Bill Anderson shows us 5 highlights of his new Country Music Hall of Fame exhibit

·4 min read

It’s a powerful thing to be immersed in the 84-year (and counting) journey of “Whispering” Bill Anderson through his new Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum exhibit – especially if you get to do so with the man himself.

That was our experience Thursday, as the Country Music Hall of Famer walked us through the brand-new “Bill Anderson: As Far as I Can See,” which runs through March 19, 2023 at the Nashville museum.

Along with hand-written lyrics, rhinestone suits, guitars and boots, you get a glimpse at Anderson’s life before country stardom – when he dabbled in journalism, baseball and had a brief career in radio. Here’s what caught our eye.

Bill Anderson points to a photograph on the wall walking into the exhibit, laughing while remarking "I never played electric guitar" at the new exhibit for Anderson titled "As Far as I can See" at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tenn., on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021.
Bill Anderson points to a photograph on the wall walking into the exhibit, laughing while remarking "I never played electric guitar" at the new exhibit for Anderson titled "As Far as I can See" at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tenn., on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021.

A 1958 Martin D-28 guitar that Anderson called his “second voice”: “They had this one on display in the window with the Hank Snow Music Center down on Church Street,” Anderson said, peering through the glass like he might have done 60-plus years ago.

“And I kept going by there and seeing it. $185 was a whole lot of money to a kid that had been making $50 a week. But fortunately, I got a little royalty money from 'City Lights' and was able to go in and buy that guitar.”

It led to many more hits, including “Po’ Folks,” “Still” and “Mama Sang a Song,” and it was featured several album covers. It’s been a long time since Anderson played it regularly, but he added, “Maybe someday, when we get through with this exhibit, I'll take it down and see if she's got another song in her.”

Bill Anderson points out Josh Waddlesforth McDuck, a co-host to his radio shows in Georgia from the beginning of his career at the new exhibit for Anderson titled "As Far as I can See" at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tenn., on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021.
Bill Anderson points out Josh Waddlesforth McDuck, a co-host to his radio shows in Georgia from the beginning of his career at the new exhibit for Anderson titled "As Far as I can See" at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tenn., on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021.

His former radio co-host (a squeaky Donald Duck toy): The rubber duck originally belonged to a DJ friend in Madison, Georgia, who’d goof around on air with it. When he moved up to a bigger station, he had to put away childish things, and entrusted the duck with Anderson. He took it to his radio gig in Commerce, Georgia and named him “Josh Waddlesforth McDuck.” The perfect middle name came out of a listener contest.

When Anderson was on air, he said, “I'd get Josh and I'd say, Well, hey, Josh, how you doing today? ‘Squeak, Squeak!’ ‘Oh, you didn't sleep good last night?’ I would interpret whatever the duck was saying. I had to retire the duck at one time because he started getting more fan mail than me. I ain't letting no silly rubber duck steal my thunder!”

We’re happy to report Anderson and McDuck have since reconciled.

“The first thing I said when I walked down — and I didn't know he was gonna be in here — I said, 'Well, buddy, we made it.'"

His high school baseball glove: “My God, look at that thing,” Anderson said, looking at the Rawlings glove he used to pitch for Avondale High School’s baseball team.

“I bet if you could wring that thing out, it'd have a quart of neatsfoot oil in it.”

Bill Anderson looks over cards describing his career and life underneath a quote in gold text at the new exhibit for Anderson titled "As Far as I can See" at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tenn., on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021.
Bill Anderson looks over cards describing his career and life underneath a quote in gold text at the new exhibit for Anderson titled "As Far as I can See" at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tenn., on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021.

The style that suits him: You’ll see several decades worth of rhinestone-studded suits by S.A. Formann, Nudie’s Rodeo Tailors and Manuel Cuevas. “He is so creative and has been for years,” Anderson says of Cuevas.

“Most of the time, I'll just turn him loose with it. I might pick out a color. I've had a little bit of a trademark collar style, even on the one I'm wearing right now.”

Pencil marks remain where Bill Anderson scratched over lyrics, left there during the song writing process, at the new exhibit for Anderson titled "As Far as I can See" at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tenn., on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021.
Pencil marks remain where Bill Anderson scratched over lyrics, left there during the song writing process, at the new exhibit for Anderson titled "As Far as I can See" at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tenn., on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021.

Award-winning words: Two of the suits on display are the ones Anderson wore to two separate CMA Awards ceremonies, where he won Song of the Year for “Whiskey Lullaby” in 2005 and “Give It Away” in 2007. And sitting just under those suits are Anderson’s hand-written lyrics to those award-winning songs.

“I just feel closer to the song I guess, if I'm writing it with my pencil,” Anderson said. “I never write with a pen. You can't erase it! I I'm sure you can find eraser (marks) all over this thing.”

“Bill Anderson: As Far as I Can See” runs through March 19, 2023 at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. To learn more, visit countrymusichalloffame.org

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Bill Anderson Country Music Hall of Fame exhibit

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