Whisperin’ Bill Anderson – prolific singer-songwriter and Grand Ole Opry legend – connected with his Pike County roots as he visited the Anderson Cemetery and his family’s old home place on Blanton Mill Road last week. Bill, 85, and his two daughters, Jenni and Terri visited the cemetery and parts of the land his family purchased shortly after the 1822 Treaty of Indian Springs and the resulting land lottery. From the 1830s to the turn of the century, his family lived in the area and his cousin Grover Anderson was the Pike Ordinary (now known as probate judge) for several decades, starting in the 1970s.
Bill grew up in Decatur, but much of his family was from Pike County in the Williamson and Hollonville area. He became a favorite in Nashville before he was even out of his teens. He became a fixture of the country-oriented TV scene, hosting shows through the 60s, 70s and 80s while remaining a country radio star. He pioneered the talk-singing genre of country, is the longest member of the Grand Ole Opry and is still regularly a part of the show.
“Nobody forgets their first time performing at the Grand Ole Opry and my first time was in January 1959. In those days, it was at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville and my parents had taken me the summer before my 15th birthday to the Grand Ole Opry because they knew how much I loved music and was a fan. Within five years, I was on the stage there,” he said.
He met another Pike County musician – Callista Clark – back stage at the Grand Ole Opry recently and she was surprised he knew about her home county.
“She said she was from Georgia and I asked where. When she said, ‘Zebulon,’ I asked, ‘Pike County?’ and she nearly fell over! We talked a few minutes about my dad being born in Williamson and having family here. If you took all of the musicians from Georgia out of Nashville, there’d be a big hole up there.”
Over the years, Bill earned countless music awards and recently in 2022 received his first Grammy as an artist in the Best American Roots Performance for ‘Someday It’ll All Make Sense” (Bluegrass Version) with Dolly Parton. It was his fifth nomination and he’s truly working at connecting with his roots and ensuring his family’s history in the Griffin and Pike County areas are remembered.
“I think we all need to know where we came from. I’ve never forgotten where I came from and I want my children to know about it. Sometimes I think of questions I wish I’d asked my mom and dad or others and I want my kids to know as much about the family as they can because in the end, it’s all about family,” he said, noting that his son would have been with them too but he was required to be at Delta pilot training so he can fly the largest planes in their fleet. “We will pass all of this along to him. It’s important to know about your family and your history.”
Whisperin’ Bill was dressed in his University of Georgia gear as he walked around the Anderson Cemetery, pointing out the graves of his aunts, uncles and cousins. He shared stories about many of them, including Jack Yancey Anderson.
“I can see him now. He was a character,” said Bill. “He had the first car phone I’d ever seen and he would drive around with a secretary and make land deals from his vehicle.”
Bill made it known he is a stalwart Georgia Bulldogs fan, noting that he was at the recent Georgia – Tennessee game and that he graduated from UGA with a journalism degree. He was a talented writer from a young age and worked for the Dekalb New Era newspaper while he was in high school and later did sports reporting for the Atlanta Constitution.
“Minnie Pearl used to say that in Grinder’s Switch, people didn’t read the newspaper to see what happened because they already knew what happened. They read the newspaper to see who got caught.”