A friend of mine in Bangkok let me borrow the CD that Ricky Skaggs and Bruce Hornsby released in 2007, simply titled Ricky Skaggs and Bruce Hornsby. It’s a fabulous, lively set of bluegrass originals and “reworked” versions of Hornsby songs like “Mandolin Rain” and “A Night on the Town.” The last track on the album, however, is the real head-turner; a hoedown cover version of Rick James’ “Superfreak.” But who was the vocalist? His delightful country drawl sounded very familiar, but I knew it wasn’t Skaggs or Hornsby. Okay, check out the booklet inside the CD, dummy. And that of course revealed the answer: the singer was John Anderson. If that name doesn’t ring a bell right away, remember that huge 80s country hit “Swingin’”? Yes, THAT John Anderson, as opposed to the senator from Illinois who once ran for US President or the Jon Anderson from the band Yes. This John Anderson was a good old country boy with a great singing voice, the pride of Apopka, Florida, which is right now the road from my old hometown of Orlando. In fact, one of my friends from university went to high school in Apopka with John. Just a regular guy, from all accounts, but one with talent.
“Swingin’” might have seemed like a novelty hit to some listeners, but Anderson had plenty of other great songs and recorded several very good albums in the 80s and early 90s. Songs like “1959” and “Seminole Wind” are classics in any genre. He was quite successful for a few years, enjoying a run of number one hits on the country charts, but he changed labels several times and I’d lost track of him in recent years. Was he still recording? A quick online checked revealed that, yes indeed he is. Just two years ago he released a new album, Bigger Hands, on the Country Crossing label. Good reviews on that one indicate that it may be one to hunt down. In any case, it’s good to see an artist with such a distinctive voice still out there making music. And kudos to Ricky and Bruce for recruiting John to sing “Superfreak” on their album. You gotta hear this one. If it doesn’t make you smile, it’s time for lethal injection.