Here’s the next in my series of blogs profiling some of the great artists and performers I have worked with in the last 40 years. They all get the same 6 questions, and then I ask them “The Big Question”.
This week I profile George Anderson, a phenomenally talented bass player, band leader and producer; who happens to be as nice as he is talented. Born in Hillsboro Texas, George grew up on a 600-acre farm in South Grand Prairie. Everybody in his family was musically inclined but no one had any formal training. He began studying music in 8th grade and eventually attended N.T.S.U. His professional music career began as a member of the Ft. Worth Symphony Orchestra, and he has since played shows with the Dallas Summer Musicals and the Dallas Theater Center. All the while gigging constantly, all around the country, as a freelance bassist - leading his own bands and playing for numerous other band leaders.
1. What were your Influences? Want to know what’s crazy about this question? My answer! As a kid, I used to listen to Muzak. Late at night, I loved skipping through stations until I found a song I liked. I would listen to the song until it was over then search for others. One night I stumbled across a Muzak station playing elevator music. The music was performed with what I know now was muted strings. I loved that sound so much that I stopped searching and just listened to Muzak every night before bed. I also grew up listening to black radio. I’m talking “KKDA-SOUL-SOCKING '73" Motown! That’s what was being played in my house all day. So to answer your question, my influences were Motown and Muzak. I know it sounds crazy, but it’s true.
2. What other jobs have you had? I started working when I was 14. I worked as a dishwasher, at the city recreation center, for "Churches Fried Chicken" and as a door host for a fancy seafood restaurant called “Zuider Zee” I loved that job! During college, I worked at “Six Flags” playing bass in the “Southern Palace”.
3. Do you have any hobbies? Yes, My hobby is working out! I love to sweat! A few years ago, a friend turned me on to Martial Arts as a new form of working out and I loved it! It is by far the most intense workouts and physical training I ever experienced. I think I'm paying the price for all the beat downs in sparring. The body is not meant to be kicked in the head, ribs, and back, or choked and slammed to the floor. Working out is still my favorite hobby, though now I workout in a safer environment where I don’t have to worry about flying feet coming at me!
4. Can you tell me about some of the highlights in your career? By the time your music career reaches that 40-year mark, you’ve probably had a few “Wow, that was cool” moments. A few of mine, in no particular order, include backing Jay Leno as a bandleader in a “Tonight Show” type parody. I was bandleader behind Bob Hope during a Southwest Airlines event. While in the N.T.S.U. One O’clock Lab band, we were invited to the Spoleto Festival where I got to play with Ella Fitzgerald. Chuck Berry! Chuck is still to this day the most energetic national act I ever worked with. He was laid back during the rehearsal, but during the performance Chuck Berry was a beast! Although I didn’t grow up listening to country music, one of my favorite highlights was playing a concert with Willie Nelson, backed by the Dallas Symphony. Willie was a trip! I noticed a guitar pick laying on the arm of a chair and ask him if I could have it. He said here’s a better one. He handed me two picks. On one side of the pick was a picture of Willie, with headband, bandanna and all….the other side was a picture of a marijuana plant. I laughed, told him he was great. He shook my hand and said “I feel your music, man”
5. The craziest gig you ever did? Oh Man, I remember doing a wedding reception for a billionaire’s daughter. How rich was he? The guy Invented barcodes! He could not think of enough ways to spend money on his daughter's wedding. He had white horse-drawn carriages, trumpet players playing from the trees, a 50 piece orchestra for dinner music. I was surprised he picked my band, The groom was completely out of control. On the second break, the taped music was playing, and then I hear the bashing of drums. Yep, It’s the groom banging on the drums. He's got a crowd of buddies egging him on. I have to ask the guy to stop playing the drums while his young buddies tell me how he used to play drums. I said, but these are not his drums! So, out of frustration, I ask the groom if I could have the keys to his car. "I just want to drive it around for a while, pop a few wheelies, you know". He got the picture.
6. What has changed the most in your business in the past 10 years? I think the advancement of technology has caused a change in all businesses. You can ask a lumberjack this question and his answer will probably include technology. I remember when I started my own pop/cover band. It was so easy to book! It required hard work at the beginning, putting a book of music and songs together, but then it was pretty easy. Today, there are bands that are full of actors who don’t play instruments or sing. I met a guitar player in a band from a big city who told me that their band was mostly actors. I was like WHAT! Yeah, They have a couple of people who actually sing and a drummer who plays, but the other 10 people are just air players, dancers, and acrobats who look like models. The instruments are per-recorded, including the guitar solos and lead vocals. But I’m old school! I want players sweating on stage, playing their hearts out.
7. “The Big Question” With the immense talent and dedication to your instrument you possess, you could have chosen any city to make your living, but you chose North Texas. How did we get so lucky? Back in the day, I toured the country with the Woody Herman Big band. I played a lot of cities, but no place grabbed me, and I was actually looking for another state to live in. I loved San Diego, but it was too expensive. I spent some time in Los Angeles, but I knew right away it was not me. I also went to New York for a few days, but the pace was so fast that I found myself ducking for cover. Remember, I grew up on a farm so things CAN move too fast for me, especially at that time. At some point, I finally realized I’m a Texan and eventually came back to Dallas. I decided I would put together a plan that I could implement no matter where I lived, and it worked out. I’m a native born Texan and I love living in here. I love that it's such a huge state and the people are very cool. I came to the conclusion that unless I want to camp out in the mountains or ski everyday, I can do just about anything I want to do right here in Texas.