The Grand Ole Opry honored Country Music Hall of Famer Bill Anderson on his 60th anniversary as an Opry member Saturday evening. Anderson made his Opry debut just a few weeks before his 21st birthday and became an official Opry member less than three years later on July 15, 1961 at 23-years-old, the youngest member at the time. Sara Evans and Opry members Mark Wills and Vince Gill joined other artists on stage congratulating Anderson on his milestone 60th Anniversary. The performances aired as part of Opry Live on the Circle Network.
In celebration of the Grammy-nominated and ACM Poet Award honoree, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee issued an official proclamation that July 17 is “Bill Anderson Day.” Nashville Mayor John Cooper also proclaimed July 17 as “Bill Anderson Day” in Music City. Backstage after the Opry performance, the country legend celebrated with friends, family members, and fellow artists in the Opry House’s backstage Studio A. Longtime friend and Opry member Vince Gill presented the State of Tennessee proclamation to Anderson on behalf of Governor Lee, while 54-year Opry member Jeannie Seely was on hand to present Anderson with a framed proclamation from the City of Nashville on behalf of Mayor Cooper.
“First of all, it’s really hard to imagine I’ve been at the Grand Ole Opry for 60 years,” shared Anderson. “It seems like yesterday they asked me if I wanted to be a part of this great family, and of course I couldn’t wait to tell them yes and be a part of this wonderful family. Because that’s what it is, a wonderful, wonderful family. I feel so blessed to have been a part of it for 60 years. I tell people all the time that the Grand Ole Opry is like Yankee Stadium to a baseball player, or Broadway to an actor, or Hollywood to someone in film. It’s the highest rung on the ladder. It’s as high as you can go in country music and I’m just thankful that I’ve gotten to be here for 60 years.”
Anderson’s music career started in 1958 when Ray Price recorded his song, “City Lights” and it stayed at the top of Billboard magazine’s country charts for 13 weeks. Soon after this success, he signed with Decca Records and began to have hits of his own such as “Po’ Folks,” “Mama Sang a Song,” “Still” and “Bright Lights and Country Music.” By now he had affectionately been nicknamed “Whisperin’ Bill” because of his soft-spoken delivery and recitations. Through the years Anderson has written hit songs for numerous artists, including Lefty Frizzell’s “Saginaw, Michigan,” Conway Twitty’s “I May Never Get to Heaven” and many more including Kenny Chesney’s “A Lot of Things Different,” George Strait’s “Give It Away” and Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss’ “Whiskey Lullaby,” with the last two hits winning CMA Song of the Year honors.
On October 30, 2021, the Opry, the world’s longest-running radio show, will mark a historic, record-breaking milestone with its 5,000th Saturday night broadcast.