Howard Andrew Williams began his singing career in the local church choir with his three brothers. The quartet became popular on their own radio shows from Cincinnati, Des Moines and Chicago. They backed Bing Crosby on his Oscar-winning 'Swinging On A Star', from the 1944 movie Going My Way, and in the same year appeared in the minor musical film Kansas City Kitty. He also Williams dubbed Lauren Bacall's singing voice in her first film with Humphrey Bogart, To Have And Have Not. From 1947-48 the Williams Brothers worked with top pianist/singer Kay Thompson in nightclubs and on television. Williams went solo in 1952, and featured regularly on Steve Allen's Tonight Show for over two years. Signed to the Cadence label, Williams had his first success in 1956 with 'Canadian Sunset', which was followed by a string of Top 20 entries, including 'Butterfly' (number 1), 'I Like Your Kind Of Love' (a duet with Peggy Powers), 'Lips Of Wine', 'Are You Sincere"', 'Promise Me, Love', 'Hawaiian Wedding Song', 'Lonely Street' and 'The Village Of St. Bernadette'. In 1961, Williams moved to Columbia Records, and had his first big hit for the label with the Doc Pomus/Mort Shuman composition, 'Can't Get Used To Losing You', which went to number 2 in the US charts in 1963. From then, until 1971 when the singles hits dried up, Williams was in the US Top 20 with 'Hopeless', 'A Fool Never Learns', and '(Where Do I Begin) Love Story'. He reached number 4 in the UK in 1973 with Neil Sedaka's 'Solitaire', but it was in the album charts that he found greater success. By the early 70s it was estimated that Williams had received 13 worldwide gold disc awards for chart albums such as Moon River & Other Great Movie Themes, Days Of Wine And Roses (a US number 1), The Wonderful World Of Andy Williams, Dear Heart, Born Free, Love Andy (a UK number 1), Honey, Happy Heart, Home Loving Man (another UK number 1) and Love Story. The enormous sales were no doubt assisted by his extremely successful weekly variety showcase that ran from 1962-71, and won an Emmy for Best Variety Show. It also gave the Osmonds nationwide exposure.
In 1964, Williams made his solo film debut in I'd Rather Be Rich, which starred Maurice Chevalier, Robert Goulet, Sandra Dee and Hermione Gingold. It was a remake of the 1941 comedy It Started With Eve, and Williams sang the Jerry Keller/Gloria Shayne number, 'Almost There', which just failed to reach the top of the UK chart in 1965. Despite the lack of consistent television exposure in the late 70s, Williams still sold a remarkable number of albums, particularly in the UK where his Solitaire, The Way We Were, and Reflections, all made the Top 10. In 1984, the album Greatest Love Classics featured Williams singing contemporary lyrics to classical themes, accompanied by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
In the early 90s, Williams became the first non-country entertainer to build his own theatre along Highway 76's music-theatre-strip in Branson, Missouri. The $8 million 2,000-seater Andy Williams Moon River Theatre is part of a complex that includes a 250-room hotel and restaurant. In 1999, cashing in on the 'lounge music' vogue, he released a new compilation and the double a-sided single, 'Music To Watch Girls By'/'Can't Take My Eyes Off You'. Both tracks were featured in UK television commercials. Williams died as a result of bladder cancer on 25 September 2012, but will remain one of America's most popular singers, renowned for his smooth vocal texture and relaxed approach.
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