Lynn Anderson - Biography
One of country music’s most smashing pop crossover success stories, California’s Lynn Anderson caught the world’s ear with 1970’s “(I Never Promised You a) Rose Garden.” It was a fetching song that topped both the country and pop charts and made Anderson an international sensation, hitting #3 on the UK charts as well.
Lynn Rene Anderson was born in Grand Forks, North Dakota, on September 26, 1947 to Casey and Liz Anderson. Liz would later achieve great success in her own right as a country performer and songwriter, but she was just 17-years-old when she gave birth to Lynn. When the child was four-years-old and Liz only 21, the family headed West, settling first near Redwood City then moving to Sacramento, where Lynn first began learning to sing and play guitar.
By the time she was 18, her mother’s “(My Friends Are Gonna Be) Strangers” had become Merle Haggard’s first #1 record, and Lynn visited Nashville for the first time in 1965, so Mama could pick up her BMI award. Liz would also pen another of Haggard’s signature hits, “The Fugitive.” While in Nashville, the women sat in on a guitar pull, along with Haggard and California country singer Freddie Hart, and after the pair performed a song or two, independent record man Slim Williamson offered Lynn a deal with his Chart Records.
While her first singles did not gain much notice, by 1967 the squeaky clean, impossibly blond Anderson was a regular performer on the Lawrence Welk Show. It wasn’t exactly a hotbed for country music, but the national exposure was invaluable for the young Anderson. On the strength of her debut long player Ride Ride Ride along, she was invited to appear at the Grand Ole Opry, named “Most Promising Female Vocalist” by Cashbox magazine and took the Los Angeles-based Academy of Country Music’s Top Female Vocalist. Anderson used the momentum to release a staggering nine albums for Chart in the next two-and-half years, resulting in five country Top Ten singles, the most successful of which was 1969’s Top Three entry “That’s No-No.”
After signing with Columbia in 1970, Anderson often covered classic, stone country material, recording versions of Hank Snow’s tongue-twister, “I’ve Been Everywhere,” Kitty Well’s groundbreaking “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels” and Felice & Boudleaux Bryant’s hillbilly anthem, “Rocky Top”—all of which made into the country chart’s Top Twenty. But when she recorded Joe South’s “(I Never Promised You a) Rose Garden,” Anderson’s career went into overdrive, winning the ACM’s Top Female Vocalist for a second time, followed in 1971 by a Grammy for Best Female Country Vocal Performance, and finally the Country Music Association’s Female Vocalist of the Year award. She had breakfast with President Nixon and was presented to Queen Elizabeth II in London, while appearing on every major TV variety show of the day and frequently visiting the Grand Ole Opry.
The hits kept coming for Anderson through the next decade, with four #1 hits—notably, “You’re My Man” and “How Can I Unlove You.” She also had a half dozen Top Ten entries. Anderson was named the 1974 American Music Awards Favorite Female Country Artist and, as the 1970s came to a close, was significantly honored by both Billboard and Record World as, “Artist of the Decade; 1970—1980.”
While the Urban Cowboy craze of the early 1980s dominated country music, Anderson held her own. She still charted hits after she left Columbia, and recording for a variety of labels including MCA and Mercury. Anderson also spent time showcasing her world-class skills as an equestrian (she has over 100 trophies and 600 ribbons), as an award-winning gourmet cook and even as a stock car driver. By the 1990s, however, her musical activities had tapered off.
In 2004, Anderson re-cast her repertoire of hits in an old-timey setting for the acoustic Bluegrass Sessions (D.M. Records). It was her first studio album in over a decade, and the set did earn a Grammy nomination, raising her profile considerably; the following year she was back at the Grand Ole Opry, dueting with country star Martina McBride on “(I Never Promised You A) Rose Garden.”
Yet these latter day blushes of success came during a time when her personal life was peppered with discord—in a span of six weeks during the winter of 2005-2006, she was arrested twice, first for drunk driving and then for shoplifting and resisting arrest. The incidents lit up the tabloid headlines for weeks, replete with her stone-faced mugshot. In May 2006, Anderson rear-ended another vehicle and wound up with a second arrest for DUI, leading the singer to enter rehab.
Anderson bounced back after her Western-themed 2007 album Cowgirl (Showboat Records) swept the Academy of Western Artists Awards, taking the prize for Best Song, Best Album, Best Vocalist and Best Western Swing album.