Dakota Datebook

Liz Anderson, Songwriter

Friday, March 12, 2004

Tomorrow is the birthday of Elizabeth Jane Haaby Anderson, a singer-songwriter born in 1930 in Roseau, Minnesota. She is the mother of country star Lynn Anderson, who we talked about February 3rd.

Although her music career was somewhat overshadowed by her daughter’s success, Liz’s accomplishments are significant in her own right; daughter Lynn’s first Top-40 country hit, Ride, Ride, Ride, was written by Liz, and RCA produced seven albums for Liz. She also received BMI Awards in 1964, 1965 and 1967 and an ASCAP Award in 1967. In the 1967 Grammy Awards, Liz placed in the Top 5 for “Best Country Vocal Performance, Female” and “Best Country Vocal Performance by a Group.”

Liz Habby grew up in a low-income, religious family in rural Minnesota near the Canadian border. The family had a mandolin, and Liz began singing in church when she was only 8. They moved to Grand Forks when Liz was 13, and three years later, she married Casey Anderson. Casey was in the Navy when Lynn was born a year later, and Liz raised their daughter pretty much alone for the first four years. When Casey came back to civilian life, they moved to California, where he was going to attend jet engine school. Unfortunately, they found school too expensive, and he went to work selling cars.

Liz tried entering the business world as a secretary, but it didn’t really take. In 1957, with Casey’s encouragement, she began writing songs. He belonged to a group called the Sheriff’s Posse, which was planning to take part in the National Centennial Pony Express Celebration. Casey talked Liz into writing a song in honor of the Pony Express. She ended up with a Medal of Honor for it, and it was named the official song for the celebration.

Casey’s co-worker, a man named Jack McFadden, was trying to make his way into the music business, and he started pitching Liz’s songs to record producers. Del Reeves liked Liz’s I Watched You Walking and went on to record two more Anderson songs, I Don’t Wonder and Be Quiet Mind.

In 1964, Roy Drusky recorded Liz’s song, Pick of the Week, which hit the Top 15, and the following year, Merle Haggard had a Top 10 hit with (My Friends Are Gonna Be) Strangers.

In 1965, when Liz was accepting her BMI award in Nashville, the legendary Chet Atkins signed her to record her debut album, (My Friends Are Gonna Be) Strangers. Two singles from the album did quite well, but her third, The Game of Triangles, with Bobby Bare and Norma Jean, hit the Top 5. In April 1967, she had another Top 5 single with Mama Spank.

In 1968, Liz released a single – a duet with Lynn called Mother May I – which just missed the Top 20. In 1970 she released Husband Hunting, which made it into the Top 30. A 1971 move to Epic records coincided with a winding down of her career as a singer.

Liz and her daughter weren’t the only ones to benefit from Liz’s writing abilities. A song Liz co-wrote with Casey – The Fugitive – was a Number 1 hit for Merle Haggard in 1966, and Conway Twitty’s first country hit, Guess My Eyes Were Bigger Than My Heart, was also written by Liz. Mother and daughter continued to collaborate, too; Liz wrote Lynn’s 1970 hit, Big Girls Don’t Cry.

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm

This text and audio may not be copied without securing prior permission from Prairie Public.

Dakota Datebook is a project of Prairie Public, in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council.

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