Thursday, September 27, 2012

RIP Andy Williams

I learned yesterday of the passing of the great crooner Andy Williams on Tuesday from bladder cancer. He was 84 years old. While his music is somewhat out of character with the rest of the performances featured on this blog, his enormous talent cannot be denied. He at least deserves a mention.

While “Moon River” was never released as a single and probably should have been, it became Williams’ best known song and was sung on his weekly variety show for nine years. The song was so inextricably linked to Williams that it became his alter ego – his autobiography was titled “Moon River and Me: A Memoir.” In addition, Branson, Missouri was the home of the Andy Williams’ Moon River Theater.

He first sung “Moon River” at the Oscars in 1962, as it was the theme from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” In the movie, Audrey Hepburn sang this Johnny Mercer/Henry Mancini collaboration. The song first appeared on his 1962 album “Moon River and Other Great Movie Themes,” which peaked at #3 and was certified gold.

While “Moon River” received mainstream radio airplay, it was never a Top 40 hit; however, it became a staple of Middle of the Road (MOR) stations – a format that was later branded as Adult Contemporary or AC. It also garnered some play on Beautiful Music/Easy Listening stations as its smooth rendition was synonymous with that style of performance.

In my years in oldies radio, “Moon River” was probably the only Andy Williams tune that I ever played – although not as often as I probably should have. Williams’ Christmas recordings would also get some airtime, as I frequently worked Christmas day to give my staff some time with their families. I was single at the time and had no local family, so it was no skin off my back to work an eight or twelve hour shift.

The work was easy, as most stations for which I worked tracked Christmas albums that were sponsored with commercials at the beginning, at the flip of sides, and the end of the album. It was basically me babysitting the equipment and answering the phone if necessary. Since I was salaried, I didn’t get time and a half for holidays – just some comp time later. During these long stretches of music, Andy Williams’ Christmas albums were pulled from storage and often played in their entirety.

Here’s to our “huckleberry friend” Andy Williams – may you rest in peace.

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