Singer whose relaxed style made him a star in the United States and Britain
Howard Andrew Williams, singer: born Wall Lake, Iowa 3 December 1927; married 1961 Claudine Longet (divorced 1975; two sons, one daughter), 1991 Debbie Mayer; died Branson, Missouri 25 September 2012.
From The Independent 27th September 2012
With numerous hit singles and albums and as the host of a major television series, Andy Williams became the Emperor of Easy. He came across as he was in real life: a relaxed, even-tempered and thoroughly decent man.
Not being a songwriter, Williams relied upon others for material. Sometimes he picked songs aimed at the youth market in an ill-advised attempt to appear hip. Also, he was not generally able to refashion his material in the way that Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett or Bobby Darin did. With a few notable exceptions, his records now seem straightforward interpretations of familiar material, warmly performed with perfect diction to be sure, but more sentimental than exciting. Being a tenor with a wide range including a seemingly effortless falsetto, Williams later admitted that there was too much echo on some recordings. He thought that “Born Free” (1967) captured his most natural sound.
Andy Williams was born in 1927 in Wall Lake, Iowa, a town of less than 1,000 inhabitants. His birthplace, which he shares with his mother, is now a tourist attraction. His parents were Jay and Florence Williams; his father was a railway worker and amateur pianist. He, his three elder brothers Bob, Don and Dick, and his parents were the entire choir at their Presbyterian church. The family moved to Des Moines when he was seven. The Williams Brothers started singing on the radio station, WHO, at the same time that Ronald Reagan was the sports commentator.
The family moved to Chicago and the brothers secured daily broadcasts. Jay told Andy not to bother about his schooling as he was going to be a singer. They moved to Hollywood with hopes of further success and many prospective employers were impressed with their ability to read music.
In 1944 the Williams Brothers appeared with Bing Crosby on his hit record, “Swinging On A Star”, although they did not perform it in his film, Going My Way. The Brothers did appear in a few Hollywood films, but nothing of lasting consequence. They found regular work in night clubs but their records met with little success. They toured with Kay Thompson, later to appear in Funny Face, and learnt dance routines and performed with her in Las Vegas in 1947. They also worked in both London and Paris and for some years, Williams had a clandestine affair with Thompson, who was 20 years older than he was.
The brothers’ career was broken up by military service and Andy was discharged with a stomach ulcer in 1948. He sought solo work in New York and at one point was so poor he was eating dog food. He found regular employment, both singing and acting, on the Tonight show, hosted by Steve Allen and syndicated from New York.
Following Kay Thompson’s recommendation, Archie Bleyer signed Williams to his Cadence label. Williams had a US Top 10 success with “Canadian Sunset” in 1956 and it was followed by a transatlantic No 1, a cover version of Charlie Gracie’s “Butterfly”, which had a striking resemblance to “Singing The Blues”. Considering the quality songs associated with Williams, it is surprising that this was his only No 1 single in Britain or the US. Williams said he hated the song.