Whisperin’ Bill Anderson will return to his Georgia roots

His nickname came from his style of singing — low-key and simple — but his musical resume is anything but understated.

Whisperin’ Bill Anderson has penned songs made famous for country behemoths from Ray Price and Wanda Jackson to Kenny Chesney and Brad Paisley.

As Vince Gill notes on the jacket of Anderson’s autobiography, “Whisperin’ Bill Anderson: An Unprecedented Life in Country Music” – penned with veteran music scribe Peter Cooper — “Still to this day when I hear one of my favorite songs, Bill undoubtedly wrote it.”

While Anderson, 78, is rooted in Nashville, Tenn., he was born in South Carolina and raised in Griffin and Decatur, where he will return Sept. 4 for an appearance at the AJC Decatur Book Festival.

In 1957, Anderson wrote his breakthrough hit, “City Lights,” while working at radio station WJJC-AM in Commerce, scribbling the song’s lyrics on the back of a radio station envelope — in pencil — while sitting on the roof of his hotel where he lived, the Hotel Andrew Jackson. It was, he writes, the “little tune” that turned out to be his “magic carpet ride to Nashville.”

The song became a major hit for Price the following year, claiming the top spot on the country charts for 13 consecutive weeks.

Anderson’s musical legacy includes more than 40 studio albums and seven No. 1 country songs, including “Mama Sang a Song,” “For Loving You,” “World of Make Believe” and “Sometimes.”

While he moonlighted as a game show host (ABC’s “The Better Sex” in the late ‘70s) and actor (he played a fictional character named Bill Anderson for three years in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s on the soap “One Life to Live”), few country stalwarts would argue Anderson’s elevated placement in the country music canon.

Whisperin’ Bill Anderson will discuss his autobiography at 5 p.m. Sept. 4 at Decatur Presbyterian Sanctuary.

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