SMITH COLUMN: Whispering Bill

Published 9:30 am Friday, August 26, 2022

You may not know Cheryl Riddle, but she has a nexus portfolio which would impress anybody this side of Buckingham Palace. She cuts hair in Nashville. Her place is where the country music headliners go for grooming and hair creativity. Also conversation and innocent gossip.

Her best-known client is Dolly Parton. For years Dolly never went anywhere without bringing Cheryl along. Cheryl cuts Whisperin’ Bill Anderson’s hair. You know Bill, the Decatur native and graduate of the University of Georgia, who, like “Old Man River,” keeps rolling along to song writing success that turns heads in country music circles.

In recent years, Cheryl added Vince Gill to her client list, and you are going to enjoy the rest of the story as it relates to Whisperin’ Bill.

In the early 90s, following a lull in his career from the previous decade, Cheryl connected Bill with Vince Gill which led to something akin to a second career for the Georgia native. Bill and Vince began writing songs together and success became large.

Bill was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001 and the Song Writers Hall of Fame in 2018.

His website notes, that by his “…collaborations with the newer generation of Nashville tunesmiths has resulted in hits like “Wish You Were Here,” the Grammy nominated, “Two Teardrops,” “A Lot of things Different,” for Kenny Chesney, “Which Bridge to Cross (Which Bridge to Burn)” for his friend Vince Gill and two CMA Song Of The year trophies for “Whiskey Lullaby” with Braid Paisley and Alison Krauss and George Strait’s “Give it Away” in 2005 and 2007 respectfully. He continues to write today with songs like Brad Paisley’s “Dying to See her.”

Seems that Cheryl was not done with Whisperin’ Bill.

She also cuts Bobby Tomerbiln’s hair. Bobby is Whisperin’ Bill’s co-writer. When Bobby shared with Cheryl a song they had written, “Someday It’ll All Make Sense,” she was overwhelmed and suspected that her friend Dolly would really like the song.

Cheryl was right. Dolly liked it so much that before you could say “Grand Ole Opry,” Bill and Dolly had produced a Bluegrass version of the song which was released in the last fortnight. 

“Someday the picture will come into focus,

“And we’ll see it all plain and clear,

“When we come together in the place He has for us,

Where the pain and the hurt disappear,

“Someday we’ll laugh at these roads that we’ve traveled,

“I am completely convinced,

“That hope never dies or goes out of fashion,

“Someday it’ll all make sense

It certainly made sense to a well connected hairdresser which led to Dolly Parton and Bill Anderson singing a song that seems to be headed for high status in the country music world.

“Working with my old buddy Bill Anderson was the most meaningful fun I have had in years,” Dolly said about their song. “I love the song we sang. I love the way we sounded together on it and getting to do a video with him was just the icing on the cake. I hope the fans enjoy it as much as we enjoyed being together on it.”

Whisperin’ Bill has enjoyed a bountiful career, dating back to his campus years in Athens when he organized a band to perform for a few dollars here and there.

It didn’t bring in a lot of money, but that didn’t matter. He was having fun which was part of it.

That reflected his deep and abiding passion for country music and his appreciation for the work ethic.

Throughout his career, Bill has maintained a close relationship with UGA and dressed in his Bulldog best attire to watch the national championship in Indianapolis in January.

“Nothing has made me prouder,” he says. “That was a high moment, for this ol’ Georgia boy.”

As it has turned out, it was a high moment when he met a certain hairdresser along the way.