By Barry Gilbert
St. Louis Post-Dispatch


April 7, 2005

It's jarring to think of Pete Anderson playing with anyone but country star Dwight Yoakam, but that's what's happened since the Anderson-Yoakam partnership dissolved a couple of years ago.

Anderson, an acclaimed guitarist, producer and the owner of Little Dog Records, is back on the road and back in a band. This time, he's supporting his newest artist, Moot Davis, a talented honky-tonk singer-songwriter who played St. Louis about six months ago and returns Wednesday for a show at Off Broadway.

Anderson and Davis' band, called the Cool Deal, will open, performing tunes from Anderson's third and most recent CD, "Daredevil."

Anderson came to know Davis "out of the blue" when the young singer took the advice of honky-tonker Rosie Flores, an old friend and client of Anderson's, and sent a demo CD to Little Dog.

"I get hundreds of unsolicited CDs, boxes and boxes of them, sent to me," Anderson says. "Ninety-nine percent of them I wouldn't do on Little Dog, and 90 percent aren't very good."

But one of his staffers urged Anderson to check out Davis' demos, and Anderson was "really impressed with the songwriting."

"I said I'd check the guy out and make sure he's not a drug addict or alcoholic or psycho," Anderson says. "My tank is empty on that kind of behavior, at my age and on my label. It's one thing to work with someone like that at a major label, because it's not your problem."

Davis checked out and proved to be "a hard worker and a quick learner, and he's not a complainer."

"You can sing great and write great songs, and I've met a lot of people like that who are not going to make a penny in this business," Anderson says. "There are some intangible qualities and character issues, issues that are really important."

Anderson, who is in his mid-50s, was born in Detroit and grew up in a blue-collar household. His father died when he was very young, and he was raised by his mother, who worked in an auto plant. Blown away by Elvis Presley, Anderson persuaded his mother to buy him a guitar that turned out to be unplayable. But it looked cool in a mirror hanging from his neck.

When his mom retired, they moved to Arizona, where Anderson began playing in bands. But the young blues-rock guitarist realized he'd have to move to Los Angeles if he was going to make it in the music business.

It was there that he met Yoakam, who needed a fill-in guitarist for a gig. Over the next three years, Anderson produced an EP that became Yoakam's first album for Warner Bros., "Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc." and vaulted Yoakam into the forefront of the '80s' new traditionalist movement.

Meanwhile, Anderson produced an influential album of Southern California honky-tonk and country called "A Town South of Bakersfield" that featured acts who were virtually unknown outside Southern California. These included Lucinda Williams, Flores, Jim Lauderdale, Katy Moffat and Yoakam.

The end of Anderson's association with Yoakam began during the summer of 2002, when a proposed tour as a duo fell through and Yoakam "hired a cheaper band" and hit the road. Two other events signaled the end of the run: Yoakam was dropped by Warner Bros., the only label he'd known, and corporate sibling Rhino released a box set spanning Yoakam's and Anderson's years on the roster.

After one more CD, "Population Me," produced by Anderson for the independent Audium Records, "we went off in different directions. I needed to concentrate on my label."

Anderson's "Daredevil" CD contains all instrumentals, some of which began as a collection of promos and musical tags for Country Music Television in Australia. For example, a 45-second "cue" for a "rockin' country" program was based on a Creedence Clearwater Revival beat and became the first track on the CD, "Baby Done Something Wrong."

The collaborative nature of music is what has always interested Anderson. He says he never wanted to be a producer, and certainly never wanted to own his own record company. Those things just kind of happened as he took control of his career.

"I've always used music as a creative outlet," he says. "When I was young, I did art and liked to draw. When I did music, it wasn't to copy Beatles songs in the garage, it was as a creative outlet. It gave me latitude as a soloist. I'm not a great songwriter, but I've learned to be a great co-creator."

Anderson has been part of projects that have sold about 30 million copies. As a producer, he has worked with artists ranging from Michelle Shocked and Roy Orbison to the Blazers, Lauderdale, Flores and k.d. lang.

"I never ever thought of owning a record company," he says. "I didn't want to be a producer. I wanted people to say, 'You're the greatest guitar player I've ever worked with.'"