The River's Badge

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Singer-Songwriter Series ~ Episode 4


Just because a guy had his first hit song in 1958 doesn't mean that he's over the hill. Just because he happens to be 74 years old, that doesn't mean that there's still not great songs rattling around up there. Because apparently there are.

Again, I am....well, I was going to say "aghast", but that doesn't really fit, does it? I am...awed...by the prolificacy of the great songwriters.

Bill Anderson has been around for my whole life (obviously), and when I first became aware of him, it was through his syndicated TV show, which my channel always broadcast on Saturday afternoons, which they apparently considered the "dead" time slot, but not for me! I think it was Porter Wagoner's show and then Bill Anderson's show, and probably the Wilburn Brothers' show, or somebody's. I only actually remember Porter's and Bill's.

The show looked something like this:



Let's just say at the outset that Bill (whom I'm sure would be the first to tell you) is not the world's greatest singer.

As a matter of fact, he's really kind of a bad singer. Which is probably why he always did those sappy recitations. Which were awful! In fact, many performers through the years have parodied those recitations, and who can blame them? It's almost too easy.

Here's an example of what I'm talking about:



Be that as it may, I don't think Bill really set out to be a singer anyway. I'm not sure how or why it happened, but somebody somewhere said, "Hey Bill ~ LOVE your voice! Did you ever think about recording?"

And Bill said, "Huh? Is this a joke? That's kind of cruel."

But none of us can sing, really. Unless you're LeAnn Rimes, and you've made yet another crappy cover album (even if it was produced by Vince Gill), in which you've slowed down all the songs that were meant to be up-tempo, just so you could put your "stamp" on them. And you've ruined them; just ruined them.

I digress (Don't I? But I still managed to make my point.)

But back to Bill Anderson.

The year was 1958. That year of Bill's first hit song. And it was a good one. I remember listening to this song (not in 1958!) and thinking, that's a really well-written song. And it didn't hurt that Ray Price was singing it:



Bill, as you know, or maybe don't know, was in essence responsible for Connie Smith's career. I bought Connie's first album, and I think every song on it was written by Bill Anderson (There might have been one or two that weren't, but I'm not going to dig through my closet to find the album to prove myself right or wrong).

Here's Connie's first big, big hit:



Here's another one, introduced by Bill himself. "Cute and Country" Connie Smith (aww, isn't that sweet?)



One more, a bit more recently performed:



But Bill wasn't just about Connie Smith and Ray Price, and well, himself. No. Do you remember this one? I wanna say 1963, but I'm really just guessing, to be honest. The only hit song that Roy Clark ever really had, and he managed to parlay that into a pretty lengthy career (Thanks again, Bill! Says Roy.)



Yet, Bill moved into the almost-twenty-first century, with songs like this one, recorded by Steve Wariner (I think Steve deserves a post all his own, really.)



And, you know, this one, of course:



And yes, here we go again, with this video that I really dislike, but I really, really like the song:



That's a damn long good career! Bill Anderson is someone who can get up in the morning and honestly say, "I'm going to write a hit song today. Or at least I know I can write a hit song today."

To be honest,and not satirical, Bill Anderson is a songwriter who has been able to adapt to the times.

If you listen to the songs he wrote in the late fifties, early sixties, they were different from the songs he writes now. Not lyrically, so much, although perhaps his lyrics are a bit more frank now than they were back then. That's a sign of the times, no doubt.

There was a formula in those days. It was basically, verse chorus, verse chorus. Simple? Well, not so simple that you or I could write a great one. Deceptively simple, maybe.

Times and tastes change, though. And Bill's writing has changed, too. He co-writes a lot now. Maybe that's what keeps him current. I'm not a fan of co-writing, but if it works, and it makes Bill big bucks, then, hey! I think a lot of those young co-writers can thank their lucky stars that someone of the caliber of Bill Anderson has agreed to write a song with them.

As the saying goes (MY saying, because I have repeated it so much that I've now laid claim to it), either you've got it or you don't.

And I guess, if you had it in 1958, and you still have it more than 50 years later, then you've GOT IT.

You don't have to wonder. Fifty years is the cutoff point for wondering.

I only started writing in 2002, so it would not be until the year 2052 that I would know for sure. I would then be 97-freakin' years old. I ain't living that long. So I guess I'll never know. But I'm pretty sure; I don't got it.

But that's okay. I can still admire those who do.

~~~

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