Singer Andy Williams died Tuesday at his home in Branson, Missouri, after a long battle with bladder cancer. He was 84 years old. Williams, who marked his 75th anniversary in show business this year, was known for his smooth, baritone delivery of romantic love songs. He was also a popular U.S. television star who hosted a highly-rated weekly variety show and annual Christmas TV specials.
Williams debuted on the pop charts in April of 1956 and less than one year later scored his first No. 1 hit with “Butterfly.”
Born in Wall Lake, Iowa, Williams began his career at age 8 when he teamed up with his three brothers on their own radio series in Des Moines, Iowa. In the mid-1940s his family moved to Los Angeles, California, where the quartet continued to perform until the Korean War draft forced them to temporarily disband. Following the war, the Williams Brothers teamed with comedienne Kay Thompson, and for the next five years, they sold out venues throughout the U.S. and Europe.
In 1953, the Williams Brothers broke up permanently, and a year later, Andy signed his first solo recording contract with Cadence Records. His most successful years were spent with Columbia Records beginning in 1961. Williams’ own Emmy Award-winning television series ran on the NBC network from 1962 to 1971. The show introduced many new acts such as the Osmond Brothers, who fondly remember the crooner for launching their careers.
“Andy’s the one that started it for us,” they said. “He was the whole beginning of it. And what a voice! We grew up together. If there was anything stable in our lives, it was being on Andy’s show and with him.”
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Andy Williams popularized several songs from motion pictures. Among them were his signature tune “Moon River” from “Breakfast At Tiffany’s,” as well as the themes to “Love Story,” “Dear Heart,” “The Godfather” and “Days Of Wine And Roses.”
Andy Williams recorded more than 800 songs in English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, German and Japanese. His Christmas albums and compilations were among his bestselling recordings.
Williams’ popularity continued long after his chart success faded. In 1992, he opened the Andy Williams Moon River Theater in Branson, Missouri where for years he performed six nights a week. He once commented on his accomplishments and the changing trends in the music industry.