Hello again, I’m still here. And speaking of “Still”, my next interview is with a man who is still in the country music business. He’s done a number of game shows as well, and his name is Bill Anderson.
By the way, here’s one of his biggest songs.
I had the opportunity of interviewing this man over e-mail, and he graciously accepted. Oh, and how graciously.
Greg Palmer: Hello, Bill. First off, your forte seems to be country music, even though you got a degree in journalism. How in the world did you transition so quickly from journalism to country music to game shows?
Bill Anderson: Very carefully! I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.
GP: It seems the game show world best knows you for a little show called The Better Sex, which has absolutely nothing to do with sex. First off, how’d you get involved with this show?
BA: I had been going to California and appearing as a guest on shows like Match Game, Tattletales, and Password, all of which were produced by Mark Goodson, whom I considered to be the king of game show producers. When he came up with the concept for The Better Sex, which was to be the first male/female co-hosted game show in history, he encouraged me to audition. And audition. And audition some more. Finally, he settled on me and Sarah as the co-hosts. He said he wanted “somebody different,” and a country singer from Nashville was definitely “different.”
GP: Your co-host was Sarah Purcell, who coincidentally worked with Bill Rafferty on Real People. I’m sure you two became good friends. Why do you think you got paired with her?
BA: She was co-hosting Good Morning Los Angeles on KABC-TV at the time with Regis Philbin. Mr. Goodson had seen her and liked her. He did not hire us as a “team”, but rather individually. I remember auditioning with people like Patty Duke and others. He thoughtSarah and I worked well together, and we did. She is a wonderful lady.
GP: Do you have any experiences about the show you’d like to share?
BA: One of my favorite moments came when the men’s team lost to the women’s team in the last match of the day. A team had to lose twice to be eliminated, so the men’s team was invited back for the next day’s taping. All but one man showed up. When the producers called and asked why he wasn’t at the studio, he replied, “No woman’s ever beaten me at anything and they ain’t about to start now!” We never saw him again.
GP: The show got killed because 2 ABC soaps wanted to expand to an hour. It should’ve lasted longer. Now, the soap operas are slowly dying out (i.e. Guiding Light and As The World Turns). Do you think we’ll see a resurgence of daytime game shows?
BA: I have no idea. Prime time game shows like Who Wants To Be A Millionaire have done well, but who knows whether that would translate to a five-day per week program or not. I certainly don’t claim to know.
GP: We’ve seen somewhat of a revival of the show in 2000 with Sex Wars. What is it about battles of the sexes that attracts people?
BA: What attracts men to women and women to men? And why does one seem to always be trying to get the upper hand on the other? I guess we all would secretly like to have watched Adam and Eve in the Garden. We are voyeurs at heart. Not only would we have watched, but we’d have chosen sides.
GP: I’m reading on the Internet about this pilot for Goodson-Todman you did. It’s called Spellbinders and it’s pretty interesting. How’d you get involved with that?
BA: It was Mark Goodson’s next project after The Better Sex, and again I auditioned and got the job.
GP: Of course, the show didn’t sell. Would you happen to have any idea why? I certainly know it wasn’t your fault.
BA: You’re kind to say that. Actually, the show was ahead of its time in that it relied largely on computer technology in order to be effective. The manufacturers of the equipment that was needed to make the concept work could never get the computers to function fast enough. They went back to the drawing board several times, but never got the pieces in place. NBC had contracted for the show, so naturally, I was disappointed.
GP: And finally, your last venture into game shows……. Fandango, with a talking jukebox. That’s very interesting, Bill. Would you please tell us city folks about it?
BA: It was a country music trivia show, produced in Nashville, with contestants answering questions based on country music songs and personalities. It was on the air for six years. I went from having the beautiful Sarah Purcell as my sidekick to putting up with an antagonizing talking jukebox. The jukebox never appeared on camera, but was designed to drive me nuts from behind the scenes. We had a lot of fun.
GP: Now, you’re back to what you love….. country music. Bill, what advice do you have for people who want to enter your field of work?
BA: I’m not sure what my field of work is. Am I a songwriter? Yes. A singer? Yes. A game show host? Yes, in the past tense. A performer on a soap opera? The same. And I’m a lot of other things. My theory has always been to explore the opportunities that have been offered to me and see where the various roads lead. It might not work for everyone, but it’s been a very fulfilling and rewarding life for me.
GP: By the way, I should introduce you to a new friend of mine. His name is Steve Dorff, and he’s composed a lot of country songs (and he’s from New York City). He’s also the bandleader on CMT’s The Singing Bee. He was even nice enough to promote my blog. A real nice guy.
BA: I know Steve and have, in fact, written with him. He’s a great person and I have the utmost respect for his talent.
GP: Thank you very much, Bill.
BA: You’re welcome.
All right, that was a good interview. And this year marks Bill’s 50th anniversary as a member of the Grand Old Opry. So, congratulations, Bill, and YEE-HAW!
Stand by for another big interview.