Andy has become what some call "An American Institution", a music legend. He has been so popular for so long that he has a string of titles which he can call his own, among them are these: A Voice of National Treasure The King of Hearts The Golden Voice The Emperor of Easy The Emperor of Class The Crooning King The King of Easy Listening Mr. Moon River The American Idol Mr. Christmas and Mr. Television 2nd (Milton Berle was first)
Born Howard Andrew Williams on December 3, 1927 in Wall Lake, Iowa, Andy was the son of Jay Emerson and Florence (née Finley) Williams. He first performed in a children's choir at the local Presbyterian church. Andy and his three older brothers- Bob, Don, and Dick - formed the Williams Brothers quartet in late 1938, and they performed on radio in the Midwest, first at WHO in Des Moines, Iowa, and later at WLS in Chicago and WLW in Cincinnati. While in Cincinatti, they met young singer, Doris Day, who was also performing on WLW. Since she lived near them, they often got together to sing. It has been said the brothers even tried to talk Doris into joining them as a group; she opted for a solo career instead. A wise move as Andy also found out later.
The Williams Brothers appeared with Bing Crosby on the hit record "Swinging on a Star" (1944). This led to a nightclub act with entertainer Kay Thompson from 1947 to 1951.
Andy’s solo career began in 1953. He recorded six sides (individual songs) for RCA Victor's label "X", but none of them were popular hits. After finally landing a spot as a regular on Steve Allen's Tonight Show in 1954, he was signed to a recording contract with Cadence Records, a small label in New York run by conductor Archie Bleyer. His third single, "Canadian Sunset", reached #7 in the Top Ten in August 1956, and was soon followed by his only Billboard #1 hit, "Butterfly" (a cover of a Charlie Gracie record on which Andy imitated Elvis Presley) in February 1957. Most people find that fact hard to believe , but it is true nevertheless. He has had many #1 selling albums, but that is the ONLY #1 SINGLE HIT by Andy charted by Billboard on its Top 100 charts.
More hits followed, including "The Hawaiian Wedding Song" (U.S. #11), "Are You Sincere" (U.S. #3 in February 1958), "The Village of St. Bernadette" (U.S. #7 in December 1959), "Lonely Street" (U.S. #5 in September 1959), and "I Like Your Kind Of Love" with Peggy Powers (U.S. #8 in May 1957) before Andy wound up at Columbia Records in 1961, having moved from New York to Los Angeles and gaining another hit with “Can’t Get Used To Losing You" (U.S. #2-his second highest single chart record). In terms of over-all chart popularity, the Cadence era was Williams' peak, although songs he introduced on Columbia became much bigger standards. Two top ten hits from the Cadence era, "Butterfly" and "I Like Your Kind of Love" , were apparently believed to not suit Williams' later style; they were not included on a Columbia reissue of his Cadence greatest hits of/from the 1960s.
YEARS LATER MEDLEY: INCLUDING "I LIKE YOUR KIND OF LOVE"
In 1968, although he was still under contract with Columbia for his own recordings, Williams formed a separate company called Barnaby Records - not only to handle reissuing of the Cadence material, especially that of The Everly Brothers (one of the first Barnaby LPs was a double LP set of the brothers long out of print Cadence hits), but new artists as well. Barnaby also had several Top 40 hits in the 70s with novelty artist Ray Stevens (who had done a summer replacement show for Williams in 1970), including Top 10s such as “Everything is Beautiful” in 1970, and “The Streak” in 1974. Also in 1970, Barnaby signed and released the first album by a then unknown singer-songwriter named Jimmy Buffett (“Jimmy Buffett Down To Earth”) produced by Travis Turk. Columbia was initially the distributor for Barnaby, but later distribution was handled by other major labels. Once Barnaby ceased operating as a working record company at the end of the 1970s, Williams licensed the old Cadence material to various other labels after 1980.
During the 1960s, Williams became one of the most popular vocalists in the country and was signed to what was at that time the biggest recording contract in history. He was primarily an album artist, and at one time he had earned more gold albums than any solo performer except Frank Sinatra, Johnny Mathis and Elvis Presley . By 1973 he had earned as many as 18 gold album awards. Among his hit albums from this period were Moon River,Days of Wine and Roses (number one for 16 weeks in mid-1963), The Andy Williams Christmas Album, Dear Heart,The Shadow of Your Smile,Love, Andy,Get Together with Andy Williams, and Love Story. These recordings, along with his natural affinity for the music of the 1960s and early 1970s, combined to make him one of the premier easy listening singers of that era. In the UK, Williams continued to reach high chart status until 1978. The albums Can't Help Falling In Love (1970), Andy Williams Show (1970) Home Lovin’ Man (#1 1971), Solitaire (1973), The Way We Were (1974) and Reflections (1978) all reached the Top 10.
Andy forged an indirect collaborative relationship with Henry Mancini, although they never recorded together. He was asked to sing Mancini and Johnny Mercer’s song ,"Moon River”, at the 1962 Oscar Awards (where it won), and it quickly became Williams' theme song; however, because it was never released as a single, the song most associated with his entire career was never actually a top single chart hit . The next year Williams sang "Days of Wine and Roses" which was written by Mancini and Mercer (this song also won). Two years later, he sang Mancini's "Dear Heart" at the 1965 awards and "The Sweetheart Tree" (also written with Mercer) at the 1966 awards.
ANDY AND HANK; WILLIAMS AND MANCINI...
On August 5, 1966, the 14-story, 700-room Caesar's Palacecasino and nightclub opened in Las Vegas, Nevada with the stage production of "Rome Swings", in which Williams starred. He performed live to a sold out crowd in the Circus Maximus showroom. He headlined for Caesars for the next twenty years. In 1968, Columbia released a 45-rpm record of two songs Williams sang at the funeral of Robert F. Kennedy, a close friend: "Ave Maria" and "The Battle Hymn of the Republic". These were never released on a long-playing record and are usually considered collector's items.
Williams also competed in the teenage-oriented singles market as well and had several charting hits including "Can't Get Used to Losing You", "Happy Heart", and “Where Do I Begin”, the theme song from the 1970 blockbuster film, “Love Story”. In addition, he hit the Top 10 of the UK Singles Chart with "Almost There" (1965), "Can't Help Falling In Love” (1970), "Home Lovin' Man" (1970) and "Solitaire" (1973). Both Williams and Petula Clark recorded "Happy Heart” at the same time, just prior to his guest appearance on her second NBC-TV special. Unaware that she, too, was releasing the song as a single, he asked to perform it on the show. The exposure ultimately led to his having the bigger hit with the tune. The song "Happy Heart" is played during the final scene, and throughout the end credits, of the Danny Boyle film Shallow Grave.
Building on his experience with Steve Allen and some short-term variety shows in the 1950s, he became the star of his own weekly television variety show in 1962. This series, The Andy Williams Show, won three Emmy Awards for outstanding variety program. Among his series regulars were the Osmond Brothers. He gave up the variety show in 1971 while it was still popular and retrenched to three specials per year. His Christmas specials, which appeared regularly until 1974 and intermittently from 1982 into the 1990s, were among the most popular of the genre. Andy has recorded eight Christmas albums over the years and has been penned as Mr. Christmas.
He hosted the most Grammy telecasts, from the 13th Annual Grammy Awards in 1971 through the 19th Annual Grammy Awards in 1977, totaling seven consecutive shows. He returned to television to do a syndicated half-hour series in 1976–77. In the early 1970s, when the Nixon Administration attempted to deport John Lennon , Andy was an outspoken defender of the former Beatle's right to stay in the United States. A caricature of Andy is included in the montage of caricatures displayed on the cover of Ringo Starr's 1973 album, "Ringo". Williams also sang the national anthem at Super Bowl VII in 1973 with Little Angels of Holy Angels Church in Chicago, Illinois.
A FEW LOOKS AT EXCERPTS FROM SOME OF THE TV SPECIALS
At one time, award shows on television had "class", as did their hosts. Here, Andy hosts the 17th Annual Grammy Awards Show with finesse.
THE MOON RIVER THEATRE IN BRANSON, MISSOURI
When it first opened, Williams' act was unique because it was the first non-country act to open in the then-mostly-country music town. It was said he was discouraged by many friends back in California from making such a bold move, but that was what he wanted. Other non-country entertainers like Bobby Vinton, Tony Orlando, Wayne Newton and the Osmond Brothers soon followed.
Williams and his theater were featured on three episodes of the soap opera As the World Turns in July 2007. Several of the cast (Gwen, Will, Cleo, Jade, Luke, Maddie and Noah) went to Branson for a concert of Gwen Munson held in the Moon River Theatre. The Simpsons featured Andy at his Moon River Theatre in an episode titled "Bart on the Road”. Nelson Muntz is an Andy Williams fan, and in the episode, he forces the gang to make a detour to Branson so he could see his idol. The bully is reduced to tears as Williams performs "Moon River" during the second encore. In the spring of 2007 Williams opened the Moon River Grill adjacent to his theater in Branson. The restaurant is decorated in photos from the Andy Williams Television Show with stars including Diana Ross, Elton John and Sammy Davis Jr. Art is center stage in the restaurant, with works by several artists including Andy Warhol and Robert Indiana. Andy is an avid golfer, and hosted the PGA Tour golf tournament in San Diego from 1968-88 at Torrey Pines. Then known as the "Andy Williams San Diego Open", the tournament continues as the Farmers Insurance Open, usually played in February.
Williams' birthplace in Iowa is a tourist
attraction, and is open most of the year.
On Friday, November 4, 2011, it was reported in the press that Williams has been diagnosed with bladder cancer. He is undergoing chemotherapy treatments in Houston and will then move with his wife to a rented home in Malibu, California to be closer to cancer specialists in the Los Angeles area.
LUCKILY, YOU CAN LEARN EVEN MORE BY CLICKING ON AN ENTIRE WEBSITE DEVOTED TO THE LIFE AND CAREER OF THIS AMAZING MAN. www.andywilliams.com .
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