1) When they make shows or movies about country artists such as George & Tammy, Hank Williams Sr., and Johnny Cash, do you watch them? Or is it hard because you knew them in real life and maybe have a sense of what is real and what is fiction when it comes to their stories?
I do try to watch most of them, but sometimes it’s a bit difficult to swallow the Hollywood version of what I know really took place. Admittedly, some stick closer to the facts than others. I recall asking Hank Williams’ longtime steel guitar player, Don Helms, what he thought of the first movie about his former boss, “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” when it initially came out back in the sixties. He replied, “It’s all right if you like fiction.” In a way that pretty much sums up the overall genre for me.
2) Do you ever visit the cemetery to pay respect to some of your friends from the music business?
I don’t make a habit of hanging out in cemeteries, but, yes, I do visit the final resting places of some of my friends from time to time. It’s a bit difficult, though, because many of them are not buried in Nashville. And even among those who are, they are not interred in any one specific location. You can spend an entire day driving from one cemetery to another and still not get to them all.
3) In the 80’s there was a PBS series that used your recording, “Ride Off In The Sunset,” at the beginning and end of each episode. Do you know if the song was written specifically for that program or was it just chosen as the theme?
I never knew exactly how that particular recording got selected as the theme song to the series, “Six Gun Heroes,” but I’m glad that it did. I couldn’t believe the tremendous reaction I got from it. People who never heard of Bill Anderson became acquainted with me through those programs. Curly Putman and Bobby Braddock didn’t write the song specifically for the show, but it was a stroke of good fortune for us all when it was chosen.
4) Our Question Of The Month comes from Dave in California: One night during the Stump The Band segment of his show, Johnny Carson called the song you wrote for Jean Shepard in 1974 called, “At The Time,” the worst song he had ever heard. Did you ever get an apology from him? Or did you consider it a backhanded compliment that you got mentioned on his show?
I was a big Johnny Carson fan, and I happened to be watching the night someone in his audience tried to stump the band with my song. The man chose one of the “comparison” lines in the song…”If you’ve never had filet mignon..peanut butter tastes just fine”….or “If you’ve never been to Paris, France…Big Spring, Texas will suit you fine”….and Johnny went ballistic. He screamed, “That’s the worst song I have EVER heard!” as the audience roared. I got a big kick out of it and never asked for, nor did I expect, an apology. He didn’t mention my name, but I wouldn’t have cared. I don’t embarrass easily. Hey, I wrote “Peel Me A ‘Nanner,” too, remember??
Quickies: Do you have any plans to return to Commerce, Georgia, anytime soon? We love you here! And I love Commerce, too. I call it my “adopted hometown,” and I try to get back there as often as I can. Hopefully, I can arrange another visit sometime soon. Many years ago I had the pleasure of meeting you at a PoFolks Restaurant in San Diego. Do you know whatever happened to that wonderful chain of restaurants? Sadly, the chain filed for bankrupcty protection back in the mid-90’s. Only a few of the stores remain open, mostly in the panhandle area of Florida. I’d love to bite into one of those big fluffy biscuits ‘n cream gravy right about now! You and Jeannie Seely often appear on the Grand Ole Opry on the same nights. Have you ever considered doing some of the duets each of you has recorded at some time? I assume you mean the duets Jeannie sang with Jack Greene and the ones I recorded with Jan Howard and Mary Lou Turner. We’ve never talked about it, but it might be fun to try sometime. Why did you only record one record with the Swanee label, and why is the picture on the back of your new CD different from the back of the original LP? Swanee didn’t stay in business long enough for me to do more than the one album. We couldn’t find the negative from the original picture on the back cover, so we used the closest thing we could find. And before I sign off here, I was wrong last month when I wrote that my recording of “Suppertime” was never released on a compact disc. A label in the U.K. called Fat Boy Records released it on a CD titled, “I Wonder If God Likes Country Music.” Thanks to several of you for pointing that out.
And thanks, too, for sending in lots of interesting questions this month. If you’re curious about something connected my career or to country music in general you can ask me about it at AskBill@BillAnderson.com and I’ll do my best to answer. Submit our Question of the Month and win free merchandise from our online store. See you back here again in July.