Bill Anderson, 80, was just named to the Songwriters Hall of Fame and he’s not done yet when it comes to future goals.
“My bucket list has got a hole in it,” cracked Anderson in a telephone interview, paraphrasing a lyric from a Hank Williams’ song.
The man known as “Whisperin’” Bill Anderson, plays Savannah Center at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 1. He is Nashville royalty, a longtime member of the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Grand Ole Opry.
Anderson has released more than 40 albums, and had seven No. 1 singles, to go along with nearly 30 Top Ten singles. He is currently working on a new song and video, in addition to recording an acoustic album.
His songs have been recorded by country artists such as George Strait, Kenny Chesney, Brad Paisley and Connie Smith. Such singers as Bing Crosby, Debbie Reynolds and Dean Martin have also recorded his music. And let’s not forget Aretha Franklin and James Brown.
Anderson was not only pleased but honored that the Queen of Soul and the Godfather of Soul, would take his music and make it their own.
“For me, it’s a wonderful compliment,” Anderson said. “James Brown took a country song (“Still”) and turned it into a James Brown song. The same holds true for Aretha (“I May Never Get to Heaven”) who made it her song.
“It’s an honor that they took my words and music and created something new. Anyone can trace a picture made by someone else, but Aretha and James Brown are true artists who painted a new picture from my work. That means a lot to me.”
Anderson was a 19-year kid in Commerce, Ga., when he wrote “City Lights.” In 1958, Ray Price recorded it and the song hit No. 1 on the country charts.
He followed that with a string of country chart-topping this, including: “Po Folks,” “Mama Sang a Song,” “The Tips of My Fingers,” “8 x 10” and “Still.”
Despite all that success, Anderson had some lean years during the 1980s.
“Country music was changing and I was wondering if I could still fit in,” Anderson said. “I don’t know how I got in that funk, but it was a tough time.”
He decided to branch out from singing, and found work hosting television and radio shows. He acted in a soap opera and did advertising for the Po’ Folks restaurant chain, which was named after one of his songs.
But things would change in 1992. A young country singer named Steve Wariner recorded Anderson’s 1960 song, “The Tip Of My Fingers.” It shot into the Top 10 and Bill Anderson decided maybe he still had a place in country music.
“It dawned on me that if Steve Wariner could take a song I wrote 30 years ago and make it a hit, maybe I could find something in common with other young artists and younger fans,” he said.
In 1995, Anderson teamed with Vince Gill to co-write another smash, “Which Bridge to Cross (Which Bridge to Burn).” Anderson has been working with contemporary country acts ever since.
Sometimes there are generational divides.
“One time I went to Brad Paisley’s house to work on a song,” Anderson said. “Brad’s sitting there with an electric guitar, sound board and iPad. I’m sitting there with my notebook and No. 2 pencil.
“Brad looks at me and says: ‘Hey Moses, when did you stop writing with a hammer and chisel?’ We both laughed. We got along great, and Brad had a lot of respect for my music.”
Their song, “Dying to See Her Again,” was on a Paisley album and they performed it together on the Grand Ole Opry.
When Anderson was coming of age, he said his idols were “the three Hanks — Hank Williams, Hank Thompson and Hank Snow.”
He still has a passion for their music, but is also open to current country sounds. “I’ve always said, there are only two kinds of music – good and bad. It was that way in the old days, and it’s that way now. The bad music will fade; the good music remains.”
And so does Bill Anderson.
He will be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame this June in New York City. Among those joining him that night will be John Mellencamp, Kool and the Gang, and Alan Jackson.
They will join an exclusive club with such members as Bob Dylan, Irving Berlin, Hank Williams, Bob Seger, Garth Brooks, Brian Wilson, Billy Joel, Carole King, Smokey Robinson, Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney and John Lennon.
“I’m still pinching myself that I’m going to be in the same Hall of Fame with such talented artists,” Anderson said. “It’s a tremendous honor.”
And he wants to play The Villages.
“I played an outdoor show there a while back,” Anderson said. “I hear it’s a lot bigger now and I can’t wait to get back.”