Andy Williams began his amazing career in his hometown of Wall Lake, Iowa. It was there he began singing with his three brothers in a local Presbyterian church choir that was established by his parents. At the tender age of 8, Andy 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, Iowa. From there, the brothers continued their radio days being prominently featured on national stations like WLS in Chicago and WLW in Cincinnati.
The widespread radio exposure brought the boys a considerable following which eventually caught the attention of Bing Crosby. With Crosby, Andy and his brothers made their first professional recording, “Swinging on a Star” which became a tremendous hit in 1944.
In 1947, Andy and his brothers teamed up with comedienne Kay Thompson ( who also wrote the popular children’s book series “Eloise”) for a successful, trend setting nightclub act. Thompson and the brothers spend the next few years performing all over the United States and in London. But it all came to an end in 1951 as the group disbanded and each brother went their own way. Andy chose to move to New York and continued to pursue his vocal career.
While in New York, Andy became a regular performer on Steve Allen’s “Tonight Show”. For two and a half years he appeared on the “Tonight Show” which led to his first recording contract with Cadence Records.
It wasn’t long before Andy had his first top 10 hit with “Canadian Sunset”. What followed was a string of hits that included “Butterfly”, “Lonely Street”, “The Village of St. Bernadette”, and “The Hawaiian Wedding Song” for which he received the first of his five Grammy Awards nominations.
His work in television continued during this time period with regular guest appearances on the Dinah Shore and Perry Como Shows and in 1958, for 13 weeks he presented “The Chevy Showroom with Andy Williams”. In the summer of 1959, Andy was chosen by CBS to host a variety program that was to replace “The Gary Moore Show” for a 13 week period. When this series of shows concluded Andy began to concentrate on one-hour television specials. The first, “Music from Schubert Alley,” was presented by NBC November 13, 1959.
The first event that kicked Andy’s career into high gear was the change of recording labels. In 1962, he began his 25 year association with Columbia Records. Almost immediately he scored his first Top 10 hit for Columbia, “Can’t Get Used to Losing You”. Many more hits were to follow, but none would become more associated with Andy Williams than “Moon River”, the Oscar winning song from the film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” This song quickly became his theme song and propelled his album, “Moon River and Other Great Movie Themes,” to the top of the charts. The following year Andy released the album, “Days of Wine and Roses” which spent an incredible 16 weeks at #1 and stayed on the chart for over 100 weeks. His subsequent recordings were best sellers and resulted in his receiving 18 gold and 3 platinum certified albums.
The second event that helped make Andy a superstar was the debut of his weekly television series, “The Andy Williams Show.” Debuting September 16, 1962, Andy premiered his new variety show on NBC that would eventually last for nine years and would win three Emmy Awards for Best Musical / Variety Series (1966, 1967 and 1969). It was one of NBC’s top rated programs. From this series Andy began his classic Christmas specials that featured the entire Williams family.
Live performances were still a big part of Andy’s career and in 1966, he opened Caesar’s Palace and subsequently headlined at the famed Las Vegas hotel for the next 20 years.
By the time “The Andy Williams Show” ended in 1972, Andy had become a true international superstar. With tremendous world wide record sales and global distribution of his television show, he was just as popular in other countries as he was right her in the U.S. This recognition prompted several tours of England, Europe, Australia, Japan and Asia, breaking attendance records wherever he appeared.
At this point in his career, most performers would have opted to sit back, relax and just make minimal concert and television appearance. However, Andy chose another path; one that put him in the international spotlight once again.
In 1991, Andy took a trip to Branson, Missouri to see his friend Ray Stevens who had just opened a theatre in the growing country music town and tourist destination. Andy was so taken with the town, the people and the amazing talent the town featured that he began to make his own plans for becoming a part of the small Ozark community.
His plans to build a $12 million state of the art theatre came to fruition as the Andy Williams Moon River Theatre opened its doors May 1, 1992. Andy had become the first non-country performer to open a theatre in Branson. And thanks to his ground breaking decision, other non-country performers and theme shows began to move in to the tiny town that would soon be known as the live music capital of the world.
In the spring of 1999, Andy found himself back on the record charts once again. In England, a commercial for the Fiat Automobile Company featured Andy’s version of “Music to Watch Girls By” which was a minor record hit for him in 1967. The ad became so popular that the record company re-released the song as a single and this time around it was a Top 10 hit. Because of the renewed interest in his music, Andy made his first trip to Europe in a decade touring throughout England, Ireland and Scotland. The response from crowds of all ages was incredible. Every theatre sold out in hours after tickets went on sale. He was now more popular than ever and was known throughout the U.K. as the “Emperor of Easy.”
At his Moon River Theatre, Andy shared the stage with various guest stars such as Glen Campbell, Ann-Margret, Petula Clark, and Charo. Andy’s electrifying performances with his guests blended music and comedy into spectacular shows that were one of Branson’s most popular attractions. The 2008-10 fall presentations of The Andy Williams All-Star Variety Show were very reminiscent of his television show, and he felt these were the best shows he had done since he had been in Branson.
In November and December, The Andy Williams Christmas Show packed the 2000 seat theatre with a show that recalled his classic television Christmas specials.
Andy’s autobiography titled “Moon River and Me,” published by Viking Press, was released October, 2009. It soon rose to #10 on the L.A. Times Best Seller List.
Andy continued to perform until 2011 when he left the stage to combat a cancer diagnosis in September. He returned to the stage on one night in November 2011 to sing one song in his Christmas Show and talked to the audience about his illness. Andy passed September 25, 2012.