I remember the first time I ever heard John Anderson. I was driving through Texas hill country and I wasn’t twenty. The song was ‘She Just Started Liking Cheating Songs’ and it was perfect. There wasn’t anything about it that I didn’t love. I immediately pulled over, did a U-turn and headed back to town, to my favourite record store.
That the way things went back then. You heard a song on the radio and you had to have it. You couldn’t live without it. You went out and, if you had the money, you bought it. If you didn’t have the money, you waited by the radio in the hope you’d hear it again.
At the record shop Johnny pulled out a copy from behind the counter. ‘So what’s the deal with this? Who is he?’, I asked. Johnny was cool. Johnny had long hair and a tattoo of Bob Marley on his arm. His best friend was Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top. He’d seen and heard it all. ‘Some new guy’, he said. I looked at the record and liked what I saw. ‘How much?’, I asked, and Johnny said, ‘take it. Give it a listen, and if you like it, tell people about it.’
That’s the way things went back then. You spent a lot of time in record shops and you made strange friendships. Johnny had a secret box of promo copies that he gave to his favourite customers. I still have the copy he gave me.
Over the next two years I bought the first three John Anderson albums. Each one a masterpiece. A friend and I drove, once, all the way to Oklahoma to see him do a show with George Jones. Two weeks later we drove to Dallas to see him again. He was everything you wanted him to be. Loose, sharp, intense, laid back, a little bit arrogant, a little bit hillbilly. It was in Dallas that I first heard Swinging. He introduced it as ‘something from the new record.’
The next day I went into the record shop and asked Johnny, ‘how’s the new John Anderson record?’ Johnny, still cool, still weary, still with the long hair, said, ‘swinging.’
The fourth John Anderson record, Wild And Blue, was a masterpiece, and at its centre was the song Swinging. It was the centre of my summer as well. The coolest 3 minutes of country soul in the world. Years later, when I met the writer of the song Wild And Blue in Nashville, I told him how much I loved the entire album. He smiled and thanked me. Ordered another beer and said, ’Yeah, it was swinging’.