Vic wondered when I was going to feature the legendary Don Williams. Today, is that day. Full disclosure, in this article I generally only go back to about 1980, and DW certainly qualifies. Even though Williams career started well before that, the 1980's were very kind to him and where he enjoyed the greatest of his remarkable success.
ACM Single Of The Year - Written In 30 Minutes - Recorded By Many Since
I played DW music for many years as he was a big time hit maker and staple on the radio for a couple generations. Williams had a certain sound that made him completely unique and unmistakable. He was deemed "The Gentle Giant" and that was apt. His beyond smooth and easy going style sounded effortless in every song he recorded. His career was thrown into a far higher gear when the Urban Cowboy phase hit and much of his music was discovered by a new and eager audience. His iconic song, I Believe In You, crossed over to pop stations and that was a game changer to a degree. Although should be noted, Williams was always a country artist first and foremost.
Gigantic Hit - Country And Charted Pop
His fan base was huge with listeners and with dozens of artists in and out of country. The list of stars that recorded Williams songs is simply staggering as far back as Johnny Cash, Eric Clapton and as recent as Alan Jackson. DW was also very big overseas with a highly enviable international fan base. And if you're wondering where, the answer is - Yes! Yes, about everywhere. You see, Williams was easy to listen and relate to in his style which was and still is - timeless. There was nothing flashy or fake about any Don Williams song. His disarming singing style was uniquely his and has never been repeated. Randy Travis was reminiscent of Williams to a degree with his big baritone easy style, but not quite the same.
Big Song - Played It For Years - A Fan Favorite
Williams also did a small amount of acting in movies and his music was used in a number of movies in the 1970's and 80's. He was nominated for a ton of CMA's and ACM's over this long career winning a few. He's in the Country Music Hall Of Fame and belongs there. He was a great ambassador for country for a long while. He battled very tough back problems for many years, but still performed concerts and recorded terrific music. Don Williams was a big time star for a long time.
Big #1 Song - When I Got A Job At My First Country Station
But as long was DW was on the charts successfully (about 20 years), the end of his chart run came quite quickly, and none of it was his fault. His run of number one songs was incredible with 20 career total. From 1975 through 1991 only 2 of his singles did NOT make the top 10, and only 6 did not make the top 5. But for Williams like for many others of his era, the end would start to begin about 1988 and end in the early 1990's.
Big Song - From A Big Album - Same Name
Country had pivoted to a new day. Younger, louder, more electric, and more powerful performers were the new rule. The class of 1986 and 1989, and the giant surge of the early 1990's proved too much for many. Country was now Garth, Alan, Clint, Travis, Strait, Brooks And Dunn, Yoakam and countless others with more thump leading to many of the established guard being suddenly left off the chart. The fans and listeners were younger, videos were busting loose, concerts were now huge productions, and the Neo Traditionalists were getting us a lot of exposure outside of Country we had not experienced before. The change over on the charts was amazingly swift. That is a tough thing about the music biz
A Real Fan Favorite #1 - Terrific Song
But Don Williams would continue to perform for many years and record with other great contemporary stars like Vince Gill, Keith Urban and others. He toured for a long time in the UK where his popularity was still huge, and then he retired in 2015. He issued a statement that said basically this, "I'm hanging up my hat and going to enjoy some quiet time at home" That of course was so typically Don Williams, understated and totally humble.
Big Song Another Number One
Even though many of you reading right now may not really know a whole lot, or anything about Don Williams, if you love country he's worth discovering. He was a very big star, a perfect image and his longevity was incredible. I was proud to play his music on great radio stations around the country. And when I hear a Williams song from time to time still today, it makes me smile with great memories of a very different time - that he was pivotal in defining - with class, dignity and humility.
Easy To Listen To
He's the kind of artist that only existed once with his absolute unique style, and will not exist again. He was that different.
Don Williams passed away in 2017.
Don Williams indeed was "The Gentle Giant"