Born c. 1956 in Florida; married; wife's name, Janie. Singer, songwriter. Recording artist and concert performer since the early 1980s. Addresses: Record company --Capitol Records, 1750 N. Vine St., Hollywood, CA 90028.
Singer-songwriter John Anderson is "one of country music's most distinctive talents," according to critic Alanna Nash of Stereo Review. Ralph Novak of People has lauded his "throaty, bluesy voice," and Nash noted further that Anderson "was among the forefront of the return to a hard country style." With hits like "Wild and Blue," "Would You Catch a Falling Star," and his biggest smash, "Swingin'," he became one of the most popular country artists of the early 1980s. Though his hit production has slacked off somewhat since, his albums continue to fare well both with what Country Music reporter Patrick Carr labeled "backward hard-core" country fans and "too-sophisticated college graduates who don't listen to the right kind of radio station."
Anderson was born in Florida during the mid-1950s. As Carr put it, "he had ... served his time in the honky tonks and songwriting rooms [and] honed his road show and writing craft" before signing with Warner Bros. Records. His first three albums for that company were fairly successful, and the songs "Wild and Blue," "I'm Just an Old Chunk of Coal," and "Would You Catch a Falling Star" traveled a good way up the country charts and gained him a good reputation with many fans. But Anderson's fourth album included "Swingin'," a song he wrote himself about sitting on a porch swing with a girl. That single shot to number one on the country charts, and made Anderson a major country star.
Unfortunately, Anderson did not realize the extent of his own success; he told Carr, speaking for himself and his accompanying band: "Frankly, we just didn't realize what a big record 'Swingin" was. It didn't dawn on us that we should quit what we were doing and change the way we did things; go for bigger [concert] dates, pay attention to what was going on with the record company, all that stuff." Thus, while he was the proud owner of the United States' top country hit, he was still performing in small clubs. Anderson partially attributes his later difficulty repeating the success of "Swingin'" to the fact that neither he nor his record company promoted his music well enough at that time.
Carr, however, also offered a different explanation for Anderson's decline on the charts, having to do with the way country music's audience has become more suburban and mainstream. "The result is that there are no more sharp edges in mainstream Nashville music," he protested. "Virtually all the new artists contracted and promoted with any real effort by Nashville record companies in the past decade have been ... unlikely to offend the consumers in a 'soft' marketplace with music that is too hard in any way." Carr therefore theorized that Anderson, with his hard, rough-edged style of singing, along with his long-haired, faded-jeans appearance, does not fit the image that country music promoters are looking for. Anderson conceded to Carr that this might be a factor: "They found guys that would cut their hair, and wear rhinestones, and change their names, and they figured that was just fine because sure enough, those guys were 'easier to work with.' And those were the guys they spent their money on. Right now they're at the top of the charts, and I'm working 300-seaters."
Other critics, however, have other theories. Reviewing Anderson's 1988 album, Blue Skies Again, Rich Kienzle of Country Music blamed co-producer Jimmy Bowen for "[trying] to put Anderson into styles that simply don't fit." Nash, reviewing Anderson's 1987 effort, Countrified, in Stereo Review, claimed that Anderson "has slacked off on the honky-tonk, barroom weepers that he does best and chosen some particularly airless songs that do nothing to boost his career."
But while it is true that Anderson has yet to equal the success he has had with "Swingin'," he did score moderate hits with "Black Sheep," from 1983's All the People Are Talkin', and with "Countrified," from the album of the same name. At any rate, Anderson's album sales are large enough to merit continuing releases by major record companies, including late 1988's John Anderson 10, which Novak praised as displaying his "uncommon musical common sense," and 1989's Too Tough to Tame.
by Elizabeth Wenning
John Anderson's Career
John Anderson's Awards
Won two awards from the Country Music Association, both in 1983.
- Singles; released by Warner Bros.
- "Swingin'," 1983.
- "Black Sheep," 1983.
- "Countrified," 1987.
- Also released "Wild and Blue," "I'm Just an Old Chunk of Coal," and "Would You Catch a Falling Star" during the early 1980s.
- All the People Are Talkin' Warner Bros., 1983.
- Countrified Warner Bros., 1987.
- Blue Skies Again MCA, 1988.
- John Anderson 10 MCA, 1988.
- Too Tough to Tame Capitol, 1989.
- Country Music, January-February 1987; May-June 1988; May-June 1989.
- People, December 19, 1988.
- Stereo Review, March 1987; March 1988.