Monday, December 03, 2007

Happy 80th Birthday Andy Williams
I'm proud to state that I've long ago come out of the closet as being a fan of Andy Williams. During my life, I can't think of anyone who was thought of as being more square than Andy. I mean when you tell people that you think Andy Williams is one of America's best singers, people look at you funny. But I stand before you and say for sure purity of a vocal instrument, range, and personality there are few who can match him.

His career actually pre-dates Sinatra starting as a child performer in 1936 and still going strong 71 years later. See Andy on Britain's Top of the Pops: HERE.

My parents never watched his show growing up. I remember it, even at the time, as being lame. That dancing bear, stupid skits. By 1970 the show had out grown it's time. It wasn't until about fifteen years ago that I started to hear his songs on WJJD, the now defunct Music of Your Life station. "Moon River" was always the punch-line to jokes by that time; but I remember one night listening to it driving around on a snowy night; it seemed to be the best song I'd ever heard. Little by little I purchased an album here and there. "Under Paris Skies", "Danny Boy", and his classic 70s cover album "You've Got a Friend".

Dispite Andy's smooth way of singing and movie star handsome looks he still put out the aria of a geeky Iowa farm boy. It was his TV variety show that has embedded him into the American musical lore. When the show began in 1963 it was one of the best produced hours on television. Unlike it's later years it focused mainly on music. Everyone from Peggy, Ella, Steve and Eydie, Tony Bennett played on it; And in my opinion gave some of their best recorded performances.

Years ago I found other closeted Andy fans. Like me they were thrift store shoppers, picking up his albums for .50 to a dollar. Andy's albums were so successful that they are legion in the Salvation Army stores. I defy you not to find at least one. His albums sold in the millions. There is a story in the book "Her Name is Barbra" where in the early 70's Columbia Records told Streisand that they couldn't meet her price for her contract because they had just given Andy Williams a huge new contract and to do the same for her wasn't in the budget.

About seven years ago I finally got to see Mr. Williams in his Christmas Show at the Chicago Theatre. It was a bitterly cold night as I recall and we had just been hit with a huge snow storm. The stage was bare except for a small Christmas tree. He apologized and said that the set was stuck in Wisconsin, and this is what they could pull together at the last minute. It was a terrific show. I had expected he would be awful because his voice seemed to go when he was in his 50's. But at 73 years old, but his voice was still sweet, strong, and he could still hit the high notes.

The highlight of the evening was when he invited all the children in the audience to come on the stage. It was as if people were hiding children in their coats; Hundreds of children started pouring out of the audience on to the stage. It took about 15 minutes to get everyone there. Andy sat in a big chair and he read the Night Before Christmas and sang some standard Christmas song. It was really something.

When I began Bric-a-Brac with Mike, Andy Williams was a huge influence on us. In fact three of our songs on our album are covers of Andy's songs. Someone asked me once at a party who our influences were and when I said 'Andy Williams' the guy laughed and said, "No really, who influenced you..."

A couple other stories of note: I dated a guy whose brother was the sound engineer on one of Andy's later albums. I think it was the Country one done in the early 80s. (Don't get it, it's terrible.) But he said that Andy was one of the nicest guys he'd ever worked with in Nashville. And afterwards gave everyone expensive sweaters. The thing he found out about how they got that doubled Andy sound of the 60's was they used to drag in the monitor speakers into the studio and have the sound feed back into Andy's microphone. So a song like "Can't Get Used to Losing You" was never double tracked, it was all done live with Andy singing a live harmony with himself.

Another story: I had a Yahoo personal for a while. This guy, who I never met, wrote me this story about being coked up in a London bar: So this is one of those "I was standing next to a star in a bar" stories. I've never told it before because...well...the star is/was Andy Williams. But now, at long last, I can come from under this shell, this cocoon, this gnawing feeling that no one would care enough to listen ... I spotted Andy at the bar with two of Hugh Hefner's closest associates, dashed to his side, fell to the floor, pounded my fists, wept uncontrollably, crooned the only bar I know from "Moon River," grabbed him by the ankles, and licked his white patent leathers, stood up without saying a word, returned to my table, and didn't even turn to see if he noticed. True story. No lie. Totally, utterly, unforgettably true.

Poor Andy...

Anyway... in honor of his b-day. Here are some fabulous youtube'd clips of him.

This are a couple of my favorite Andy William's Show Clips. It shows his years of singing with his brothers made him a master harmonizer.

With Julie Andrews

With Peggy Lee

With Peter, Paul and Mary

Happy Birthday...


Aaron said...

My high school geometry teacher was a HUGE Andy Williams fan, and went to see him when he was in Peoria (I don't remember exactly when, though it had to be in the 80s sometime)...since he was sort of a hard-ass teacher, we only teased him good-naturedly, but he did say somethat that resonates even now:

"Nobody can feel anything but good after they come out of an Andy Williams show."

That wasn't the last time I heard that, either...!

David said...

I came this close to going to Branson to see him and Ann-Margret a couple of years ago.

Airedale said...

After watching all the clips its interesting to see how he adapts his style to suit or complement the person he's singing the duet with. He adds quiet breathiness when singing with the Brazilian guy, and also matches Peggy Lee's tone.