South Forest Boogie
Audio Tour: Pink Anderson
Pinkney “Pink” Anderson sang blues songs about greasy greens, his South Forest Street neighborhood and the Spartanburg city jail on Broad Street. Anderson’s humorous, sneakily subversive music influenced British rock band Pink Floyd, legendary country singer Johnny Cash and scores of others.
Born in 1900, Anderson began his career as a medicine show “draw man,” meaning he played music that drew people to gather around, so that a “pitch man” could sell remedies to the crowd. Anderson was doing that by age 14.
In 1928, he traveled to Atlanta, to record for Columbia Records with Blind Simmie Dooley. He didn’t record again until 1950, when he did seven sides in Charlottesville, Va., including “Greasy Greens” and “I Got Mine.” On the latter, he sang, “Ever since that big craps game, I’ve been living on chicken and wine.” Those Charlottesville records were heard on jukeboxes by Johnny Cash, who credited Anderson as one of two blues musicians who inspired his guitar-playing. In 1961, Samuel Charters came to Spartanburg and recorded three albums worth of Pink Anderson material. Those albums were Carolina Blues Man, Ballad and Folksinger and Pink Anderson: Medicine Show Man.
Englishman Syd Barrett, a blues lover, named his rock group Pink Floyd, combining the names of Pink Anderson and North Carolina bluesman Floyd Council.
Anderson also contributed to Spartanburg’s gambling and bootleg whiskey scenes, but those are stories for another time. The great Piedmont Blues singer Pink Anderson died of a heart attack in 1974.
—Peter Cooper, author, professor, award-winning journalist, and Grammy-nominated artist
Anderson toured with Leo "Chief Thundercloud" Kahdot and his medicine show, often with the harmonica player Arthur "Peg Leg Sam" Jackson.