Bill Anderson's received some flattering honors over the years, from spots in the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame to an elder statesmen role for the Grand Ole Opry. Yet the sweetest surprise for Whisperin' Bill may have come Friday (May 1) when a Commerce, Georgia radio station changed its name to honor a former disc jockey turned country music legend.
"The radio station where I was working when I wrote 'City Lights' and jump-started my music business career, is being re-named in my honor," Anderson announced on Facebook. "No longer will it be referred to as WJJC, but will instead be known as Whisperin' 95.1. I don't know of anything in my life that's ever been any more meaningful to me than this. I went to Commerce as a 19-year old college student chasing a dream, and the wonderful people there took me in and treated me as one of their own. They gave me the confidence to move forward, and they've blessed me with their unbelievable love and support all along my journey. I'm so appreciative and so grateful for this latest chapter in our story."
Anderson, a South Carolina native, grew up in Atlanta. He later juggled studying journalism at the University of Georgia in Athens with his job as WJJC's first-ever on-air personality, a position he began on June 27, 1957.
The following year, Ray Price took "City Lights" to the top of the country charts for Columbia Records. Its snowball effect turned a singer-songwriter hopeful in Georgia into Decca country artist Whisperin' Bill Anderson.
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Anderson compositions from this century alone include the John Randall Stewart co-write "Whiskey Lullaby," a CMA Song of the Year for Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss. Anderson also won the CMA and ACM Song of the Year awards for "Give It Away," written with Buddy Cannon and Jamey Johnson and recorded by George Strait.
Anderson's journey from WJJC radio to a coveted spot on WSM's Grand Ole Opry will be chronicled in an upcoming Country Music Hall of Fame exhibit.
Downtown Commerce also honors its favorite adopted son with Bill Anderson Blvd., while Commerce High School's facilities include the Bill Anderson Performing Arts Center.