It’s been over 35 years since John Anderson notched his first Top 20 hit, and in that time, he’s gotten to meet a lot of his country music heroes. The singer reveals that, even as a seasoned country artist himself, he still gets nervous around some country legends, including Merle Haggard and the late George Jones.
“It was probably Haggard and Jones [who] were two of my biggest, like, say, the guys you get nervous around,” Anderson tells Honky Tonkin’ With Tracy Lawrence. “Johnny Cash is another one …
“Me and Big John were buddies; we went hunting together a couple times,” Anderson adds. “It was a great experience just to be able to visit one on one with Johnny Cash. Man, you talk about stories — it ended up being about everything he did was a story. What a huge legacy he was, and a huge, huge part of country music.”
Anderson may have become buddies with the Man in Black, but he was starstruck when he first met fellow country legend Haggard on Nashville’s Music Row. His run-in with the Hag was memorable for the new artist — but Anderson doubts that Haggard would recall their initial meeting.
“He don’t know this, but it was on Music Row. There used to be — well, there’s still a little market down there, but it was called Virginia’s. I was there one night, and this was the first time I ever met [Haggard],” Anderson recalls. “This car pulled up, and Ronnie Reno jumped out of it and went in the store there. Well, I look, and in the passenger’s side, there sat Merle.
“And I was just a kid, and I ran over and said, ‘Uh, you’re Merle Haggard,’” Anderson continues. “He said, ‘Yeah,’ and I said, ‘I need to shake your hand.’ So, that’s the first time I met him; of course, he wouldn’t remember that.”
But, Anderson adds, “When later I got a record deal and finally I got to meet him on a person-to-person level … I can remember it was a whole different feeling. Instead of the guy running across the parking lot and really knowing that you were probably bothering him, you know, this next time, you’re invited up on his big, fine bus, and there you are, someone just beginning into this business, and you get to go visit with probably one of the greatest of all. Yeah, it’s a real thrill.”
As for the Possum, one of Anderson’s best memories is of the first concert he attended, which was just after he moved to Nashville.
“I was past 17 at that point — would’ve been George Jones and Tammy Wynette,” Anderson says. ”They both used to sing in the same microphone, or they did the night that I watched them, and it was just incredible, watchin’ how they just lean into each other — of course, they sounded just like George Jones and Tammy Wynette.
“I remember the visual of them smiling and singing in that one microphone,” he adds. “What a show they put on together; it was something to behold.”
The Florida native has a ton of memories from the older days of country music, but he’s also enjoying the changes that the genre has made in recent years — especially when it comes to attracting younger listeners.
“I like some of it. And I’m glad to see the other people involved,” he tells The Boot. “I remember when I started playing country music, I was the only cat in the whole place, the only young person, almost. And, back then, I thought to myself, ‘Maybe we could play some music and write some songs that attract some younger folks. Maybe they want to boogie a little bit.’ So we boogied a little.”
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