Country music legend, Hall of Famer, iconic voice, and gentle soul Don Williams, has passed away at the age of 78. He died after a short illness according to his representatives at Webster Public Relations. The owner of 17 #1 country hits, 9 total Male Vocalist of the Year Awards, and countless other distinctions and accolades, his voice and legacy leave a gaping hole in the heart of country music.
A native of Floydada in West Texas, Williams was born May 27, 1939, growing up in Portland, TX, and graduating from High School in 1958. Williams made his first public appearance at only three years old in a talent contest, winning an alarm clock for his efforts. He learned guitar by his teens and played in local bands in the West Texas region, and marrying wife Joy Bucher on April 10, 1960.
Before pursuing music full time, Williams worked odd jobs, including in the West Texas oil fields, and as a bill collector. While living in Corpus Christi in 1964, he formed a folk trio called The Pozo Seco Singers, performing and touring for a full seven years before disbanding in 1969. This is when Williams’ country music career began in earnest. In 1971, he signed a songwriting contract with a publishing company owned by Jack Clement.
1973’s “The Shelter of Your Eyes” was Don Williams’ first charting single, and from there the rest is country music history. 1974 is when Williams would have his first #1 hit with “I Wouldn’t Want To Live If You Didn’t Love Me.” Iconic recordings such as “Tulsa Time,” “She Never Knew Me,” and “It Must Be Love” came in later years released through a host of labels including ABC / Dot, MCA, Capitol, and RCA. “Stay Young,” “If Hollywood Don’t Need You,” and “One Good Well” were some of his bigger hits in the 80’s. Between 1974 and 1991, every Don Williams single released at least charted in the Top 40, speaking to his cross-generational appeal, and the longevity of his career.
His tall stature, but soft-spoken nature is what earned Don Williams the nickname “The Gentle Giant,” becoming a favorite of traditionalists, contemporaries, and even finding crossover success without ever compromising his honest and warm approach to authentic country music.
More recently, even after announcing an initial retirement in 2006, he exemplified with albums such as 2012’s And So It Goes, and 2014’s Reflections that his music had a mood to it that could spirit you away from whatever ailments or calamities were occurring in current events to a place of comfort, cool reflection, and deep appreciation for the simpler joys in life.
Williams also appeared in a number of movies beside friend Burt Reynolds, namely W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings and Smokey and the Bandit II.
In 2016, while in the midst of farewell tour dates, Don Williams told fans, “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.” Earlier this year, a tribute album, Gentle Giants: The Songs of Don Williams was released in his honor.
Arrangements for his funeral are pending.