Place of Birth: Floydada, Texas
Date of Birth: May 27, 1939
Country's "Gentle Giant," a crooner in the Jim Reeves tradition, Don Williams was one of country's most consistent hitmakers, scoring at least one Top Five single every year between 1974 and 1991. CMA's 1978 Male Vocalist of the Year, he was named Artist of the Decade in 1980 by the readers of London's Country Music People magazine. Between 1972 and 1992 his warm baritone voice graced fifty-six chart records; fifty of these reached the country Top Twenty, and forty-five hit the Top Ten. Seventeen went #1, including such memorable songs as "You're My Best Friend" (1975), "Tulsa Time" (1978), "I Believe in You" (1980), and "That's the Thing About Love" (1984). He has also written such classics as "Lay Down Beside Me" (1976) and "Till the Rivers All Run Dry" (1979).
Raised in South Texas, Williams had two music careers. The first, as a founding member of folk-pop trio the Pozo Seco Singers, yielded six pop chart records, the best known of which was "Time" (#47 pop, 1966). After disbanding in 1969, Williams worked a variety of nonmusic jobs before venturing to Nashville to give music another try.
Signed as a writer to Jack Music, he made demo recordings with owner Jack "Cowboy" Clement and another Nashville newcomer, Allen Reynolds. Since other artists weren't eager to record Williams's songs, Clement signed Williams to his own JMI Records and released his first album, Don Williams, Volume One, in 1972; the collection yielded five chart singles, including Williams's "The Shelter of Your Eyes" (#14, 1972) and Bob McDill's "Amanda" (#33, 1973). (McDill would also provide Williams's pensive #2 hit "Good Ole Boys Like Me" in 1980.) After a second JMI album Williams moved to Dot and scored his first #1 with 1974's "I Wouldn't Want to Live if You Didn't Love Me." His hitmaking continued on ABC/Dot, ABC, MCA, Capitol, and RCA.
An early pioneer in music video and overseas touring, Williams became enormously popular in England; English rock superstars Eric Clapton and Pete Townsend have recorded Williams's songs. Williams also gained substantial followings in Australia, Europe, South America, and Africa.
He also co-starred with Burt Reynolds in the feature film W. W. & the Dixie Dancekings and appeared with him in Smokey & the Bandit II.
Of all country's major stars, Williams seems the least affected by his many achievements. He never made the Music Row party scene, avoided industry politicking, dodged interviews if possible, and toured selectively, preferring to spend time on his farm with his family. Following a farewell tour in 2006, Williams has made this his priority.
-John Lomax III
Adapted from the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum’s Encyclopedia of Country Music, published by Oxford University Press.