Whisperin’ Bill Anderson Celebrates 60th Anniversary as Grand Ole Opry Member

by Joe Rutland

The Grand Ole Opry celebrated one of its members on Saturday night, honoring Bill Anderson on his 60th anniversary with the institution.

Anderson, a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, became a full-fledged Opry member on July 15, 1961, at 23 years old. He was the youngest member of such an elite group at that time. He’d made his Opry debut weeks before his 21st birthday at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville.

Opry members Mark Wills and Vince Gill, along with country star Sara Evans, joined many others on stage to offer Anderson congratulations.

“First of all, it’s really hard to imagine I’ve been at the Grand Ole Opry for 60 years,” Anderson said. “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.”

Bill Anderson Admitted To Feeling Blessed As Part Of Opry Family

Anderson also said he felt blessed to have been part of the Opry family 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,” he said. “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.” 

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee officially proclaimed Saturday, July 17, 2021, as “Bill Anderson Day.” Nashville Mayor John Cooper followed suit as well.

Backstage, Gill gave Anderson the official State of Tennessee proclamation. Fellow Grand Ole Opry member Jeannie Seely, who’s been a part of it for 54 years, handed Anderson the proclamation from the City of Nashville.

For people who love country music as well as country music-based programming, Bill Anderson has had a presence on many of them.

Opry Legend Got Big Break When Ray Price Recorded ‘City Lights’

His career started way back in 1958. That’s when legendary country singer Ray Price recorded Anderson’s song “City Lights.” Price’s version stayed on top of the Billboard Country Music charts for 13 weeks.

Bill Anderson then signed a recording contract of his own with Decca Records. The hits kept coming with “Po’ Folks,” “Mama Sang a Song,” “Still,” and “Bright Lights and Country Music.”

Some may ask where did the “Whisperin'” nickname come from for Anderson. Well, it was his soft-spoken delivery that earned him the moniker.

Anderson scored CMA Song of the Year honors with George Strait’s “Give It Away” and Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss teaming up for “Whiskey Lullaby.” Not bad for this Grand Ole Opry legend.