoy it and have a good time and realize that he’s been very blessed.” By