Whisperin' Bill Anderson On His New Book, Cornbread, and the Future of Country

We caught up with the legendary country songwriter on the CMA Awards' Red Carpet to talk about his autobiography, Georgia roots, and who he sees as country's next star.

Abigail Wilt
Getty Whisperin Bill Anderson
Paul Morigi

You just released your autobiography Whisperin' Bill Anderson: An Unprecedented Life in Country Music. How has it been so far?
Well, the publisher, which is the University of Georgia Press, sold out of it the first two weeks that it was out, so they've had to print some more. Thank goodness! I’m glad I wrote it. I had people tell me that they found the story inspiring of how I felt my career was over but I came back.

Anything you wish you wouldn’t have shared?
Wait until you read the one that they publish after I’m dead and gone.

Who are you looking forward to seeing at the show? There must be a lot of people you know.
Well, yes. But there are still a lot of new people. It’s great to connect with old friends. Charley Pride and I had a nice long conversation. I put Charley on television the first time he was ever on TV. He’s always bugging me, “Can’t you find a clip of that somewhere?” And I say, “Surely they erased that forty years ago.” [laughs] It’s fun to be connected with him, and Roy Clark. And then I got to hang out with Vince Gill and Tim McGraw.

Are there any newer artists that you see potential in now?
I’m excited about a young guy named Mo Pitney who’s from up in Illinois. His roots are in bluegrass, but he’s got an old soul for country music. He respects it and loves it. He’s a great writer and a great singer, and I’m hoping he has a successful, long career.

What do you love most about the South?
Saturday afternoon football in the fall!

Are you a Georgia Dawgs fan?
Woof, woof! We aren’t doing so hot this season, though. [laughs]

Do you have a favorite Southern food that you like to eat on game day?
Oh golly. I don’t think it’s just on Saturdays; I am a country food kind of guy. You give me some pinto beans, cornbread, fried okra, and sweet tea, and I’m a happy man.

Are you a salt or a sugar in your cornbread man?
Well, I try to go light on both of them really. I don’t like real sweet cornbread, so I guess I’ll lean more toward the way my mama used to make it, with the salt.

How about grits?
I love them. I really like them. My favorite way to eat grits is of course to put some salt and pepper on them. I love melted cheese in my grits. And I don’t know who came up with the idea of shrimp and grits, but I like ‘em.

Do you have a favorite bourbon?
Does Jack Daniels count? [laughs] Jack Daniels is great to cook with. I cook a good bit. You can put a little bit of that in the Crock-Pot with some chicken and a few other things and come out with a pretty tasty dish.