Lynn Anderson (September 26, 1947–July 30, 2015) knew a great song when she heard it, and when she heard Joe South’s “(I Never Promised You a) Rose Garden” she knew instinctively she had to record it. The rest is history, literally for the strikingly beautiful Lynn Anderson. Less than two months after its release, her instinct paid off… in roses. The album became Lynn’s second #1 LP, and its title single would go on to become nothing less than a global phenomenon, exploding to the top of the Country and Pop charts, and capturing the #1 spot in more than sixteen countries worldwide, making ‘Rose Garden’ one of the most successful songs ever recorded by a female Country artist.
There is no debate that the iconic song “Rose Garden” propelled Lynn Anderson to superstar status. The hit topped both the Country and Pop charts and made Anderson an international star of the top order. For 27 years, it stood as the biggest-selling recording by a female Country artist. This classic song and Lynn Anderson are being celebrated with a special commemorative 50th anniversary vinyl release.
Lynn Anderson was born in Grand Forks, North Dakota, however, she was raised in Fair Oaks, California. A role model for an entire generation of women, Lynn Anderson’s brilliance was reflected within the two great passions of her life, the American Quarter Horse and music. She was the daughter of hit Country songwriter Liz Anderson and avid equestrian Casey Anderson, and she was raised surrounded by both.
A lifelong horsewoman, world-class cutting horse champion, and nationally ranked American Quarter Horse Association breeder, Lynn was a celebrated star in the horse world years before she ever walked into a Nashville recording studio. Her love of horses and riding was as much a part of her DNA as the voice that made her one country music’s most honored entertainers. She maintained an equestrian career as a competitor with cutting horses and show horses from the 1960s until her death.
As a horsewoman she won in excess of 700 trophies , including the California Horse Show Queen title in 1966, sixteen national, eight world, and several celebrity championships. Her other notable championships included becoming the National Chevy Truck Cutting Horse Champion in 1999, the American U.S. Open Invitational Champion in 2000, and the National Cutting Horse Association Champion in 1999. She also raised horses at her ranch in New Mexico and worked with the Special Riders of Animaland, a horse back riding therapy program for children.
Anderson became interested in singing at the young age of six. In her teens, she performed regularly on the local television program Country Caravan and she entered and won a singing contest in Sacramento that once featured Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys.
It was not until 1965 that Lynn Anderson's music career truly began to unfold. At that time she was employed as a secretary at Top 40 radio station KROY in Sacramento, California, when one of her mother's compositions, "(My Friends Are Gonna Be) Strangers", was recorded by Merle Haggard and became a No. 10 Country hit. Lynn's mother, Liz Anderson signed with RCA Victor as a Country music recording artist In the mid 60s based on her demo tapes, some of which featured Lynn singing background vocals. While accompanying her mother to Nashville, Anderson participated in an informal singalong in a hotel room with Country stars Merle Haggard and Freddie Hart. As fate would have it, one of the people present at the sing-along, Slim Williamson, owned Chart Records, a local record label. Williamson recognized Lynn Anderson's talent and invited her to record for his label in 1966.
That same year, Lynn Anderson released her debut single, "For Better or for Worse", a duet with Jerry Lane that did not chart. Her first charting single was her third release on the Chart Label, "Ride, Ride, Ride" which hit the Country Top 40. She had her first major hit single, "If I Kiss You (Will You Go Away)", the following year. This song peaked at No. 5 on the Country chart and was quickly followed by another Top 5 hit, "Promises, Promises", from an album of the same name, which also spawned a second Top 10 hit, "No Another Time", in 1968. Anderson released "Mother May I", a Top 25 duet that she recorded with her mother whom at that time had also achieved her own success as a Country artist with two Top 10 hits "Mama Spank" (1966) and a trio with Bobby Bare and Norma Jean, "The Game of Triangles" (1967).
Anderson became a regular performer on The Lawrence Welk Show in 1967 and toured with the Welk Road Show, at the time becoming the only Country artist featured weekly on a national telecast. Due to the Welk show's widespread appeal, the Welk Road Show was instrumental on Anderson achieving her future success and crossing over on to the pop charts. In 1969, as her popularity grew, she left the Welk show in favor of sporadic guest appearances . Throughout the 1970s, Anderson made frequent guest appearances on numerous television specials, talk shows and variety shows. and due to her crossover appeal, she often appeared on shows where Country artists were not regularly seen. At the height of the show's popularity, she had a starring role in an episode of Starsky & Hutch.
Anderson also appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Kraft Music Hall, The Dean Martin Show, This Is Tom Jones, Midnight Special, The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, The Carol Burnett Show, The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour, Hollywood Squares, The Dinah Shore Show, Solid Gold, Good Morning America, People’s Choice Awards, American Music Awards, Grammy Awards, and three Bob Hope Specials. Anderson even starred in her own CBS special, with Tina Turner as a guest. She also acted in an NBC Movie of the Week, and Country Gold. In 1990, Anderson starred as singer Betsy Hall in the BBC Scotland TV drama "The Wreck on the Highway". She performed the song "Dream On" in the film, which consequently became a minor hit in a BBC collection of Country standards. Lynn however declined the female lead in the film W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings (1975) opposite Burt Reynolds fearing the role was too racy for her conservative Country fans.
In 1968, Anderson married songwriter and producer Glenn Sutton, who later produced and wrote many of her records during her tenure with Columbia. Their marriage lasted nine years. Anderson released her biggest hit single under the Chart label, "That's a No No", which peaked at No. 2 on the Country Charts in 1969. Soon after, Lynn Anderson left the label, signing with Columbia Records in 1970, however Chart Records continued to release Lynn Anderson's singles until the end of 1971, including five Top 20 hits, "He'd Still Love Me", "I've Been Everywhere", "Rocky Top", "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels" and "I'm Alright".
It was after Anderson's made a fortuitous move to Nashville and signed with Columbia in 1970, that she released the Joe South song, "(I Never Promised You A) Rose Garden", which became a major crossover pop hit in 1970 and early 1971 . The song was produced by her then husband Glenn Sutton, a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. Lynn Anderson actually had to do some arm-twisting to get her producer husband to allow her to record the song. Sutton at that time was convinced that "Rose Garden" was a song to be sung by a man, citing the line "I could promise you things like big diamond rings". It wasn't until Columbia executive, the renowned Clive Davis, determined the song would be Anderson's next single that the song was released.
The single peaked at No. 1 on the Country charts and No. 3 on the Pop charts, becoming an international success. In the United Kingdom, the single reached No. 3 and in Germany it peaked at No. 1 and stayed there for four weeks. The album Rose Garden was released in 1971 and was also extremely successful, receiving platinum certification by the RIAA. Anderson won the Academy of Country Music's "Top Female Vocalist" Award and the Country Music Association's "Female Vocalist of the Year" Award in 1970 and 1971, respectively. In addition, she won a Grammy Award.
Lynn Anderson had two No. 1 hit singles on the Country chart in 1971 with "You're My Man" and "How Can I Unlove You", and both peaked at No. 63 on the Pop charts. In 1972, Anderson had three Top 5 hits on the Country charts, beginning with a cover version of the 50s pop hit, "Cry", followed by "Listen to a Country Song" and "Fool Me". These songs were included on the "Listen to a Country Song" album. "Cry" peaked at No. 3 on the Country chart and at No. 16 on the Adult Contemporary chart. In 1973, she had a fourth No. 1 Country hit with "Keep Me in Mind", and an album of the same name was released. Then followed a second 1973 album, "Top of the World", whose title track was a No. 2 Country hit. It was also a No. 1 pop hit for The Carpenters that same year, however, Anderson's version was the first to be released as a single and become a hit. The second single released from the Top of the World album, "Sing About Love", also peaked at No. 3. In 1974, "What a Man My Man Is" was Anderson's fifth No. 1 Country hit. That same year, she also won the American Music Awards' "Favorite Female Country Artist" Award.
Anderson's success continued as she made appearances on the Country charts every year for the rest of the decade. Lynn hit the Top 20 with two songs from her 'I've Never Loved Anyone More' album in 1975, "He Turns it into Love Again" and the title track. She had a Top 20 hit with "All the King's Horses" in 1976 from an album of the same name and in 1977, "Wrap Your Love All Around Your Man", partly due to its promotion on the television series Starsky & Hutch, became a major hit. In 1979, Lynn hit the Top 10 again with "Isn't It Always Love" from her album "Outlaw is Just a State of Mind". The album also produced the Top 20 hit, "I Love How You Love Me" and the Top 40 hit "Sea of Heartbreak". In 1980, she recorded her final album for Columbia, "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues", featured two Top 30 hits.
As to Lynn Anderson's personal life, she couldn't imagined that it was fated at times to become a tearjerker. She told People Magazine in an interview in 1982 that “I was called the Grace Kelly of Country music, and I figured I could own the world.” But at the time of the interview she was 35, and about to, from her perspective "revive" her showbiz career by appearing in the CBS-TV movie Country Gold, after she had lived the experiences she once only had once sang about.
At the time of her interview with People Magazine Lynn was involved in matrimonial litigation with her then husband Harold “Spook” Stream, the estate manager for and scion of a prominent Louisiana family. Already once divorced, Lynn had moved in with Spook, and they sancified their love with formal vows on Valentine’s Day, 1978. They also shared a passion for horses and traveled extensively.
For Lynn the promise of wedded bliss was such that she walked away from her performing and recording career to devote herself to her husband and family. She had a daughter, Lisa, from her 10-year marriage to songwriter-producer Glenn Sutton, and she and Spook would have two of their own children, William Gray and Bunny. “I had been in the music business all my adult life,” she told People magazine. “I had won the awards and had a million selling record, so I thought it was a natural progression for me at that point to change my priorities.”
But domesticity she presented a problem and disappointment as showbiz was not "respectable" within the rigidly conservative structure of the Stream clan, whose wealth was based mainly on oil and ranching. It also bothered Lynn some to be known only as "Mrs. Stream.” Harold Stream had became increasingly involved in the breeding and showing of cutting horses and was on the road all the time. Lynn felt that she couldn’t keep up and their quarreling intensified until Lynn picked up and left their Lake Charles estate to return to Nashville. Her one line farewell note to Spook read: “The end of a fairy tale.”
Later, Lynn claims she really didn’t want the divorce and in fact, dated her ex-husband again at one point. But Spook had filed court papers barely two weeks after her departure which came to Lynn's attention while she was sitting at home with her 6 month old baby watching the 10 o’clock news. To avoid a potentially devastating public custody fight, she and Spook came to an agreement and Lynn retained custody of their children.
After three years away from recording, Anderson signed with the Permian Records label in 1983, and again hit the Top 10 Country with "You're Welcome to Tonight", a duet with Gary Morris. At Permian, she also recorded "Back" studio album. The album's first single, "You Can't Lose What You Never Had" charted and the second single, "What I've Learned from Loving You", was a Top 20 hit. After leaving Permian in 1984, two years later she recorded "Fools for Each Other", a duet with Ed Bruce, which was included on his "Night Things" album.
That same year, Anderson recorded a single for MCA Records and in 1986, she signed with Mercury Records, which produced one album, "What She Does Best". , and five singles that were minor hits on the Country charts in the late 1980s. She had two Top 40 hit singles with MCA, "Read Between the Lines" and a cover version of The Drifters' "Under the Boardwalk", which hit Top 25 Country in 1988. In 1989, Anderson released a charting single, "How Many Hearts".
In 1992 she recorded a new studio album titled "Cowboy's Sweetheart" with Emmylou Harris and Marty Stuart appearing as guest performers. At the same time, the American Rose Society created a hybrid tea rose and named it the "Lynn Anderson". Anderson for the rest of the decade became more focused on touring and performing, as well as non-musical projects. In 1999, she was inducted into the North American Country Music Association's International Hall of Fame.
In 2000, Tennessee, then governor Don Sundquist made June 15 officially "Lynn Anderson Day" throughout the state. Anderson produced a TNN special, "American Country Cowboys," which helped handicapped groups also during this time. In 2002, Anderson was ranked at No. 29 on CMT's television special of the 40 Greatest Women of Country Music. Lynn also recorded a live album titled, Live at Billy Bob's Texas.
In 2004, she recorded another studio album, "The Bluegrass Sessions". The Bluegrass album consisted of Anderson's major hits from the 1960s and 1970s re-recorded in a Bluegrass format. The album was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album in 2005.
In 2005, she performed on the Grand Ole Opry wih Martina McBride, performing a duet version of "(I Never Promised You A) Rose Garden. Until the end of her life, Anderson remained a popular concert attraction, regularly headlining casino showrooms, performing arts centers and theatres throughout the United States and Canada.
In 2015, Anderson signed with Center Sound Records to release a new Country Gospel album, "Bridges". The album featured a Gospel version of the Mentor Williams-penned hit "Drift Away", with new lyrics by the writer. It also contained vocal collaborations of Anderson with The Martins and Country Music Hall of Fame members The Oak Ridge Boys. The album was released on June 9, 2015, as both digital download and vinyl.
It is a matter of public knowledge and record that Lynn Anderson also at times in her life struggled with substance abuse accumulating several DUIs. Lynn spent time at the Betty Ford Center seeking help for her addictions. Lynn Anderson despite being so exceptionally talented in so many of her passions in life was after all, subject to human frailties.
In the span of a five decade career, Lynn broke nearly as many records as she made with 52 standalone LP’s and nearly 100 singles. Among those 100 singles, 50 placed within the Top 40 on the national charts, 18 in the Top 10, and 12 captured the No. 1 spot. A distinctive stylist, Lynn Anderson ranks among the top 10 most successful female Country artists for all time record sales, as well as one of the most awarded Country artists of her era. She performed for the Queen of England and for four American Presidents.
Lynn Anderson died on July 30, 2015, of a heart attack while battling pneumonia at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville Tennessee. She had been briefly hospitalized due to pneumonia after vacationing in Italy. She is buried at Woodlawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Nashville near her mother and father. In 2018, Woodlawn Memorial Park Cemetery, often referred to as "Cemetery of Country Stars," created "The Lynn Anderson Rose Garden," consisting of 200 Lynn Anderson Hybrid Rose Bushes (named for the singer by the National Rose Society of America), as a place of reflection and meditation, in honor of Anderson's signature song.
Her memory will live on forever as generations sing along with the radio. There is no better time than on the 50th Anniversary of the release of “(I Never Promised You a) Rose Garden” to remember and honor Lynn Anderson, a life as they say "well lived". Lynn Anderson was an iconic female Country Superstar and to remember both Superstar and the the song that made her her intentional Superstar, with the special commemorative 50th anniversary vinyl release. As Lynn Anderson herself would probably invite us all to "Come along and share the good times
while we can."
By Deborah Gibson