A new exhibit, “Bill Anderson: As Far as I Can See,” at Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum examines Anderson’s unprecedented career and enduring musical legacy
In 1957, a nineteen-year-old college student, Bill Anderson, sat atop a three-story hotel overlooking a few stoplights in the small town of Commerce, Georgia, and wrote “City Lights” on his guitar — singing to the starry night and envisioning a bustling metropolis:
“A bright array of city lights as far as I can see, the great white way shines through the night for lonely guys like me,” he observed in “City Lights.”
The song, which soared to the top of the country charts for singer Ray Price a year later, kicked off a country music career for Anderson that has spanned more than six decades and defined the depth and imagination of his songwriting that still resonates with audiences and artists today.
The exhibit, which opens Friday, Dec. 3, and runs through March 19, 2023, traces the Country Music Hall of Fame member’s story from childhood to his days in Georgia, where he excelled as a baseball pitcher and sportswriter while in high school and a disc jockey in college, through his contributions as one of the most decorated recording artists, songwriters and entertainers in history.
Known as “Whisperin’ Bill” for his soft-spoken and conversational singing style, Anderson has placed 80 records on the Billboard charts as a recording artist, with his singles reaching country’s Top 20 more than 40 times. His original songs have been recorded by a wide array of artists, including James Brown, Elvis Costello, Aretha Franklin, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Louvin Brothers, Dean Martin, Willie Nelson, Charley Pride, Connie Smith, George Strait and many more. As a songwriter, he’s placed songs on the country charts in seven consecutive decades.
Anderson, who also achieved popularity as an actor and game show host, remains a mainstay performer on the Grand Ole Opry today, recently celebrating his 60th anniversary as a member on the historic radio show. More than 60 years after composing “City Lights” on that starry night in Georgia, Anderson is still flourishing as a contemporary songwriter in Nashville, collaborating in recent years with artists Kenny Chesney, Jamey Johnson, Brad Paisley and many others.
“Bill Anderson not only fortified and evolved country music, but his remarkable body of work establishes him as one of the most prolific and preeminent American artists and songsmiths across all genres,” said Kyle Young, CEO of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. “But it’s his natural curiosity, humanity and ability to forge true, emotional connections with audiences – both as a performer and songwriter – that constantly replenishes his relevance and endears him to so many today.”
Items featured in the exhibit include historic photographs, treasured keepsakes, instruments, manuscripts and more. Touchscreen interactives will also give visitors the opportunity to delve into Anderson’s songs and songwriting process through archival materials, performance clips and exclusive interview footage in which Anderson reveals the stories behind his songs.
“I grew up dreaming of the day they’d put my ball glove into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, never dreaming that one day it would end up in the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville,” said Anderson. “But now that old glove, along with some guitars, a few rhinestone suits and some scribbled song lyrics are on display in the “Bill Anderson: As Far as I Can See” exhibit in Music City. When the museum does an exhibit, they really do it up right, and I’m honored to know that I am now a small part of their incredible legacy. I’m not sure I could have ever seen this far.”
In addition to his induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001, he’s been inducted into the National Songwriters Hall of Fame (2018) and several other halls of fame. In 2021, Connie Smith’s 1964 recording of his song “Once a Day,” was added to the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry.
More information about this exhibit and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum can be found at www.CountryMusicHallofFame.org.