March 18, 2012
As one of the finest new traditionalists of the eighties and nineties, John Anderson pushed the boundaries of country music without sacrificing its distinctive heritage.
Like many of his contemporaries, Anderson grew up on both country and rock and roll. He was a teenager when Merle Haggard led him to the genre, and what he heard was enough to motivate him to move to Nashville. He did construction work around town, including putting the roof on the new Grand Ole Opry in the early seventies. Over the next few years, he made a name on the club scene, which soon earned him a recording contract with Warner Brothers.
The label patiently worked him as a singles act, and as he gained traction at radio, they released his self-titled debut in 1980. Its honky-tonk, traditional sound stood in stark contrast to the pop-flavored country that dominated the day. With his second album, John Anderson 2, he solidified himself as a leader of the nascent new traditionalist movement, covering Lefty Frizzell and Billy Joe Shaver alongside original songs.
Still, it was the pop-flavored “Swingin’” which earned Anderson his greatest notoriety in the eighties. The million-selling single earned Anderson the CMA award for Single of the Year, and was the peak of his years with Warner Brothers. By the time he left the label in the late eighties, he’d scored twelve top ten hits. But despite the fact that the sound he’d brought back to the forefront was all over country radio, he struggled for airplay and the critical acclaim of his early years faded away.
Then, a stunning second act. Anderson signed with BNA Records in 1991, and staged a major comeback with the #1 hit, “Straight Tequila Night.” It served as the anchor to the 1992 album Seminole Wind, which earned rave reviews and double-platinum sales. Anderson was nominated for every major industry award, with the most attention going to the title track, a poignant environmental plea for the protection of the Florida Everglades.
Anderson maintained momentum with the follow-up album, Solid Ground, which sold gold and included three big hits. For the rest of the nineties, his success at radio was less consistent, and he scored his last significant chart action with “Somebody Slap Me”, a top thirty hit that was his first release for Mercury Records.
The new millenium brought a well-received collaboration with John Rich, with the resulting album, Easy Money, earning Anderson’s strongest reviews since Seminole Wind. More recently, Anderson co-wrote Rich’s single, “Shuttin’ Detroit Down.” In addition to maintaining a hectic touring schedule, Anderson is currently preparing a new studio album, slated to include guest appearances by Haggard and Willie Nelson.
- I’m Just an Old Chunk of Coal (But I’m Gonna Be a Diamond Someday), 1981
- Wild and Blue, 1982
- Swingin’, 1983
- Straight Tequila Night, 1991
- Seminole Wind, 1992
- I Wish I Could Have Been There, 1994
- John Anderson 2, 1981
- Wild & Blue, 1982
- All the People are Talkin’, 1983
- Seminole Wind, 1992
- Solid Ground, 1993
- Easy Money, 2007
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