Andy Wiliams was born Howard Andrew Williams on December 3, 1927 in Wall Lake, Iowa. As a youngster, Williams performed in a church choir with brothers Bob, Dick and Don, before they formed the Williams Brothers quartet in the late 1930s. The group had great success on Midwestern radio stations, eventually landing a nightclub gig with comedian Kay Thompson from 1947 to 1951.
In 1952, Williams launched his solo career. After a slow start, he started churning out a number of hit singles, including “Canadian Sunset,” “Butterfly” and “The Hawaiian Wedding Song.” Williams then moved to Los Angeles to sign the biggest recording contract of the time with Columbia Records. By 1973, he had recorded more than 17 gold records, including Moon River, Love Story and Days of Wine and Roses. Williams’s vocal technique and easy-listening sound made him one of the most popular singers of his era. His rendition of “Moon River”—written by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer—from the movie Breakfast at Tiffany‘s was released on his 1962 album, Moon River and Other Great Movie Themes. One year earlier (in 1961), “Moon River” won an Oscar (best original song)—following its film debut in Breakfast at Tiffany‘s (sung by Audrey Hepburn). Williams performed the popular song at the Oscars in 1962.
That same year, Williams leveraged his popularity to debut his own TV variety series on NBC, The Andy Williams Show. The show won three Emmy Awards and lasted until 1971, continuing into the 1990s as an annual Christmas special featuring Williams’s entire family. In 1992, the legendary singer opened the Andy Williams Moon River Theater in Branson, Missouri, where he performed to sold-out crowds for years.
Williams was married to dancer Claudine Longet from 1961 to 1969. He married a second time in 1991, to Debbie Haas.
Williams died on September 25, 2012, following a years-long battle with bladder cancer. He was survived by his wife, Debbie, and three children from his marriage to Longet: Robert, Noelle and Christian.