I was a child who grew up all over the city of Milwaukee. North side, south side, the west side over by St. Sebastian, the east side in one of those filing cabinets with a view of the lake. I would always see Mike Anderson around town, always in front of a camera, always poised and ready to speak.
As a child around 12 or so, I saw him outside of Piggly Wiggly. I was so jazzed to see cameras and a person I saw on TV regularly. I asked my mom if I could say hi. I came up next to him and he turned and leaned down slightly and shook my hand. “How you doing?” he asked. I nodded and smiled and walked away like a dork, never having answered him.
Throughout the years I would always see him and shout “WHAT UP MIIIKE!” and he would turn, nod, and put his fist up. For me, Mike was always my favorite anchor on WISN12. His face and voice are and will always be a reminder of gentler, simpler times.
Mike was born on September 16, 1952 in Bogalusa, Louisiana, but he was raised in New Orleans. He gained recognition over the years for many of his journalistic endeavors, including his coverage of Hurricane Katrina as well as hosting the Black Excellence Awards in Milwaukee. He passed away today at the tender age of 67.
Amongst all of today’s posts commemorating Mike, the one that stood out was one from my friend Christopher Schulist. He shared a YouTube link for an artist named Roshell Anderson, for a song called “Grapevine Will Lie Sometimes.” This is our Mike Anderson, singing with a throaty magnificence a la Sam Cooke.
Yes, Mike was once known as Roshell Anderson, a stage name he used for a relatively unknown music career that started in the 1970s. In 1973, he released his first double-sided disc on a New York label called Excello, which specialized in southern soul artists. It was something of a small success, topping out at #77 on the R&B soul charts that year. “Grapevine Will Lie Sometimes” was also released that year and did a little better, charting at #69. In 1974, Anderson released the singles “I’m Cracking Up” and “Moonlight Trip,” neither of which made the charts.
Anderson released the singles “Come On Back” and “Let’s Steal Away” in 1976—five years before he assumed anchor duties in Milwaukee.
In the five years between his singing days, Roshell, now known as Mike Anderson, began working in his studied field, broadcast journalism. He relocated to Birmingham, Alabama, and then briefly to Seattle, Washington, before finally settling in Milwaukee.
The ’70s wouldn’t be the last time anyone would hear from Roshell, however. In 1987, there was a 12-inch released with instrumental versions of “Wild Dreams,” one of them containing Anderson’s airborne tenor. “Shadow Of Love” was released in 1991, containing most of his hit singles throughout the 1970s. You can find a used disc on Amazon for $14.94 + 3.99 shipping.
In 2010, Anderson enjoyed a small resurgence as vinyl record/soul music nerds compiled his songs in an online community, celebrating his career as a husky-voiced legend. He remains one of the most obscure soul artists ever, with a devoted fanbase around the United States. Apparently, Anderson’s success as an R&B star eluded him due to poor promotion, as small studios in the south in the 1970s rarely had money to be able to promote properly.
Roshell Anderson is a great discovery for many Milwaukeeans, as he was always right under our noses but never presented as the songbird he truly was. He was always our Mike Anderson, and in death he has found a new life in his community as not just a local TV star, but as an R&B legend. Rest easy, Mike. Fly high, Roshell.