In the early '80s, Florida native John Anderson went from thrilling the honky-tonk crowd to the top of the mainstream charts. Like Hall of Famer Ricky Skaggs, his distinct drawl, nose for hits, and appreciation for the classics won over a broad audience at a time when traditionalists were among the toast of Music Row. Raised on rock 'n' roll, Anderson brought an edge that'd later suit fans of Travis Tritt, Alan Jackson, and other stars of the '90s. Now that past hits are a click away, fans of roots-influenced music and Americana should consider diving deeper into the back catalog of the guy who sang "Goin' Down Hill" and "She Sure Got Away With My Heart."
This roundup of hits doesn't even include heartbreak ballad "Down in Tennessee," the George Jones-esque "I Just Came Home to Count the Memories," the chart-topping "Wild and Blue," the hilarious "Chicken Truck," the oddball "Tokyo, Oklahoma" or the moving "Let Go of the Stone" and "When It Comes to You." Nor does it list the covers of Cal Smith's "I Just Came Home to Count the Memories," the Georgia Satellites' "Keep Your Hands to Yourself" and the Rolling Stones' "It's All Over Now" that prove Anderson's song interpreting talents. From the late '70s singles ("Your Lying Blue Eyes") through 2009's Bigger Hands and 2015's Goldmine, there's plenty to discover, starting with these 10 selections. (Anderson released his most recent album, Years, in 2020.)
10. "Solid Ground"
The title track off a 1993 album with quite a few top 10 selections--plus honorable mention picks "I Fell In The Water" and "I Wish I Could Have Been There"--masterfully describes the feelings of many modern-day prodigal sons.
9. "Mountain High, Valley Low"
Anderson and frequent collaborator Lionel Delmore wrote a solid bluegrass and gospel tune that happened to end up on John Anderson 2, the same country album that gave us "I Love You a Thousand Ways."
8. "Nashville Tears"
This song retraces the emotional roller coasters ridden by the small-town dreamers, overworked songwriters, and burnouts that came to Nashville to sing country music, only to leave town with the blues. For Anderson's take on the long hard lesson learned of the fickleness of fame, give "Would You Catch a Falling Star" a spin.
7. "Country 'Til I Die"
Anderson sang this one for the common folks who're more likely to find paradise at a dive bar than a fancy party. He shared a similar sentiment later with Marty Stuart co-write "Takin' the Country Back." This title track from Anderson's 1994 album also gave us popular singles "Bend It Until It Breaks" and "Mississippi Moon."
6. "Black Sheep"
All the People Are Talkin', the awesome album that brought us the anti-drunk driving song "Let Somebody Else Drive," included Anderson's answer to Jerry Reed's black sheep anthem "Alabama Wild Man."
It's hard to argue against success with these lists. This pretty straightforward tale about getting the girl topped the country charts in 1983. It also cracked the overall charts' top 50.
4. "I'm Just an Old Chunk of Coal (But I'm Gonna Be a Diamond Someday)"
Lots of old school selections, such as debut album cut "She Just Started Liking Cheatin' Songs," could get the nod here, but let's focus on this 1981 classic from a singer who could've held his own on the streets of Bakersfield.
3. "Money in the Bank"
Anderson's last number one American hit to date represents the cleverness and fun of revved-up, honky tonk-inspired songs, circa 1993. Lyrically, it spoke to fans who've learned that a worthwhile partner is worth more than easy money.
2. "Straight Tequila Night"
This early '90s masterpiece finds Anderson treading lightly around a broken-hearted barfly. A kind patron was quick to tell him that she's known for hitting rock-bottom once the tequila starts flowing.
1. "Seminole Wind"
Throughout the genre's history, country singers have sung the praises of their home states. Anderson did this as well as anyone, all while longing for a society that takes better care of its natural resources with this career-defining 1992 single.