Country Legend Don Williams Dead at 78
September 8, 2017
Country music lost the legendary Don Williams today after a brief illness. The Country Music Hall of Fame member was 78 years old. Fans will remember his distinctive voice on chart-topping songs from the 1970s like “Tulsa Time,” “Love Me Over Again,” “It Must Be Love,” “Lord, I Hope This Day Is Good,” and “Some Broken Hearts Never Mend.” One of his biggest hits, “I Believe in You,” was a crossover success in 1981.
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 teenage 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.
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 decades.
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.
Fellow country stars took to Twitter on Friday afternoon to express their condolences.
Also just hearing about the passing of Don Williams.. terrible day.— Blake Shelton (@blakeshelton) September 8, 2017
I was saddened to hear of Don Williams passing today.His simple music, gentle voice & beautiful songs will live on forever. RIP Gentle Giant— Ricky Skaggs (@RickySkaggs) September 8, 2017