|Birth name||Donald Ray Williams|
|Also known as||Gentle Giant|
|Born||27 May 1939|
Floydada, Texas, U.S.
|Died||September 8, 2017 (aged 78)|
Mobile, Alabama, U.S.
|Instruments||Vocals, guitar, piano,|
|Labels||Columbia, JMI Records, Dot, ABC, MCA, Capitol, RCA, American Harvest, Giant, Koch, Vanguard, Sugar Hill Records|
|Associated acts||Keith Urban, Bob McDill, Dave Pomeroy, Biff Watson, Kenneth Blevins, Terri Hollowell|
|Service/||United States Army|
|Unit||United States Army Security Agency|
Donald Ray Williams (May 27, 1939 – September 8, 2017) was an American country singer, songwriter, and 2010 inductee into the Country Music Hall of Fame. He began his solo career in 1971, singing popular ballads and amassing 17 number one country hits. His straightforward yet smooth bass-baritone voice, soft tones, and imposing build earned him the nickname "The Gentle Giant". In 1975, Williams starred in a movie with Burt Reynolds and Jerry Reed called W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings.
Williams has had a strong influence over a variety of recording artists of different genres. His hits have been covered by artists such as Johnny Cash, Eric Clapton, Juice Newton, Claude Russell Bridges, Lefty Frizzell, Josh Turner, Sonny James, Alison Krauss, Billy Dean, Charley Pride, Kenny Rogers, Lambchop, Alan Jackson, Tomeu Penya, Telly Savalas, Waylon Jennings, Pete Townshend, and Tortoise with Bonnie "Prince" Billy. His music is also popular internationally, including in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Ukraine, India, Ethiopia, Cameroon, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Namibia and Zimbabwe. In 2010, the Country Music Association inducted Don Williams into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Williams was born, the youngest of three sons, on May 27, 1939, in Floydada, Texas, United States. His parents were Loveta Mae (née Lambert; 1914 – 2007) and James Andrew "Jim" Williams (1898 – 1982). He grew up in Portland, Texas, and graduated from Gregory-Portland High School in 1958. After Williams' parents divorced, Loveta Williams remarried, first to Chester Lang and then to Robert Bevers.
Prior to forming the folk-pop group Pozo-Seco Singers, Williams served with the United States Army Security Agency for two years. After an honorable discharge, he worked various odd jobs in order to support himself and his family.
It was with the group the Pozo-Seco Singers that Williams, alongside Susan Taylor and Lofton Cline, recorded several records for Columbia Records. He remained with the group until 1969; it disbanded the following year.
After the Pozo-Seco Singers disbanded, Williams briefly worked outside the music industry. Soon, however, Williams resumed his career in music. In December 1971, Williams signed on as a songwriter for Jack Clement with Jack Music Inc. In 1972, Williams inked a contract with JMI Records as a solo country artist. His 1974 song "We Should Be Together" reached number five, and he signed with ABC/Dot Records. At the height of the country and western boom in the UK in 1976, he had top-forty pop chart hits with "You're My Best Friend" and "I Recall a Gypsy Woman".
His first single with ABC/Dot, "I Wouldn't Want to Live If You Didn't Love Me," became a number one hit, and was the first of a string of top ten hits he had between 1974 and 1991. Only four of his 46 singles did not make it to the top ten.
"I Believe in You", written by Roger Cook and Sam Hogin, was Williams' eleventh number one on the country chart. It was his only Top 40 chart entry in the U.S., where it peaked at number 24. It was also a hit in Australia, New Zealand and Europe.
Williams had some minor roles in Burt Reynolds movies. In 1975, Williams appeared as a member of the Dixie Dancekings band in the movie W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings, alongside Reynolds. Williams also appeared as himself in the Universal Pictures movie Smokey and the Bandit II, in which he also played a number of songs.
Early in 2006, Williams announced his "Farewell Tour of the World" and played numerous dates both in the U.S. and abroad, wrapping the tour up with a sold-out "Final Farewell Concert" in Memphis, Tennessee, at the Cannon Center for Performing Arts on November 21, 2006. In 2010, Williams came out of retirement and was once again touring.
In March 2012, Williams announced the release of a new record, And So It Goes (UK release April 30, 2012; U.S./Worldwide release June 19, 2012), his first new record since 2004. The record was his first with the independent Americana label Sugar Hill Records. The record includes guest appearances by Alison Krauss, Keith Urban, and Vince Gill. To accompany the release he embarked on a UK Tour. A much-loved country artist among British fans, he had his final UK tour in 2014.
In March 2016, Williams announced he was retiring from touring and cancelled all his scheduled shows. "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," he said in a statement.
Williams married Joy Janene Bucher in April 1960. They had two children.
"He may not be the modest homebody he pretends to be, but he sure does project a convincing image of romantic-domestic contentment, complete with separation, sex, and second thoughts. Both the care of the songwriting and the assured, conversational lilt of the vocals divide the sentimentality from the sentiment."
Academy of Country Music (ACM)
Academy of Country Music (ACM)