In 1970 Lynn Anderson's producer and husband, Glenn Sutton, advised her against recording "Rose Garden". He said that it was a man's song – and that it would be ridiculous for her to sing the lines, "I could promise you things like big diamond rings". Anderson insisted – and she cut a record that went far beyond the bounds of country music and became an international hit.
Lynn Anderson was born in Grand Forks, North Dakota in 1947, the daughter of Casey and Liz Anderson, although the family was soon to move to the West Coast, first to Redwood and then Sacramento. Her father sold used cars and her mother was a country music songwriter, sometimes writing with her husband. Anderson herself was singing publicly from the age of six, but her primary interest was in horses – and she became the California Horse Show Queen in 1966.
In 1965 the three of them went to an awards event in Nashville as Liz had written "(My Friends Are Gonna Be) Strangers" for Merle Haggard, and was to make her own first recordings with Chet Atkins. When Lynn sang spontaneously at a jam session, Slim Williamson asked her if she would like to record for his label, Chart. She had her first country hit in 1966 with her mother's song "Ride, Ride, Ride", helped by the fact that she was a secretary at Chart – and was able to push her own record. In 1967, Anderson was given a regular spot on Lawrence Welk's national TV variety show. The following year, Liz and Lynn had a country hit with "Mother, May I" – and in 1969 she went to No 2 on the US country charts with "That's a No No".
In 1968 Anderson married the songwriter and producer Glenn Sutton, who selected the material and produced her records for her new label, Columbia. Anderson loved Joe South's debut album, Introspect, and wanted to record "Rose Garden" – but Sutton tried to talk her out of it. Nevertheless, they recorded it in 15 minutes at the end of a session and the musicians gave it a shuffle rhythm, somewhat akin to bluebeat and unusual for country music. Sutton, now sensing its potential, added some strings. The head of Columbia's record division, Clive Davis, pronounced it a smash hit – and the single made the Top 3 in both Britain and America.
It might have been a UK No 1, but a rival version, from the Opportunity Knocks winners New World, also made the Top 20. A third version, from Sandie Shaw, failed to make any headway.
Although Anderson was a one-hit wonder as far as the pop charts were concerned, she continued to have country hits. South wrote the curious "How Can I Unlove You", which was based around 7-Up's "Uncola" advertising campaign, while "Keep Me in Mind" showed her vocal range. She also scored with a country version of the Carpenters' "Top of the World".
Sutton often wrote quirky songs for her which sang his own praises. She had chart-topping singles with "You're My Man" and "What a Man My Man Is", but Anderson was annoyed when he gave another of his songs, "There's a Party Goin' On", to Jody Miller.
In 1977 she divorced Sutton and the following year she married Harold "Spook" Stream, who came from a prominent and wealthy Louisiana family. He was breeding cutting horses, however, and had no time for Anderson's career. The relationship was abusive and they were divorced in 1982, with Anderson returning to country music. She continued to ride – and won a Celebrity Cutting Horse Championship in 1987.
In 1989 "Rose Garden" was sampled on the million-selling single "I Beg Your Pardon" by the Canadian dance duo Kon Kan, but Anderson did not capitalise on this. She recorded an album of western songs, Cowboy's Sweetheart (1992), revisited her hits on The Bluegrass Sessions (1994) and released a gospel album, Bridges, earlier this year.
Anderson's problems, including drink-driving offences and assaulting a police officer, were well documented. She came to the UK in 2012 on the Ladies of Country tour – and I witnessed a truly ragged performance in Liverpool. She never even sang the title line of "Rose Garden", pressing the audience to sing it instead.
At the time of her death from a heart condition, her partner was the songwriter Mentor Williams.
Lynn Anderson, singer: born Grand Forks, North Dakota 26 September 1947; married first 1968 Glenn Sutton (divorced 1977, one daughter), second 1978 Harold Stream (divorced 1982, one son, one daughter); died Nashville 30 July 2015.Reuse content