Williams continued to have US hits for Cadence including “I Like Your Kind Of Love” (a novelty duet with Peggy Powers), “Are You Sincere”, “Lonely Street” and a British song, “The Village Of St Bernadette”. Marlene Dietrich enjoyed his version of “Hawaiian Wedding Song” so much that she had a special album made consisting of the single 12 times over.
His first album was Andy Williams Sings Steve Allen and another was a fine album of standards, Under Paris Skies, recorded in France with Quincy Jones’ arrangements, which was the closest he got to jazz.
In 1964 when Williams was having major success for Columbia, he wanted to avoid compilations of his early, inferior (or so he thought) work being released on budget labels. He resolved the matter by buying Cadence’s catalogue which included the Everly Brothers, Link Wray and the Chordettes. He licensed reissues of the other artists’ work but not his own. Around 1970 he relented and released his early work on his own Barnaby label. He brought out new recordings by Ray Stevens and Jimmy Buffett.
Moving to Columbia in 1962, Williams scored with a vocal version of Acker Bilk’s instrumental, “Stranger On The Shore”. He had asked Bleyer if he could record “MoonRiver” from Breakfast At Tiffany’s, but Bleyer couldn’t see the sense in the song. After all, what did “my huckleberry friend” mean? The composer Henry Mancini asked him to perform the song at the Oscars and as it had already been a hit single for Jerry Butler by then, he released his version on the album, Moon River And Other Great Movie Themes (1962), which sold two million copies.
After several try-outs in different guises, The Andy Williams Show began on NBC in May 1961 with “MoonRiver” as its theme song. The hour-long variety show concentrated on music, Williams performing with his guests. His father recommended the young Osmond brothers and they became a regular feature. British TV stations were reluctant to show the series but after having success with The Val Doonican Show, the BBC wanted more of the same and screened the shows from 1966.
When Henry Mancini asked him to record the theme song from Days Of Wine And Roses, he agreed but was annoyed when Columbia stuck it on the B-side of a pop song, albeit an excellent one, “Can’t Get Used To Losing You”. He pushed his choice on his TV show, but relented once the record was in the Top 10. By way of consolation, it was the title song of another big-selling album.
Although Williams found performing in Las Vegas uninspiring, he met his first wife there, 19-year-old Claudine Longet, a would-be singer and dancer from a professional family in Paris, who had disappointed her parents by going to work in Vegas. Her parents were disappointed when she fell for Williams, an older man, but were won round. The couple married in 1961 and had three children.
He admitted she soon found him boring: “She would be playing tennis with Peter Fonda and I’d be playing golf with Bing Crosby.” Sometimes he babysat while she went on dates and by 1971 the marriage was over, though they didn’t divorce until 1975.
When Williams appeared with Robert Goulet and Sandra Dee in a light-hearted musical, I’d Rather Be Rich, he sang “Almost There”. Although this was a B-side to a revival of “On The Street Where You Live” in the States, the British arm of his record company spotted its potential and it reached No 2 – although road safety campaigners complained about the video, which showed Williams driving his car with his arm around a girl.