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Friday, January 11, 2008

Amazing Don Williams

By Dennis D. Muhumuza

Don Williams is a legend!

"With a warm hickory baritone that balances strength with gentle concern, he draws his listener into the intimate world of an old friend…" is the acclaim from his website.

Nicknamed the 'Gentle Giant' (probably from his imposing build), the music maestro has used his laid-back, straightforward vocals to inhale tenderness and concern into ballads that have endeared him to innumerable fans.

"Ideally, whether I'm in the studio or on stage, I'm totally into the story, or if there's no story, that emotion, that feel of what I'm doing at that moment is the only thing I want to experience," he once said.

Born in 1939, in Texas, Don Williams played in a variety of country, folk, and rock & roll bands until after high school (1964) when he formed his own folk-pop group called the Pozo-Seco Singers. The band signed a contract with Columbia Records and in 1966, their hit Time, climbed into the Top 50. A string of minor hits followed up to 1971 when the group disintegrated.

The singer, who had worked as a bill collector, drove a bread truck, worked in the Texas oil fields, in furniture retailing, in a smelting plant, and for Pittsburgh Plate Glass then fell to song writing until late 1972 when he signed with JMI as a solo artist. His debut release Don't You Believe, flopped but its follow-up - The Shelter of Your Eyes, climbed to number 14 at the beginning of 1973. The real breakthrough however came with his 1974 We Should Be Together, which reached number five. The single led to a contract with ABC/Dot.

I Wouldn't Want to Live If You Didn't Love Me, his first single for ABC/Dot, was top of the music charts in the summer 1974, opening way for his Top Ten hits that ran more or less uninterrupted until 1991.

As a child, Don Williams sang in a local talent contest and won an alarm clock - his first prize. He was a great performer too: "Whenever Williams plays, his audiences - even those who came to see another act on the bill, seem to react with an unusual amount of intimacy. His low-tech show inspires strong bonding between performer and audience," is an online post by one of his fans.

The most acclaimed country artiste since the 70s, his country-pop not only crossed over into the American pop mainstream but it also gained him a large following in England and Europe.

In addition to winning several country music accolades, Country Music Association named him Male Vocalist of the Year in 1978, the very same year his number one single Tulsa Time, was named Single of the Year.

Yahoo music notes that his ability to take any lyric and fashion it into a portrait of personal expression is amazing. The soft gentleness of his voice derives additional sensuality from the acoustic silvery instrumentation lightly surrounding his vocals.

The country boy has over the years built an enviable reputation from a combination of hard work, natural talent, and the kind of low-key charisma - both personally and musically.

The Chicago Tribune calls him the quiet man of modern country music while Country Music News & Routes (UK) sums him thus: "Don Williams must be the only country artiste around that almost gets a standing ovation just because he takes his hat off!"

-- Sunday Monitor, October 2, 2005