INTERVIEW: Lynn Anderson

Lynn Anderson is best known for her Grammy Award-winning country crossover mega-hit, "(I Never Promised You A) Rose Garden." She also was one of the most popular female country singers of the 1970s and continues to be a fan favorite to this day.
I was honored and blessed to be able to spend some quality one on one time with Ms. Anderson, who is not only one of my first influences in country music but is a loving, big hearted and amazing woman who I admire for the many things she has done over her career.

Bev: I think I have told you before you were the very first concert my Dad ever took me to.
Lynn: Yes, how many years ago was that concert?
Bev: Oh gosh, I was probably ten years old. It was in Sioux City, Iowa in a little arena and I admit I probably didn’t know who you were. I remember we were right up front and I went home and I was in awe.
Lynn: I thank you so much. I have been doing this for so long and I have heard a lot of these stories, like “you were my Mom’s favorite” or “you were my Dad’s favorite”. My personal favorite is “you were my Grandfather’s favorite from the Lawrence Welk show.” I am sitting here realizing that I have been doing this since 1967 which means 42 years, that’s a long time.
Bev: Looking back, what is one of the most cherished moments that you remember the most?
Lynn: I think that probably the neatest moment in my career was when the guys came home from Vietnam. I was with the USO and Bob Hope one evening where there were about 2,000 Navy guys in the front and 2,000 Air Force on one side and a couple of thousand Marine Corp on the other side. When I started to sing Rose Garden they all stood up at attention and saluted all the while I sang the song. It stopped your heart. When I finished the song, an honor guard of the United States Marine Corp paraded up to the stage and presented me with an American Flag that had flown over a Marine Corp Aviation Station in Thailand called MCAS The Rose Garden. There were a lot of US Marines that had served there. I still have that flag.
Bev: Did you know that it bore the name prior to that?
Lynn: No. It was kind of a secret station, a place where Marines or other servicemen went that were injured or needed repairs to their aircraft; so it was a secret place in the middle of the jungle somewhere in Thailand. I believe it was Nam Pong, Thailand. Having those guys stand and salute was awesome.
In March I get to do it again in the Rose Bowl, in Pasadena, California. There are a bunch of them coming back from Iran, Iraq and Pakistan. The United States Marine Corp is doing another similar presentation at the Rose Bowl and I get to sing it again. The song has become entwined with the United States Marine Corp which is an honorable thing. When you sing three minutes of music, you never know where it is going to go.
The American Rose Society named a rose for me, actually two. There is a Lynn Anderson rose and there is also a Rocky Top rose. I think I am the only one with two roses.
Bev: What color are they?
Lynn: The Lynn Anderson rose is a beige color with hot pink around the edges and the Rocky Top rose is orange for the state of Tennessee. There are several ladies in our business that have roses named for them. There is a Reba McEntire; which is also an orange; there is a Minnie Pearl which is of course a miniature rose.
Bev: Talking about “Rose Garden”, when it became a pop crossover, was that intentional, did you try to do that or did it just happen? That was back before we had so many crossover artists and you were one of the first ones to do that.
Lynn: I attended a meeting with CBS marketing that Clive Davis headed. Clive Davis sat down all the heads of marketing from each region and he said “gentlemen, we understand that this is a number one country record but I am telling you that this is a number one pop record. I am going to be talking to each of you in the next week or so, and if it is not number one in your market I am going to want to know the reason why”. He reached out and touched me and said “this is a number one pop record, I am not going to be satisfied in your market if this is only a country record, because I think it is more” So Clive Davis reached out and said “okay boys, this is what I am expecting from you” and they came through.
Bev: When you receive honors such as the 100 greatest songs of country music, how does that make you feel? What goes through your mind when you hear those types of accolades?
Lynn: I am amazed. I have had a really blessed life. My mother is a wonderful songwriter. I have been involved in the Country Music business since I was five or six years old and people like Merle Haggard and Buck Owens would come to the house to sing with Mom and Dad. Later, I met and fell in love with a guy named Glen Sutton, who wrote 56 BMI award winning songs and is a Hall of Fame Songwriter. He’d come home with “I Don’t Want To Play House” and I go “God, it is great, is it for me?” and he said “that’s for Tammy”; same with “D.I.V.O.R.C.E.” and “Take Me To Your World”, those kind of things. So those songs were part of my life. From about the time I was ten years old I have been hearing great Country Music and been involved with the people that made that great Country Music. For the last 26 years I have lived with Mentor Williams. He wrote “Drift Away” and that song is arguably the most recorded, most sold song in the history of ASCAP. Mentor’s brother, my brother-in-law, Paul Williams is the new President of ASCAP. Recently if you bought a Happy Meal at McDonalds you got a kid’s CD with “Drift Away” on it, right next to “Teardrops On My Guitar”. We met when his song was getting an award at the same time as “Rose Garden” was receiving an award. It is amazing how my family is all so deeply involved in the music business and at a pretty good level.
Bev: Out of all the people that you have performed with, do you have a favorite?
Lynn: I just got back this past weekend from the 50th anniversary of a John Wayne movie called “Rio Bravo” and it was John Wayne’s birthday party. I re-met Deana Martin who is Dean Martin’s daughter. This question is really hard because I have sung with everybody from Minnie Pearl to Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney. I think Dean Martin is definitely one of my all time favorites though. I did three years with him on a series called “Music Country U.S.A.” which I think was the forerunner to country music videos. Deana was always real interested when we went out on location. I remember doing “Rocky Top” on top of Lookout Mountain in Tennessee and Deana was very fascinated by the fact that we used tracks. The Dean Martin “Roasts” are in reruns now on television but not the Dean Martin show itself. Because they used tracks to do Music Country U.S.A., it means that they might be able to actually re-release Music Country U.S.A... It was me and Jerry Reed, God bless his soul and Ray Stevens who were the hosts of that series. We had everybody on there. We traveled and did videos all over the country before videos were done. I am keeping my fingers crossed. I am going to L.A. on Monday and I will see Deana again at the Gene Autry museum for an event there and we are going to try to get that Music Country U.S.A. series back out again, wouldn’t that be cool?
Bev: Would you utilize the internet? You tube and other applications are so popular right now.
Lynn: I don’t know how to deal with that. I know that there is so much of my stuff on You Tube. My song, “Rose Garden”, was utilized several years ago to enact a new law that is literally called the “Rose Garden Law.” It was passed around the time when samplings first happened. A group called ConCan redid “Rose Garden” and they called it “I Beg Your Pardon”. It was a computer synthesizer recording where they made up the words to the verses and then they dropped my vocal in the choruses. It was very obviously me, but they didn’t ask my permission and they didn’t pay me but they sold three million! So the people who owned the masters took it to Congress and they played the Concan version and then they played mine and pretty much everybody in Congress was familiar with the song. They enacted a law and when someone uses a sample of someone’s voice you must indeed make a contract and pay them. There is so much new technology out there now, it is almost impossible to keep up with it.
Bev: Let’s talk about the Lawrence Welk show. I am sure you have some hilarious stories about things that happened on that show.
Lynn: Well, there are a lot of great quotes from Lawrence Welk. I really give him credit for my career, although, obviously I would not be here if not for my mother and Dad and their talent. At that time, in the mid-sixties, there was no Country Music on TV. So my one country song on the Lawrence Welk show was basically it. If you wanted to hear Country Music you had to turn on the Lawrence Welk show and hear me.
He was a great teacher, a very tough teacher. He had to “schlep” around 40 people of all genres. He had everyone on there from Polka to Tap Dancers to Opera singers and each one of them thought they were the “hot stuff”. He had to balance all these egos. He told me that most people go to work each day and they have one boss to answer to. If you please your boss that day you keep your job. If you are in the entertainment business you have thousands of bosses. If you displease one of them then you have lost a customer or boss. Everybody you meet, everybody you work with, each one of those people have an opportunity to either accept you or turn their back on you. So as an entertainer we have a little harder job than most. Most people think that hour on stage is so glamorous; they don’t realize it took you two days to get there. You had to schlep six artists and all their egos and the musicians and all of their family problems and all of the stuff that goes into it. People don’t realize that it is hard work. What is fun is when you are able to stand up on a stage with Paul McCartney and sing or with Poco.
Bev: Was Lawrence Welk as funny as he appeared to be on TV or was that a persona that he did for the TV audience?
Lynn: I think he was hilarious, but I think a lot of it was inadvertent. He was a parody of himself. I will use Charo as an example because they become a parody of themselves. It is as though they become somebody that has an identity that is easy to identify and therefore easy to make fun of. At some point in your career, it is a great thing if you are actually able to create a persona because other than that, you are forgettable. If you are the coal miner’s daughter, then that’s you, you are that and nobody else can be that. It was easy to laugh at him and I do not mean that in a negative way. Bob Hope had his ski nose and that became his persona. Dean Martin always had a drink in his hand and that was part of his image. I think my cowboy hats are part of me. Kenny Chesney is the island guy. Different people have different things that are identifiable. I feel kind of sorry for the new kids on the block, it is very difficult. They seem to be given only one chance and one CD and if it does not hit, they are gone. They don’t have an opportunity to really establish a personality, a persona. It is a lot tougher out there now than when I started.
Bev: On a totally different subject, are you still showing horses or do you just have them on the ranch for pleasure now?
Lynn: My horse won the Texas cutting horse championship for the year of 2007. I just got his buckle, I am not wearing it today but I think I have it with me.
Bev: Do you actually show or do you have people that do it for you now?
Lynn: I don’t show as much as I use to but I still do some. I will ride in the “Roundup for Autism” in September in Texas. I will ride in the National Cutting Horse Championship in December. This week I have been working with about ten girls who are running for “Miss Rodeo” of Taos, New Mexico.
I rode yesterday. I still ride. I love it and it is my golf and tennis. I have some lovely horses which I have raised and trained, they are all my babies. I have all quarter horses now. I have had other breeds over the years, I have had some Appaloosas, I’ve had some Arabians, and I have had a couple of pretty nice Egyptian Arabians. I gave my last Arabian to an artist here in town in exchange for a painting. He dresses up as “Zorro” and rides him in all the parades. My horse is called “The Black”, that is his nickname, he is a gorgeous horse.
Bev: Do you breed on your ranch also?
Lynn: Not anymore, I use to. Horses that I have bred and raised have won about $6,000,000 in prizes. I have done very well with my quarter horses, specifically the cutting horses. They have gone on to win a lot but I probably can’t afford their grandkids at this point.
Bev: If you had to choose between music and the horses, could you do it?
Lynn: I could not. I think I can always ride off into the sunset singing. When I go out, I’ll go probably singing “Happy Trails To You” into the sunset in Taos, New Mexico. I play music when I want to play music. I ride the horses and work with kids, I have been very lucky to be able to combine those things that I love, literally all my life and still be making a living at my age.
Musically, I am still going to Europe, I have a record that is sitting at number six in Norway this week. I am supposed to talk to someone this week about doing a duet with someone in Australia. I went to Australia probably ten or fifteen years ago and rode in an international cutting horse competition. I had to ride a strange horse, everybody came in from all over, and everybody rode horses they had never ridden before. I was lucky enough to win but all the time I was there, they kept telling me about this Australian artist that I really needed to listen to. You know who that was?
Bev: Keith Urban?
Lynn: Yes, Keith Urban, before he made it in the States. I thought he was pretty good,
Bev: Have you told him that story?
Lynn: No, I have not had the opportunity to tell him that. He was very famous in the Outback before he ever got to Texas.
Bev: When you think of yourself as a role model, does it put any added pressure on you or does it give you a lot of pleasure?
Lynn: I have received a couple great compliments I will never forget. I had somebody back stage one time say “I wish you were my Mom” and somebody else said “when I grow up I want to be just like you”. Then I have my cowgirls that I work with all the time and that is fun. I get to do that for about a month or six weeks before each rodeo competition. It is hard to be a role model because I’ve not always been perfect. I have slipped, slid, stumbled and crawled in the mud a few times. If you are in show business, you can’t get away with anything. At a low point in my life, 20 or 25 years ago, there was a bad story about me somewhere and I confronted the person who wrote it and I said “I haven’t recorded for five years or so, at what point do I get to make a mistake without it being in “the Globe” And he said “oh, two or three years after you die”. I thought that was the coldest thing I’d ever heard. But it struck me; I realized that what I do is going to be looked at even though at that point I hadn’t had a record on the charts for a while. I was surprised to hear my name on Jay Leno. I thought “leave me alone”. But when you put your name out there and it becomes known in any way or recognizable, or your face is recognizable, you lose the privacy in your life. It is something that I had to learn. There are a couple of kids out there that seem to make more publicity by being bad than they have by being good and having hit records. My Daddy told me a long time ago that it doesn’t matter if they are talking about you good or they are talking about you bad as long as they spell your name right. I don’t know if that is true. I would love for the rule to be “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all”.
The written word doesn’t contain a smile. I have had things I have said online be misinterpreted because you can’t print a smile or an inflection. People take it wrong. A lot of what I have said has been said with a smile.
There is room in this business for all of us and we each have our own specialties and we each have things that we do better than another woman in the business. We each have things that are identifiable that we contribute and it is not a competition.
Bev: Let’s talk about another TV show, Starsky and Hutch, how fun was that?
Lynn: That was great fun because I got to do stunts and all that stuff. It was great fun to do a little acting. The fun was I literally got to throw myself out of cars and roll around in the dirt, get shot at and be an actress.
I think that singing, if done right, is part acting because you are putting your emotions into the song, you are becoming the character. That is why you have to be careful what you sing because people identify you with the content of that song. I know there are some folks that have to literally change their style because they are labeled as being a certain way.
I won the Cowboy Hall of Fame award last year and that has put me in with a lot of the Western movie people. You don’t have to be sixteen to do that, it puts me in a position where I might get to work with someone like Tom Selleck. One thing that I have not done in my career that I would really like to do is a movie, a cowboy movie.
Bev: Do you still write songs?
Lynn: I write a little bit. I am writing a song with my Mother right now because we are in the middle of another CD. The western CD we did about two years ago received seven awards including the “Cowboy Hall of Fame” award.
Bev: How old is your Mom now?
Lynn: My Mom is 82 and what I am going to do with this new album is I am using a couple of cowboy actors on it. There is a fellow named Barry Corbin who was in “Dances With Wolves” and he headlined a TV series called “Northern Exposure” and is now on “The Closer”. He is going to come in and play the part of the trail boss. It is a difficult line to walk when you are doing Western music. When Warner Western was in business, I went in and talked to them because I wanted to do a cowgirl album. They said “there is no cowgirl music, it is all cowboys, nobody cares about the women”. So we have to write our own songs but in this particular song, it is not becoming and reasonable for a woman to be the trail boss. So I have asked Barry to come in and play that part and act that part for me on the record. He is perfect. At 82 years of age, my Mother still has a crazy, silly sense of humor that I love her for. We are trying to envision the roll of the women in the expansion of the West.
Bev: Do you do anything internet-wise? Facebook, Twitter
Lynn: I have my webpage, it is and I do a lot of talking back and forth with a crazy group of fans that gather there. I have not been into Twitter or Facebook because it is kind of an invasion of privacy. My husband is pretty private so I haven’t done that but we are totally reworking the website right now.
I have actually had people show up at my house with guns. One time several years ago, I got on the phone with the Chief of Police and he told me that if they come in your house, you shoot them and call me. This is when I was living in Brentwood and I could see my gate which was about a ¼ mile away, I could see his truck was parked crossway so that I could not drive out. I couldn’t just get in my car and leave. I had several horses and I probably could have run out and jumped the fence but it was pretty weird and then that same person was arrested at a concert several months later carrying a gun. He wanted to kill my husband so he could have me.
Bev: Has there ever been something that someone has told you that has stuck with you as far as advice?
Lynn: I was told to never spend money to make myself a star. That if you were good enough, people would pay you. I see a lot of people now that are so desperate for it that they will spend $10,000 to go in the studio with someone that says “I can make you a star”. I see so much despair and heartbreak. I do not believe you can buy stardom. If you got it, you got it and if you don’t got it, you don’t got it! You can’t buy it. It doesn’t matter how many voice coaches, how many dance teachers, I encourage people to not go and spend a lot of money, it just can’t be done, makes you look foolish.
Bev: What has been the most embarrassing thing to happen to you?
Lynn: One of them would be when my dress fell off on the Brady Bunch. I had this really gorgeous Bill Blast designer gown and it was tight, tight! Thank God it had a little jacket over the top. I took a deep breath to hit a high note and that thing dropped. It was on the Brady Bunch Variety Hour on live TV. What was funny is Paul Williams was on the show, who is my brother-in-law now. It was this big gown and it fell to the floor, and nobody realized it because it was a ball gown that was big enough to hold itself up and the jacket was right there. AND, you finish the song.
And then there was a time when my hair fell off at the Louisiana State Fair Rodeo. I still hear about that. I was appearing at the Grand Stand Show and often I would appear at the Rodeo. They asked me to do a ride in and promote the appearance at the Grand Stand. Ordinarily, I wore my cowboy hat. At that point in my life, I would wear what they called a “fall” which is a hair piece that you stick on with a couple of hair pins. With my hat on, I could jam that thing on and hold the hair. These guys thought it was great fun, they knew me enough to know I am a pretty good cowgirl so they gave me the rankest horse in the bunch. I said give me something that can run fast, look pretty, I am going to do a sliding stop and a spin in the spot light, wave and run off. Well, I did my little run, did my little sliding stop and at that point the spot light had hit the horse, the horse went straight up and started to fall over backwards. So what you do is you throw all your weight forward. When I threw all my weight forward, my hair went flying about ten feet in front of the horse. I ripped out all the hairpins, did my rodeo queen wave and out the other end. The rodeo clown went and got my hairpiece with a pitch fork and carried my hair down the entire length of the arena going “Lynn, is this your dog”. All the people were either clapping or laughing; they didn’t know what to do. I have never gone back to the Louisiana State Fair without someone saying “do you remember that night your hair fell off?”
Bev: We have talked about some of the dark moments, the low points in your life. If you had to give someone advice now, what would you say?
Lynn: There are a lot of things I would go back and do over. There were a lot of things I had no control over, things I would like to fix. There are things that you have to turn over to a higher power. There is a little prayer that I say “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference”. There are things you can’t control, you have to live through them, walk through the other side. Along with the sunshine, there has to be a little rain sometime. I think that is why that song has been around so long because it is so true. You can’t walk through life without having some bad times, there is always going to be down times.
Bev: Do you think, with starting at such a young age, having a family involved with it, do you think you had a natural talent from the start or do you think because of the music business that your parents encouraged you to work within it. Or is it a combination of both.
Lynn: I think it is a combination of both. I think that I am genetically inclined. My mother is a wonderful songwriter. On my dad’s side, he is a salesman. His part in it is the business side and the practical side. I feel that being raised by my family it was part nature and part nurture. Having Merle Haggard and Buck Owens in my home and listening to those times and getting to sing. Before that, my mother and her sisters all sang harmony together every weekend for as long as I can remember, that whole family sang together. We would get together on Sunday afternoons and everyone would sing, play instruments, play whatever and everybody would sing harmony. That part came naturally but the luck part was getting to gradually meet people like Merle Haggard and Buck Owens, the California country contingency. When we moved to Nashville, it expanded. I just had some incredibly lucky breaks.
Bev: Let’s talk about some of your charities.
Lynn: I founded with Bonnie Garner and Tom T. Hall’s wife, Miss Dixie, My Special Riders, which has now evolved into “Saddle Up”. It, it began at a birthday party for my little girl. I had another mare and we were giving buggy rides with her. One little boy had spin bifida and he wanted to ride that horse so bad. We kept pushing him back because we didn’t want him to get hurt. We finally put him up there, one person held his right leg, the other person held his left leg and I led the horse. His mother called me back that evening and she was ecstatic, said “I have never seen this kid so excited in my life that is the best day he ever had. He has not stopped talking about it. Can we come back and do it again.” So that is how the “Saddle Up” program started in my front yard at a birthday party. There is now Rocky Top Riders in Dallas Texas, which is named for Rocky Top. There is a new program in Taos, New Mexico that I also work with. There are several other organizations like N.A.H.R.A, National Association of Handicapped Riders of America. If you walk into the NAHRA headquarters in Colorado, there is a song called “Ponies” that we did years ago that is their theme song.
My grandmother told me many years ago that there is nothing better for the inside of a kid than the outside of a horse. There is something so empowering to the kids, even a kid that can’t walk, you put that kid up on a horse and suddenly there are legs that move and he can guide the horse left and right and he can walk where he wants to go and suddenly they start to smile. And suddenly they are bigger than everybody.
Bev: Do you prefer the smaller venues or the larger venues?
Lynn: I just did a venue in California called Stage Coach. It was huge. Everybody has been there from Brad Paisley, Miranda Lambert and all the way to Ralph Stanley. I got to sing with Poco. It was huge. I loved it and hope I get invited back. Working in the bigger arena, I sang in the big arena at the Mohican last time, didn’t get to work in my favorite room but then after I did my thing I got to go in the arena and sing with Ringo Starr! I am at a place now where I can go from singing with Bill Monroe, singing with Poco to going and singing with Men At Work and Ringo Starr. Music is a universal language. Last year I was asked to present an award at the Norwegian Grammy Awards. Getting inducted into the German Hall of Fame was exciting. I won an award in Australia. I have hung in there long enough to travel the world in both horses and music.
Bev: Speaking of all your awards, do you have a place where you display them all?
Lynn: You know what is awful, when I moved to New Mexico several years ago my CMAs and my Grammys got stored. I live with Mentor and we have a lot of awards and I don’t mean to sound bad, but I need to pull the awards out of boxes and put them someplace in the living room. We do have the plaques displayed up and down the hallway and the most recent big was the Germany Hall of Fame and that is on the fireplace in the living room.
Bev: Do you have a favorite color that you have a lot of?
Lynn: Pink. (as she pointed to a hat at the side of the table) It is a special version for breast cancer that will be auctioned and the proceeds will go towards the Loretta Johnson foundation, who co-founded IFCO. This is the first time that I have given up one of my pink hats.
Bev: This is one that you have personally worn and used.
Lynn: I have worn this many, many times. There was one that was suppose to come in for this that said dedicated Loretta Johnson and IFCO, but it hasn’t gotten here so it looks like this one will be the one. I will wear it out on stage and then give it from there. I also have a jacket that is a pink Manuel and it goes for the YMCA auction, the Martina McBride auction. I founded that auction years ago, I did the first one.
Bev: Speaking of Martina McBride, she did a version of “Rose Garden”, how did that make you feel?
Lynn: Martina used four of my guys including my band leader, Steve Gibson who is now the music director at the Opry. The band knew it upside down and backwards. A radio station in California (KTLA), did a composite where they switched one line after another, one line of Martina, on line of me, it was an amazing compliment to have her chose that song and an amazing compliment for her to ask me to sing it with her on the Opry when she debuted it. I walked on stage and handed her a rose. It was like passing the torch. I was very honored that she chose that song to be in that album and she chose it to be the first single. I told her “honey you can borrow it for about a year and then I get it back”. That was a fun moment on stage at the Opry with Martina.
Bev: Lynn, I am so honored and feel very blessed to have shared this time with you and to have been able to discuss so many things with you. Thank you.
Lynn: The pleasure was mine, and thank you for such a wonderful conversation.

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1 comment:

Listen and Talk Nashville said...

AWESOME interview!!!!!

I was at the Nashville Music Garden dedication on Sept. 29, and got to speak to Lynn, along with my other favorite entertainer, Barbara Mandrell! I recognize the picture as being from that event - Lynn had on that beautiful green outfit.

Thanks so much for this great interview with one of my favorite entertainers ever!!!!