On stage at the Museum, Al Anderson performs live and details his transition from decades as guitarist, singer, and songwriter in the rock band NRBQ to becoming a successful country songwriter.
Early in the program—part of the Museum’s Poets and Prophets series, recorded on February 6, 2016—Anderson and lyricist Sharon Vaughn sing “Right on Time,” a song inspired by Bonnie Raitt’s acceptance speech at the 1989 Grammy Awards. Afterwards, Anderson speaks about his sobriety and his friendship with Raitt. He also talks about the influence and loss of his father, a musician who played bass on weekends in a Dixieland jazz band, and died of alcoholism when Anderson was ten, foreshadowing Anderson’s own substance abuse issues in his rock & roll years.
Growing up in a musical household in Connecticut (his mother also taught piano and, in the 1940s, hosted a musical radio program), Anderson found his love for guitars back in elementary school, he says, “by just looking at them.” His favorite guitarist was Chet Atkins, who offered an early connection to country music. By age twelve, Anderson was playing in bands, and by high school, performing in bars. He shares memories of playing in the Wildwoods and NRBQ (he left the latter band in 1993).
Al Anderson’s subsequent songwriting career led to cuts with Hank Williams Jr. (“You’re Gonna Be a Sorry Man”), Carlene Carter (“Every Little Thing”), Diamond Rio (“Unbelievable”), Tim McGraw (“The Cowboy in Me”), and Patty Loveless (“Long Stretch of Lonesome”). He praises frequent songwriting collaborators Jeffrey Steele, Vince Gill, and Chris Stapleton, as well as his new ensemble, The World Famous Headliners.
As the program winds down, Country Music Hall of Fame member Vince Gill recounts his first experience of writing with Anderson, then joins him to sing “Some Things Never Get Old.” Jeffrey Steele and Anderson then sing “Unbelievable.”
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