Friday, September 28, 2012

Friday Dance Party: My Huckleberry Friend

Andy Williams
When Williams died this week, memories popped up of my mother, who was a big fan of his music. 
Williams had a habit of holding his mic with his
fingers, rather than in his fist. It drove me nuts.

We had many of his albums stashed in the console stereo in the living room, and Andy's dulcet crooning provided the background music for many family occasions.  I have to admit, though, that at the time, I was less than enthusiastic about his music, which was slow and dull to my pre-teen ears.  I didn't much like his variety show, either;  it was short on comedy and loooooooong on music (I preferred Carol Burnett, thank you).  But in my adult years, I've come to respect Andy Williams and his easy listening style.
The Williams Brothers toured with Kay Thompson, and Andy later revealed he slept with her as well.  Her own Dance Party can be found here.
His recording career had a longevity which few could match.  His albums routinely went gold, and even platinum, and he is surely well remembered for his Christmas albums. 
Andy was friendly with the Kennedys, and was present
in the hotel when RFK was shot.
The woman facing the camera is Andy's wife,
Claudine Longet, who famously shot her lover
in Aspen in 1976. She got 30 days, then married her lawyer.

Even after his weekly variety show folded, he continued to produce annual Christmas specials which were appointment viewing for families everywhere. 
Williams sometimes went over
the top with his Christmas togs.

In addition to his contributions to holiday music, though, Williams became a leading interpreter of film music.  "Moon River" is certainly his best known song, though oddly, he never released the song as a single, so it cannot be included as one of his hits.  But he put the song, and himself, on the map when he crooned it at the 1962 Oscar ceremony.  The song won the Oscar, and Williams became closely identified with its success.  For the next decade and beyond, Andy was the go-to guy to record the latest theme song from Hollywood. 
Yep, even The Godfather had a love theme.
Yep, Andy Williams sang it.

"The Days of Wine and Roses," "Born Free," "Charade," "The Shadow Of Your Smile"(from The Sandpiper), "Where Do I Begin?" (from Love Story), and many others cemented his reputation as a singer who could bring attention to a film simply by singing its theme. 
Though his career was full of movie music, Andy's film appearances were minimal. I admit to loving this Ross Hunter rarity, in which Williams and another Voice Of The Period, Robert Goulet, duked it out for Sandra Dee's hand. Maurice Chevalier and Hermione Gingold are a hoot in this little gem.

I wrote about Love Story when writer
Erich Segal died. Andy's version of the
theme was a smash.

In his later years, Andy Williams built his own theatre in Branson, MI, appearing there often, and importing other acts as well. In the past few decades, his music reappeared on the music charts in the UK, due to exposure gained through TV commercials there, but in the states, his type of music has long been out of style.
The Moon River Theatre in Branson, MI, is the place to be for the holidays.
As for his variety show, as I said, I was not a regular viewer, but in researching this piece this week, I've found dozens of musical clips from the show. 
I forgive Andy for inflicting the Osmonds on us.

Andy is well known for having discovered the Osmond Brothers, who became regular fixtures, but he also helped boost the careers of other, more popular artists.  These clips are very fun to watch, and display a nice diversity in Williams's style, as he inevitably sat down to sing with whoever his musical guest was for the week. He was at home with Lena Horne and Bing Crosby as well as Simon and Garfunkle and the Fifth Dimension. 

Part of Andy's appeal was his accessibility. He could wear a tux as well as anybody, but he was equally stylin' in a turtleneck and sweater.  We cannot picture Sinatra or Dean Martin in a cardigan.
This week's clip comes from one of those shows.  It is not the best vehicle for Andy, who matched up a pretty unlikely trio, then added himself to the mix.  But it's fun to watch (I never get tired of Cass Elliot), and as an added bonus, it's fun to know that this marked Elton John's first appearance on American television.

As everybody knows, Andy Williams died this week from bladder cancer.