The Mansion Theatre is continuing its fall run of big shows Monday and Tuesday night as “Country’s Family Reunion” show takes the stage. The shows will star “Whisperin’” Bill Anderson, a member of the Grand Ole Opry, Country Music Hall of Fame, the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, as well as “Larry’s Country Diner” host Larry Black.
“It’s pretty much a scaled-down version of what the people see on television every week,” Anderson said. “We can’t bring the whole cast, but we’ve got some great guests lined up, and we’ll talk, tell some stories, sing some songs and just have a good time entertaining the people.”
Guests slated to appear at the “Reunion” include Jeannie Seely, the Malpass Brothers, Mickey Gilley, Teea Goans, Johnny Lee, and T. Graham Brown.
“I got kind of worried when I looked at the lineup because it’s full of people who are so bashful they might not even talk,” he said with a laugh. “I guess I’ll have to pull it out of them.”
Anderson began singing and writing songs while attending the University of Georgia as a journalism student, and by the time he was 19, he had already composed the country classic, “City Lights.” The tune was recorded by Ray Price in 1958, followed by Mickey Gilley in 1975. Both versions hit No. 1 on the charts.
Anderson’s first Top 10 hit as an artist came 1960, with “Tip of My Fingers.” He followed that early success with country standards including “Po’ Folks,” “8 X 10,” and his first No. 1 “Mama Sang a Song.” In 1963, Anderson recorded his “Still,” his signature song and biggest chart hit. In all, Anderson reached the Top 5 19 times, with hits including “I Get the Fever,” “For Loving You,” a duet with Jan Howard, “My Life (Throw It Away If I Want To),” and “Sometimes.” He also had 29 singles that reached the Top 10.
He also had his own television show in the 1960s, and it was during this time comedian/singer/songwriter Don Bowman, also longtime Branson favorite, helped bestow the “Whisperin’” moniker to Anderson.
While Anderson was already well-known for his soft, low tones, as well as speaking during his songs, it was Bowman who finally verbalized it.
“Don was the comedian on my TV show for several years, and we worked a lot of shows together both out on the road, and on TV,” Anderson said. “What happened was we taped TV shows here in Nashville, and we’d tape from about 8 until 10 in the evenings, and Don would just be waking up good by 10 at night, you know. Anyway, he’d up to WSM and visit Ralph Emery, who was doing the all night country music record show in those days, and he’d ask Don what he’s been up to all day. Don would answer he was taping television shows with ‘Ol Whisper.’
“Ralph asked, ‘Well who is Ol Whisper,’ and Don said, ‘Oh you know, ol ‘Whisperin’ Bill Anderson, the guys who says all his songs. But yes, he was he first one to call me ‘Whisperin’ Bill, or ‘Ol Whisperer.’”
Anderson also made several appearances on other shows, including two stints hosting “The Better Sex” in 1977, and the Nashville Network’s “Fandango.” He has also hosted “Opry Backstage,” produced “You Can Be a Star,” and even did a stint on “One Life to Live.”
After taking a decade away from the music business, Anderson returned in the 1990s, co-writing the hugely successful hits “Which Bridge To Cross – Which Bridge To Burn” for Vince Gill, “Two Teardrops” for Steve Wariner, “Wish You Were Here” for Mark Wills, “I’ll Wait for You” for Joe Nichols, and “A Lot of Things Different” for Kenny Chesney.
In 2001, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Anderson’s success continued into the new millennium when he won Song Of The Year honors in both 2005 and 2007 for helping write “Whiskey Lullaby” for Brad Paisley and Allison Krauss, and “Give It Away” for George Strait. Anderson also penned “Joey” for Sugarland, Lefty Frizzell’s “Saginaw, Michigan,” Cal Smith’s classic “The Lord Knows I’m Drinking,” “Must You Throw Dirt In My Face” for the Louvin Brothers, and “I Don’t Love You Anymore” for Charlie Louvin.
In addition to touring, performing at the Grand Ole Opry, as he has done every year since 1961, he has also penned three books, “Whisperin’ Bill” in 1989, “I Hope You’re Living As High On The Hog As The Pig You Turned Out To Be” in 1993, and “Whisperin’ Bill Anderson – An Unprecedented Life In Country Music.”
Recently, Anderson was also prominently featured in the Ken Burns documentary “Country Music,” which aired earlier this month on PBS.
“It was around 2014 or 15 when I sat down and talked with them, you know he’s been working on that for a long time,” Anderson said. “I thought Ken Burns did an incredible job telling our story, and treating our music and people with a lot of respect. I was really proud to be a small part of it.”
Even though he’s been in the music business for more than 60 years, Anderson said thanks to Burns’ film, he’s beginning to get even more recognition.
“I can’t go to the drug store, grocery store of fillin’ station without somebody coming up and telling me they saw me on there,” he said. “I loved it, and it’s a very positive thing for our business.”
Anderson, Black and the rest of the “Country’s Family Reunion” cast will take the stage at 7 p.m. Monday and Tuesday, Oct. 21 and 22.
Visit themansiontheatre.com for a full slate of upcoming shows.