Barefoot Man remembers country star Anderson

Country music singer Lynn Anderson, best known for her 1971 hit, “(I Never Promised You a) Rose Garden,” died of a heart attack at age 67 last week in Nashville, Tennessee. The singer, who in 1971 won a Grammy and Country Music Association’s Female Vocalist of the Year Award, was friends with one of Cayman’s own music legends, George Nowak, better known as Barefoot Man. 

In 1966, at age 19, Ms. Anderson began recording for the small Nashville label Chart Records. At the same time, a young Mr. Nowak was working as an office clerk for the recording company, keen to make whatever connections he could in the business. While Ms. Anderson was recording and making appearances on “The Lawrence Welk Show,” Mr. Nowak says he was an office “gofer,” sweeping the floors or tuning guitars. But shared ambitions, and the shared experience of being the youngest people working for the company, brought the pair together, he said. 

They frequented the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. Mr. Nowak appeared at the backstage door of the Ryman Auditorium so often to deliver royalty checks to other artists that he made friends with the security guard. He brought Ms. Anderson along, and together they got to meet many of their country music idols. “It was a big dream come true for me, and Lynn was a part of that whole thing,” Mr. Nowak said. 

Mr. Nowak says he was “somewhere between here and the Bahamas” when Ms. Anderson’s career really began to take off, and “Rose Garden” became a hit. He tried to send her congratulatory letters but isn’t sure if she ever received them. More than a decade went by before Mr. Nowak and Ms. Anderson reconnected. 

During that time, Ms. Anderson’s career flourished. In 1974, she was named Favorite Country Female Artist at the American Music Awards, and she became the first female country artist to sell out Madison Square Garden that same year. She made several TV appearances, including a starring role in an episode of the hit TV show “Starsky and Hutch.” 

In the late 1970s, Mr. Nowak heard someone say that they had seen Ms. Anderson on the island. Mr. Nowak said, “Oh, gosh, I know her really well!” and was able to deliver a message to her. Ms. Anderson, who was previously unaware that Mr. Nowak was living in Cayman, came to the Holiday Inn to see him perform, and he spent some time showing her around the island. 

“It was really good to see her again, and I was really happy for her,” Mr. Nowak said. He said that by that time, they had both achieved the dreams they had discussed over beers in Nashville. His goal had been to make a few hits and use his money to “buy a whole island.” 

“In the end, I sort of had what I wanted. And, of course, Lynn got what she wanted in a very big way,” he said. 

Ms. Anderson visited Cayman a few times in the late 1970s and early 1980s, according to Mr. Nowak. She enjoyed scuba diving and the peace and quiet of the small island. 

Mr. Nowak said he and Ms. Anderson played music together at his home when she visited and exchanged song ideas, but he never asked her to perform with him. He figured she might want a break from work. 

“Back then, it was less populated [here], so you could find a corner on Seven Mile Beach and no one was around, and because she was on the road doing a lot of tours, it was a nice break for her,” he said. 

George Nowak, aka Barefoot Man, with singer/songwriter Lynn Anderson, circa 1976. Ms. Anderson passed away on July 30 at the age of 67.
George Nowak, aka Barefoot Man, with singer/songwriter Lynn Anderson, circa 1976. Ms. Anderson passed away on July 30 at the age of 67.

Lynn Anderson, in 2011

Lynn Anderson, in 2011. – PHOTO: AP