Songcraft: Spotlight on Songwriters Podcast

Bill Anderson

Ep. 35 - Bill Anderson

Whiskey Lullaby: Seven Consecutive Decades of Top 40 Country Hits

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Bill talks with Scott and Paul about why being a journalist and a DJ helped him become a better songwriter; how Ray Price both launched his songwriting career and challenged his artist career; what he's done to stay relevant and successful for more than half a century in the songwriting business; and how a friendly, clean-cut Grand Ole Opry star with a made-for-TV smile could write a song as dark and twisted as Porter Wagoner's "Cold Hard Facts of Life." 

In 1995, Billboard magazine listed the Top 20 country songs of the previous 35 years. Bill Anderson wrote four of those 20 songs, and has continued writing them ever since, becoming the only country songwriter to land a Top 40 hit in seven consecutive decades. After signing with the Decca label in 1959, Anderson released 37 records as an artist that reached the Top 10 on Billboard’s Country singles chart - eight of which climbed to the #1 position. Though wildly successful as a performer, Bill is also a prolific songwriter who penned most of his own hits, including the classics “Po Folks,” “Mama Sang a Song,” “8 X 10,” and “Still,” which was named Billboard magazine’s Song of the Year in 1963. His initial songwriting success began in 1958 when Ray Price took “City Lights” to the top of the charts for 13 weeks. The song became a standard that charted repeatedly in the 1950s, 60s, 70s, and 80s. Similarly, his “Tips of My Fingers,” reached the Top 10 four different times with versions recorded by Roy Clark, Eddy Arnold, Steve Wariner, and Anderson himself. Bill teamed with Roger Miller to co-write “When Two Worlds Collide,” which was a hit for Miller in 1961, Jim Reeves in 1969, and Jerry Lee Lewis in 1980. Other major hits from Bill Anderson’s vast catalog include Lefty Frizzell’s “Saginaw, Michigan,” Connie Smith’s “Once a Day,” and Porter Wagoner’s “Cold Hard Facts of Life.” After a hiatus, Anderson returned to songwriting in the 1990s, co-writing hits including Vince Gill’s “Which Bridge to Cross (Which Bridge to Burn)," Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss’s CMA Song of the Year “Whiskey Lullaby,” and George Strait’s CMA and ACM Song of the Year “Give It Away.” Bill was elected to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1975, and inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001. He has received multiple Grammy nominations and more than 50 BMI performance awards. Anderson was named BMI Country Songwriter of the Year six times, and was the first country writer ever honored with the prestigious BMI Icon award in 2002. The Academy of Country Music similarly recognized him with their inaugural Poets Award in 2008. His autobiography, Whisperin' Bill Anderson: An Unprecedented Life in Country Music, will be released by the University of Georgia Press in September, and is now available for pre-order at   


Songcraft's Bill Anderson Playlist: Spotify users can select the song you'd like to hear below, or simply start the player and enjoy more than 40 Anderson-penned hits that reached Billboard's Top 10 as recorded by other artists, followed by nearly 20 additional Top 10 hits that were both written and performed by Bill. If you don't have a Spotify account, follow the prompts to sign up for free. Click this link to take you directly to the playlist in the Spotify web player.