RIP Andy Williams

Legendary crooner dies at 84

FILE – In a Dec. 19, 1974 file photo, American singer Andy Williams and his wife Claudine Longet, shown upon arrival at the Odeon, Leicester Square, London, for the Royal Charity World premiere of “The Man With the Golden Gun.” Emmy-winning TV host and “Moon River” crooner Williams died Tuesday night, Sept, 25, 2012 at his home in Branson, Mo., following a year-long battle with bladder cancer. He was 84. (AP Photo/Press Association, File)

Though it’s a couple months early …

It’s the most wonderful time of the year

His iconic performance of Moon River (heard in Breakfast at Tiffany’s)

Speak softly love (from the Godfather)

St. Louis — With a string of gold albums, a hit TV series and the signature “Moon River,” Andy Williams was a voice of the 1960s, although not the ’60s we usually hear about.

“The old cliche says that if you can remember the 1960s, you weren’t there,” the singer once recalled. “Well, I was there all right, but my memory of them is blurred — not by any drugs I took but by the relentless pace of the schedule I set myself.”

Williams’ plaintive tenor, boyish features and easy demeanor helped him outlast many of the rock stars who had displaced him and such fellow crooners as Frank Sinatra and Perry Como. He remained on the charts into the 1970s, and continued to perform in his 80s at the Moon River Theatre he built in Branson, Mo. In November 2011, when Williams announced that he had been diagnosed with bladder cancer, he vowed to return to performing the following year: His 75th in show business.

Williams died Tuesday night at his home in Branson following a yearlong battle with the disease, his Los Angeles-based publicist, Paul Shefrin, said Wednesday. He was 84.

He became a major star the same year as Elvis Presley, 1956, with the Sinatra-like swing “Canadian Sunset,” and for a time he was pushed into such Presley imitations as “Lips of Wine” and the No. 1 smash “Butterfly.” But he mostly stuck to what he called his “natural style,” and kept it up throughout his career. In 1970, when even Sinatra had given up and (temporarily) retired, Williams was in the top 10 with the theme from “Love Story,” the Oscar-winning tearjerker. He had 18 gold records and three platinum, was nominated for five Grammy awards and hosted the Grammy ceremonies for several years.

Movie songs became a specialty, from “Love Story” and “Days of Wine and Roses” to “Moon River.” The longing Johnny Mercer-Henry Mancini ballad was his most famous song, even though he never released it as a single because his record company feared such lines as “my huckleberry friend” were too confusing and old-fashioned for teens. The song was first performed by Audrey Hepburn in the beloved 1961 film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” but Mancini thought “Moon River” ideal for Williams, who recorded it in “pretty much one take” and also sang it at the 1962 Academy Awards. Although “Moon River” was covered by countless artists and became a hit single for Jerry Butler, Williams made the song his personal brand. In fact, he insisted on it.

“When I hear anybody else sing it, it’s all I can to do stop myself from shouting at the television screen, ‘No! That’s my song!'” Williams wrote in his 2009 memoir, titled, fittingly, “Moon River and Me.”

“The Andy Williams Show,” which lasted in various formats through the 1960s and into 1971, won three Emmys and featured Williams alternately performing his stable of hits and bantering casually with his guest stars. It was on that show that Williams — who launched his own career as part of an all-brother quartet — introduced the world to another clean-cut act — the original four singing Osmond Brothers of Utah. Their younger sibling Donny also made his debut on Williams’ show, in 1963 when he was 6 years old. Four decades later, the Osmonds and Williams would find themselves in close proximity again, sharing Williams’ theater in Branson, Mo.

Williams did book some rock and soul acts, including the Beach Boys, the Temptations and Smokey Robinson. On one show, in 1970, Williams sang “Heaven Help Us All” with Ray Charles, Mama Cass and a then-little known Elton John, a vision to Williams in his rhinestone glasses and black cape. But Williams liked him and his breakthrough hit “Your Song” enough to record it himself.

Williams’ act was, apparently, not an act. The singer’s unflappable manner on television and in concert was mirrored offstage.

“I guess I’ve never really been aggressive, although almost everybody else in show business fights and gouges and knees to get where they want to be,” he once said. “My trouble is, I’m not constructed temperamentally along those lines.

His wholesome image endured one jarring interlude. In 1976, his ex-wife, former Las Vegas showgirl Claudine Longet, shot and killed her lover, skiing champion Spider Sabich. The Rolling Stones mocked the tragedy in “Claudine,” a song so pitiless that it wasn’t released until decades later. Longet, who said it was an accident, spent only a week in jail. Williams stood by her. He escorted her to the courthouse, testified on her behalf and provided support for her and their children, Noelle, Christian and Robert.

Also in the 1970s, Williams was seen frequently in the company of Ethel Kennedy, Robert Kennedy’s widow. The singer denied any romantic involvement.

He was born Howard Andrew Williams in Wall Lake, Iowa, on Dec. 3, 1927. In his memoir, Williams remembered himself as a shy boy who concealed his insecurity “behind a veneer of cheek and self-confidence.” Of Wall Lake, Williams joked that it was so small, and had so little to do, that crowds would gather just to watch someone get a haircut.

Williams began performing with his older brothers Dick, Bob and Don in the local Presbyterian church choir. Their father, postal worker and insurance man Jay Emerson Williams, was the choirmaster and the force behind his children’s career. When Andy was 8, Williams’ father brought the kids for an audition on Des Moines radio station WHO’s Iowa Barn Dance. They were initially turned down, but Jay Emerson Williams and the young quartet kept returning and they were finally accepted, their show bringing them attention from Chicago, Cincinnati and Hollywood. Another star at WHO was a young sportscaster named Ronald Reagan, who would later praise Williams as a “national treasure.”

The brothers joined Bing Crosby in recording the hit “Swinging on a Star” in 1944 for Crosby’s film “Going My Way,” and Andy, barely a teenager, was picked to dub Lauren Bacall’s voice on a song for the film “To Have and Have Not.” His voice stayed in the film until the preview, when it was cut because it didn’t sound like Bacall’s.

Later the brothers worked with Kay Thompson of eventual “Eloise” fame, then a singer who had taken a position as vocal coach at MGM studios, working with Judy Garland, June Allyson and others. After three months of training, Thompson and the Williams Brothers broke in their show at the El Rancho Room in Las Vegas to a huge ovation. They drew rave reviews in New York, Los Angeles and across the nation, earning a peak of $25,000 a week.

Williams, analyzing their success, once said: “Somehow we managed to work up and sustain an almost unbearable pitch of speed and rhythm.”

After five years, the three older brothers, who were starting their own families, had tired of the constant travel and left to pursue other careers.

Williams initially struggled as a solo act and was so broke at one point that he resorted to eating food intended for his two dogs.

“I had no money for food, so I ate it,” he recalled in 2001, “and it actually was damned good.”

A two-year TV stint on Steve Allen’s “Tonight Show” and a contract with Cadence Records turned things around. In the 1960s. Williams later formed his own label, Barnaby Records, which released music by the Everly Brothers, Ray Stevens and Jimmy Buffett.

Williams was a lifelong Republican who once accused President Obama of “following Marxist theory.” But he acknowledged experimenting with LSD, opposed the Nixon administration’s efforts in the 1970s to deport John Lennon, and, in 1968, was an energetic supporter of Robert Kennedy’s presidential campaign. When Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles in June 1968, just after winning the California Democratic primary, Williams sang “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” at his funeral.

“We chose that song because he used it on the campaign trail,” Williams later said of Kennedy, who had been a close friend. “He had a terrible voice but he loved to sing that song. The only way I got through singing in church that day was by saying, ‘This is my job. I can’t let emotion get in the way of the song.’ I really concentrated on not thinking about him.”

After leaving TV, Williams headed back on the road, where his many Christmas shows and albums made him a huge draw during the holidays. One year in Des Moines, however, a snowstorm kept the customers away, and the band’s equipment failed to reach Chicago in time for the next night’s show, forcing the musicians to borrow instruments from a high school band.

“No more tours,” Williams decreed.

He decided to settle in Branson, the self-proclaimed “live entertainment capital of the country,” with its dozens of theaters featuring live music, comedy and magic acts.

When he arrived in 1992, the town was dominated by country music performers, but Williams changed that, building the classy, $13 million Andy Williams Moon River Theater in the heart of the city’s entertainment district and performing two shows a night, six days a week, nine months of the year. Only in recent years did he begin to cut back to one show a night.

Not surprisingly, his most popular time of the year was Christmas, although he acknowledged that not everyone in Hollywood accepted his move to the Midwest.

“The fact is most of my friends in L.A. still think I’m nuts for coming here,” he told the Associated Press in 1998.

He and his second wife, the former Debbie Haas, divided their time between homes in Branson and Palm Springs, where he spent his leisure hours on the golf course when Branson’s theaters were dark during the winter months following Christmas.

Retirement was not on his schedule. As he told the AP in 2001: “I’ll keep going until I get to the point where I can’t get out on stage.”

I sure miss the variety shows of the 1960s!

His ex-wife Claudine Longet…very hot but now forgotten 60’s celebrity

As my buddy DR says…I aspire to be a (professor) of pop culture…

Check out the connection between Andy Williams, Claudine Longet, Skier Spider Sabich and Bobby Kennedy …(and Mick Jagger sort of)

Twisted Tales: Easy Listening Star Claudine Longet’s Hard Life of Gun Violence

For Claudine Longet, the shooting was horrible. The French ingenue and her husband, crooner Andy Williams, were dressing for a late-night rendezvous with their good friends Bobby and Ethel Kennedy. Bobby was on television, making a speech from the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles after winning California’s Democratic primary that day in June 1968. Just after finishing, the presidential candidate was ushered through the hotel kitchen, where he was assassinated.

A few days later, Williams sang a moving version of ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic’ at Kennedy’s funeral mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York. On the train that took Kennedy’s body to Arlington National Cemetery in Washington DC, Longet commiserated with Ted Kennedy.

She’d met the balladeer Williams a few years earlier, when, at 18, she joined the dancers in the Folies Bergeres revue at the Tropicana in Las Vegas. Williams, who was already 32 and a well-established star, had to make up a story about their meeting to deflect criticism that he was robbing the cradle. When the couple had their third child a year after the Kennedy assassination, they named him Bobby.

By then, Longet was a pop star herself, making regular guest appearances on Williams’ variety show and launching her acting career on ‘Hogan’s Heroes’ and ‘McHale’s Navy.’ Her easy-listening albums, featuring soft covers of pop hits by the Beatles and bossa nova composer Antonio Carlos Jobim, were chart successes in spite of the fact that the Parisian singer sounded almost Japanese when singing in English.

By the early 1970s, though, Longet was moving out of the spotlight. With her marriage ending, she settled in the ski resort town of Aspen, Colo., where she became romantically involved with an Olympic skier and world-class playboy named Spider Sabich. After a few years of happiness, their jet-setting lifestyle was brought down by another horrific gunshot.

This time, it was Longet who pulled the trigger, shooting her lover, Sabich, in their bedroom. During the sensational trial, Longet testified that her boyfriend’s death was an accident — that he had been showing her how to use the gun. Each day Williams, her ex-husband, escorted the defendant to and from the courtroom. Although a blood test revealed she had cocaine in her system at the time of the shooting, the case against Longet was botched when evidence was thrown out and the weapon went missing. Convicted of misdemeanor negligent homicide, she was sentenced to 30 days in prison and a $250 fine. After the verdict, the former pop singer went on vacation in Mexico with her attorney, whom she would marry several years later.

For a while, Sabich’s death and Longet’s light sentence were popular gossip fodder. ‘Saturday Night Live‘ was forced to apologize after running a satirical skit about the “Claudine Longet Invitational” ski tournament, in which competitors dodged bullets on the slopes. And Mick Jagger was advised to drop a song called ‘Claudine’ off the Rolling Stones‘ ‘Emotional Rescue’ album. (I could not find the SNL video-sorry)

Longet has lived a private life in Aspen ever since; her music remains appropriately big in Japan. What really happened in Sabich’s death? “Only Spider knows for sure,” as Jagger sang, “but he ain’t talking about it anymore.”

 

Listen to this song…it was supposed to be on Emotional Rescue…

FILE – This Feb. 23, 1978 file photo shows performer and host Andy Williams at the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles. Williams, who had a string of gold albums and hosted several variety shows and specials like “The Andy Williams Show,” died Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2012, at his home in Branson, Missouri, following a yearlong battle with bladder cancer, his Los Angeles-based publicist, Paul Shefrin, said Wednesday. He was 84. Photo: Lennox McLendon / AP

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Capital Mortgage Funding

a division of United Shore Financial Services, LLC NMLS # 3038

Senior Vice President

Toll free-(800)-low-rate

Local-(248)-569-7283

Fax-(248)-232-1529

17170 West Twelve Mile Road

Southfield MI 48076

wbslobin@lowrateonline.com

A Referral is the ultimate compliment!

Please feel free to refer your friends & family to me.
All referrals are greatly appreciated!

“The only discipline that lasts is self discipline”

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