Country Music world mourns the loss of one of its’ most distinctive
song stylists with the passing of Don Williams after a short illness. He
was 78.

A native of Floydada, Texas, Williams was born May 27, 1939. He grew
up in Portland, TX, graduating there in 1958. Music had always been a
part of his upbringing, entering – and winning – a talent contest when
he was just three years old. For his efforts, Williams received an alarm
clock. He began playing guitar during his teen-age years, learning the
songs that he heard on the radio during that period. He and his friends
played in local bands around the area, and he wed wife Joy Bucher on
April 10, 1960.

To support his family – which would grow to include two sons, Gary
and Timmy – Williams worked at a number of odd jobs, including oil field
work, and also as a bill collector. While living in Corpus Christi in
1964, he formed the folk-styled trio The Pozo Seco Singers with Lofton
Cline and Susan Taylor. They stayed together for seven years, with their
biggest hit being “Time.”

After the group disbanded in 1969, Williams soon found his way to
Nashville. By 1971, he had a songwriting contract with the publishing
company owned by Jack Clement. The next year would see Williams ink a
recording deal with Clement’s JMI Records. He made his chart debut with
“The Shelter of Your Eyes” in 1973, and was soon hitting the charts time
and again with a much more laid-back sound than a lot of the music
coming out of Nashville at the time. 1974 would see Williams top the
charts for the first time with “I Wouldn’t Want To Live If You Didn’t
Love Me.” From that point all the way through 1991, each Williams single
would hit the Top-40 on the Billboard Country charts. His 1970s hits
included such chart toppers as “Tulsa Time,” “She Never Knew Me,” and
“It Must Be Love.” His career grew steadily through label shifts to ABC /
Dot, MCA, Capitol, and finally RCA. Williams also gained a devoted
following overseas in such unlikely spots as England, Ireland, and New
Zealand , and even South Africa and Kenya – where he reached superstar
status. He was named the Male Vocalist of the Year by the Country Music
Association in 1978. Though known for being very low-key and soft
spoken, Williams did make two movie appearances – 1974’s W.W. and The
Dixie Dancekings, and 1980’s Smokey and the Bandit II.

The 1980s saw no slow down in Williams’ recorded output, with the
singer notching his biggest hit with 1981’s “I Believe In You,” which
not only topped the Country charts, but crossed over to No. 24 on the
Hot 100. By this time, he had earned the nickname “The Gentle Giant” for
his trademark mellow sound, and the hits continued to pile up
throughout the rest of the decade – “Stay Young,” “If Hollywood Don’t
Need You,” and “One Good Well” being three of his biggest of the 1980s.
His final top ten came in 1991, with “Lord Have Mercy On A Country Boy,”
a song that Josh Turner – a Williams fan – would record in 2006.

Though the changing of the guard at radio slowed down Williams’ chart
success, he continued to perform for sold-out crowds in America and
abroad, playing a final tour in 2006. However, retirement was not in the
cards for the singer, who returned to the road in 2010 – the same year
that he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Williams’
return to the spotlight also included a pair of albums on Sugar Hill,
2012’s And So It Goes, and 2014’s Reflections, which included
contributions from Alison Krauss, Vince Gill, and Keith Urban. It was a
sign of his enduring appeal that both albums hit the Top-20 on the
Billboard Country Albums charts – his biggest rank there in three

In 2016, Williams decided that the time was right for his final
performance, calling it a career after one of the most successful
careers in the history of the Country Music business. “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,”
the 76-year-old Williams said in a statement at the time. Last year also
saw the final release of Williams’ career, a live CD and DVD recorded
in Ireland. In 2017, the singer was the subject of a tribute album,
Gentle Giants: The Songs of Don Williams, that included performances of
his hits by artists such as Lady Antebellum and Garth Brooks.

Arrangements are pending.

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