Athens, Ga. — The University of Georgia will pay tribute Tuesday, March 4, to country singer and songwriter Bill Anderson by dedicating a historical marker at the Georgia Center for Continuing Education in the former WGTV studios where Anderson recorded his first hit song, “City Lights,” 50 years ago.
Anderson was a 19-year-old journalism student at UGA when he wrote the song. In 1958, country star Ray Price’s version of “City Lights” hit No. 1 on the Billboard country charts, launching Anderson’s career as a songwriter. After graduating from UGA in 1959, Anderson moved to Nashville, landed his own recording contract, and soon earned the nickname that would follow him the rest of his career in music: “Whispering Bill.”
Lisa Love, executive director of the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, will present the marker at a 2 p.m. dedication in the Georgia Center’s Mahler Auditorium. Anderson will also be honored with a UGA Alumni Association resolution commending him on his 50 years in the entertainment industry and a proclamation to be presented by Athens-Clarke County Mayor Heidi Davison declaring March 4 “Bill Anderson Day” in Athens.
Following the marker dedication, Anderson will participate in a question-and-answer session in Mahler Auditorium as a guest lecturer for students in the university’s Music Business Certificate Program. Bruce Burch and Steve Dancz, co-directors of the Music Business Program, and Robb Holmes, program director of WUGA-FM, will join Anderson on stage and pose the questions, along with country music recording artist John Berry, who will sing some of Anderson’s most memorable hits.
“As someone who has spent his life in the music industry, Bill Anderson is as relevant and prolific today as he was 50 years ago when he started out,” Burch said. “We’re pleased to host this ceremony honoring a Georgia Bulldog who’s had a Hall of Fame career in Nashville.”
Anderson, 70, has enjoyed a renaissance in recent years as a songwriter and artist. He won Country Music Association Song of the Year honors for his and Jon Randall’s ballad, “Whiskey Lullaby,” recorded by Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss, a Dove Award from the Gospel Music Association for co-writing with Tia Sillers the Country/Gospel Recorded Song of the Year, “Jonah, Job, and Moses,” sung by the Oak Ridge Boys, and another CMA Song of the Year Award last November for “Give It Away,” recorded by George Strait and written with Buddy Cannon and Jamey Johnson. “Give It Away” also earned Anderson his fourth Grammy nomination.
Anderson has been voted Songwriter of the Year six times, Male Vocalist of the Year, and shared in the Duet of the Year with both Jan Howard and Mary Lou Turner. In 1975, he was voted membership in the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. Ten years later, he became only the seventh living performer inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. In 1993, he was made a member of the Georgia Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame. In 1994, South Carolina inducted him into its Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame. And in 2001, he received the ultimate Nashville honor, membership in the Country Music Hall of Fame.