1) I recently heard a song of yours I had never heard before – “Ninety Nine Years.” I’ve been a fan of yours for 40 years and never heard you sing it or Eddie Stubbs play it. Now it’s my favorite Bill Anderson song. Did you write it? You need to sing it more often.
Thanks. I’m glad you like it. Yes, I wrote it, and it was actually the second single record I ever had released on Decca Records back in 1959. In some parts of the country…particularly in the upper midwest and in western Canada…it was a pretty big hit. It rose to #13 in the Billboard national charts. I sing it occasionally on the Opry, but now that you’ve brought it to my attention, I’ll try to remember and do it a bit more often.
2) Like you, I am a big Hank Williams Sr. fan. A buddy and I were talking today about the fact that there are no recordings we know of of Hank singing a Christmas song. Do you know of any Christmas recordings that he might have made? Also, did you ever get the chance to see him in person?
What an interesting question. I’ve racked my brain and called on a few of my friends who are large Hank Sr. fans, and none of us can recall his ever having recorded…or even having sung…a Christmas song. If anybody knows of one that we may have overlooked, please let me know. It seems very strange that of all his great country and gospel performances there was never a Christmas song included. And, no, I never saw him in person.
3) One of my favorite songs of yours is “Country D.J.” I retired from radio a couple of years ago and this song has always been one I related to. Could you talk about how that song came about?
I worked as a country disc jockey, as they called us back in the day, for several years, and on many occasions after I came to Nashville and got on the other side of the microphone, I thought back on those days with fondness…along with a bit of sarcasm and humor. One day I just picked up my guitar and started sifting through the memories, and the result was the Country DJ song. I thought it wouldn’t be understood by anyone other than someone who had also worked in the business, and was surprised when so many people outside of broadcasting began relating to it. It went from what I envisioned as an obscure album cut
to an eleven-week chart record in Billboard. Which proves one more time that you never can outguess the public.
Question Of The Month: This month’s question comes from Dusty in Georgia who writes, “One of my favorite things is watching you on Country’s Family Reunion. My friends and I have monthly get-togethers in my basement where we take turns playing our favorite clips from the show. With you being there to see all of those great performances take place in person, I’m very curious as to what moment sticks out to you as one of your favorite performances?
We recorded CFR shows for 23-years, and there were so many great performances that I could never narrow it down to one particular favorite. And not all special moments were musical. Many were woven into the story-telling fabric of the show…such as Merle Kilgore’s hilarious recounting of The Gnat Blowers at Faron Young’s house…a tale I can watch again and again and never grow tired of. Moments like Grandpa Jones interacting with Bill Carlisle….Jimmy Dean and Little Jimmy Dickens picking on one another…and the serious moments visiting with Ray Price’s widow and Merle Haggard’s sons. When we first began CFR we thought we were creating entertainment, which we were. But more than that, we were capturing history…and I wouldn’t take a jillion dollars for the opportunity to have been a part of it.
QUICKIES: What year and place did you make your first appearance making music? It was in 1953 in a talent show at Avondale High School near Atlanta. I was thrilled when some of your early LPs came out digital. I have a lot on vinyl, but they are starting to skip. Will more be released? I have been told that there will be more…possibly totaling as many as 30 or so. I am waiting on specifics from Universal Music, and as soon as I know more details I will pass them along. Are you related to anyone famous or popular? Only Whisperin’ Bill Anderson. He’s a country singer you may or may not have heard of. Are any of your children or grandchildren going to follow you and be a country singer or songwriter? It’s a bit too late for any of my children to get into this business, but my 14-year old granddaughter, Hallie, has shown a real interest in it. I’m not sure she wants to be a performer, but she told the talent coordinator at the Opry that she wants her job when she retires. Stay tuned. My granddaughter loves unicorns. How did you come up with that for a song? I didn’t write The Unicorn, but I wish I had. It was written by the great Shel Silverstein and was a pop hit for a group called The Irish Rovers years ago. I thought it would make a great country song, so I recorded it and have performed it onstage hundreds of times. It has been quite a staple of my career.
Thanks for your questions again this month. I’ll be looking for a whole bunch more for November. Send yours to firstname.lastname@example.org and be watching for your answer in a future newsletter. If your question is chosen as our Question Of The Month, you will receive any merchandise item from our online store autographed and shipped to you free of charge. So get your question to me today, and we’ll see you back here again next month.