Andy Williams, Crooner Who Made "Moon River" a Hit, Dies at 84

By Kenneth Jones
26 Sep 2012

Andy Williams
Andy Williams
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Andy Williams, the smooth vocalist who was the epitome of the "easy listening sound" of the 1960s and '70s, singing songs by Henry Mancini and others, died Sept. 25 of complications from cancer. He was 84.

The singer made one appearance on Broadway, in Andy Williams With Michel Legrand, a Nederlander-produced concert that played two weeks at the Uris Theatre. French songwriter and singer Legrand shared the stage with the Iowa-born crooner, who is now best known for performing the hit song "Moon River" by Johnny Mercer and Henry Mancini.

Mr. Williams, who also hosted the TV variety program "The Andy Williams Show" ("Moon River" was its theme) and many television Christmas specials (the Osmonds were frequent guests), died at his home in Branson, MO, where the lavish Andy Williams Moon River Theatre is located.

Mr. Williams was grew up in Wall Lake, IA, where he began singing with his three brothers in a local Presbyterian church choir that was established by his parents. At the age of 8, he made his professional singing debut as part of the Williams Brothers Quartet. The brothers became regulars on radio station WHO's "Iowa's Barn Dance Show" in Des Moines. They sang on the radio on national stations like WLS in Chicago and WLW in Cincinnati. The radio exposure caught the attention of Bing Crosby. With Crosby, Mr. Williams and his brothers made their first professional recording, "Swinging on a Star," which became a hit in 1944.



In 1947, Mr. Williams and his brothers teamed up with comedian-singer Kay Thompson for a nightclub act packed with acclaimed tight harmonies. Thompson and the brothers spend the next few years performing all over the United States and in London. In 1951, the group disbanded, and Mr. Williams moved to New York and continued to pursue his vocal career.

Among his hit records over the years were "Canadian Sunset," "Butterfly," "Lonely Street," "The Village of St. Bernadette," "The Hawaiian Wedding Song," "Music to Watch Girls By," "Can't Get Used to Losing You," "Days of Wine and Roses" and more. His autobiography is called "Moon River and Me."

Neil Portnow, president/CEO of The Recording Academy, which administers the Grammy Awards, said this in a Sept. 26 statement: "Andy Williams' smooth voice and casual style turned the songs he sang into timeless classics and made him one of America's top pop singers. As host of his own weekly variety series, 'The Andy Williams Show,' he helped put both established and emerging talent in front of American audiences. Williams was the first host of the live Grammy Awards telecast and hosted the show for seven consecutive years, beginning with the 13th Annual Grammy Awards in March 1971, at the Hollywood Palladium. The entertainment industry has lost a giant piece of its living history today, but Williams' legacy will forever be enshrined in the annals of music and television. Our deepest condolences go out to his family, friends, and all who will miss this American treasure."