Live From Nashville: Lynn Anderson
Pioneering crossover artist talks television, horses, and singing on "Top of the World."
Illustration: Sam Sisco
Cowboys & Indians: All these years after charting with “Top of the World,” “Rose Garden,” and other hits, you’re still doing international tours and still drawing crowds at events like the CMA Music Festival. Is there something uniquely long-lasting about the ties between country artists and their fans?
Lynn Anderson: I think so. And I think it’s because country music is the music of reality. It’s geared toward a person’s everyday life. And because of that, I think people get to know you through what you say and what you sing. More so than is the case with the rock people. That’s more based on the sound, and the effects, and the costuming, and staging, and so on.
C&I: The funny thing is, some country music fans of a certain age got their first taste of country thanks to you.
Lynn: Well, you can thank Lawrence Welk for that. See, I was on The Lawrence Welk Show for two years in the ’60s. And for a while there, my country song every week was the only country song on network TV. Therefore, if Bob Hope needed a country singer to tour with him, I was the first one who came to mind. That’s how I got to tour with Bob Hope and Red Skelton, and appeared two years on a summer replacement TV show for Dean Martin. So that really helped me get introduced to a lot of different audiences through television.
C&I: There’s a lot of talk about “crossover artists” in country music today. But, really, back in the ’70s, when you and the Carpenters both recorded “Top of the World,” there were songs that appeared on the pop and country charts simultaneously, right?
Lynn: The funny thing is, I met the Carpenters, Richard and Karen, at a presidential reception. And I asked Richard what they were going to do with “Top of the World,” which had been a cut on their most recent album. They’d already had four other singles off the album, and they had a new album about to be released. And Richard said, “Please, go ahead and do it. Karen calls it ‘that stupid hillbilly song.’ ” So I released my version — and it immediately went to the top of the country charts. And it went up to about No. 40 on the pop charts — before the Carpenters dropped their own version. I was told that they went back into the recording studio, took my record into the studio in L.A., played it for [the producers] and said, “Make it sound like this. Put a steel guitar on it, and all that kind of stuff.” See, that was at a time when a song could be No. 1 on the country charts and No. 1 on the pop charts — by two different artists.
C&I: When you first broke through as a solo artist, wasn’t there still a prevailing notion that women couldn’t headline their own tours?
Lynn: Absolutely. Look, very few women even had their own bands. Dolly Parton was part of The Porter Wagoner Show. Loretta Lynn was part of The Wilburn Brothers Show. The women were always part of some guy’s show. And he had the band; he ran the band. I think I was one of the first women to have her own band. Which didn’t sit well with the sort of established mind-set. But, hey, I didn’t know any better. I’d been raised in California without those limitations ingrained in me. So I just bounced along and did my own little thing.
C&I: You’ve also been quite the cowgirl over the years, raising horses and winning at several equestrian events. Are you still active in that area?
Lynn: Actually, I’ve just got one horse these days. He’s a little working cow horse. And he’ll do a little reining, and he’ll do a little cutting, and a little herd-holding. And he’ll go fetch the cows out of the pasture. He’s just a good ranch horse.
C&I: What about competing?
Lynn: I’ll go ride in a celebrity cutting now and then. And do a little team penning. [Laughs.] But I’m just about at the end of my cowgirl days.