Monday, September 11, 2017

Don WIlliams - 1939 - 2017

On September 8th, 2107 country music lost one of the most beloved stars of the 70's and 80's: Don Williams.  He was 78.

Don Williams was born on May 27th, 1939 in Floydada, Texas to Loveta Mae (née Lambert) and James Williams.  Even from a young age Williams had an affinity to music even starting an "American Folk" music band called the Pozo-Seco Singers and in fact recorded the single "Time" in 1964.  The single later achieved commercial success after being signed by Columbia Records in 1966 and its release by Columbia.

"Time" was successful as it reached #47 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts but it skyrocketed to #3 on the Billboard Easy Listening charts while the album itself made it to #127.  The Pozo-Seco Singers had moderate success, releasing three other albums by 1970 ("I Can Make It With You,"Shades of Time" and "Spend Some Time With Me") and in 2016 Williams released "Follow Me Back to Louisville" as Don Williams and the Poco-Seco Singers.  By the fall of 1969 the band left Columbia Records and found themselves on the Certron label where they released their last album "Spend Some Time With Me" (until 2016).  The album release was poorly timed by events that they couldn't predict which many blamed on the end of the popularity of "folk music" in the United States in 1970: the Kent State Shooting.  By the time of the release of their final single, a remake of The Beatles classic "Strawberry Fields" in November of 1970 the band had disbanded.

Williams began his country career much the same way as many future country stars have, he became a songwriter.  Williams was exceptional at it too for that matter writing music for Jack Clement in 1971 but by 1972 Williams started his own country music career as an artist.  By 1973 Williams released his first album "Don Williams Volume One" which had great success hitting #5 on the Billboard Top Country chart while both singles on the album ("Shelter of Your Eyes" and "Come Early Morning") reached #14 and 12 respectively.  Add into this mix that between that first release in 1973 to 1980 Williams released six albums with sixteen Top 10 Hits on the Top Country charts with not a single one being lower than #7 and of those sixteen a total of ten were #1's.

The 80's were a hugely successful time for Williams as he released eight more studio albums with twenty-six singles of which twenty-four were Top 10's with seven of those #1's.  Take that in for a moment, it's terrifying.  Williams was a brilliant songwriter and performer and the '80's itself proves that.  For his career he released twenty-five studio albums, two live albums, and thirteen compilation albums.  He released seven music videos, sixty-two singles and he had a mindblowing twenty-one #1 songs.  Williams retired from music in March 2016 and released this statement: "It's time to hang my hat up and enjoy some quiet time at home. I'm so thankful for my fans, my friends and my family for their everlasting love and support."

On a personal note several of my favorite songs of all-time have come from Don Williams including "Time," "Tulsa Time," "I Believe In You" and "Amanda."  Williams had a sense to his voice that was unlike his contemporaries, it was calming and his songwriting skills gave us some of the most haunting songs ever.  While "Amanda" wasn't written by Williams (it was Bob McDill) his vocal makes that song powerful and although the Waylon Jennings version of the song is one of the best it wasn't until Chris Stapleton did it that I thought anyone could come close to Williams vocal. 

Don Williams is the quintessential American Country Music legend.  Williams is a member of the 2010 Class of the Country Music Hall of Fame, a member of the Grand Ole Opry, a CMA Country Male Vocalist of the Year but his music has been recorded by not only country music stars such as Lefty Frizzell, Josh Turner, Billy Dean and Alan Jackson, but by stars like Alison Krauss, Tortoise, and superstars like Pete Townshend, Eric Clapton, Kenny Rodgers and Johnny Cash.  Williams talent and affect on country music cannot be questioned, he is simply a legend.

Williams passed away from complications from emphysema in Mobile, Alabama on September 8th, 2017 the same day that Troy Gentry of Montgomery Gentry was killed in a helicopter crash.  Williams is survived by his wife of 57 years Joy Bucher and two children Tim and Gary Williams.

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