Born May 27, 1939, in Floydada, Texas; son of a mechanic; married Joy (Bucher) Williams, 1960; children: Gary and Tim. Religion: Church of Christ. Addresses: Office-- Hallmark Direction, 15 Music Square West, Nashville, TN 37203. Record company-- Capitol Records, 38 Music Square East, Nashville, TN 37203.
Country artist Don Williams is "a reluctant superstar," according to John Morthland in Country Music. "The songs that have made him successful," lauded Dick J. Reavis in Texas Monthly, "are as strong and warm as morning coffee," but due to Williams's preferences of shunning publicity and keeping his touring to a minimum, he remains what Reavis described as "a mid-level star." Nevertheless the singer-songwriter has released at least twenty albums, scored hits like "Amanda," "Some Broken Hearts Never End," and "I Wouldn't Want to Live If You Didn't Love Me," and was voted Male Vocalist of the Year in 1979 by the Country Music Association of America. In addition to many such honors in the country genre, Morthland claimed in another review that "Williams is one of the uncredited creators of ... 'New Age' music" with his "spare, acoustic sound."
Williams was born May 27, 1939, in Floydada, Texas. His father was a mechanic, but his mother was musical and taught him how to play the guitar by the time he was twelve. Though he always enjoyed country music, Williams as a young man also liked the sounds of rock and roll stars such as Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry. But he didn't begin to work on performing as a career until after serving in the U.S. Army for two years. While supporting himself with odd jobs in the area of Corpus Christi, Texas, including driving a truck and working in oil fields, Williams and a friend named Lofton Kline started singing in bars as the Strangers Two.
One night the duo played a college dance and found themselves on the same bill with singer Susan Taylor. The three became acquainted, and Taylor joined Williams and Kline to form a folk trio. Calling themselves the Pozo Seco Singers, they released a single, "Time," on an independent label. The song became a hit in their home state, and led them to a recording contract with Columbia Records. By 1966, "Time" had become a national hit. Though the Pozo Seco Singers had only the smallest, local hits afterwards, they stayed together for over five years. Reavis reflected that the group's biggest drawback was that they were "mellow to a fault"; he went on to explain that their sound "lacked the accusatory edge that lifted [folk artists] Bob Dylan and Joan Baez above the ranks." Despite the honor of being asked to sing at President Lyndon Johnson's ranch in 1968, by the dawn of the 1970s Williams and his friends were reduced to singing in rowdy bars. Disgusted with this type of audience, Williams gave up the group in 1971 to open a furniture store with his father-in-law.
But he was not contented with that life, and the following year Williams went to Nashville, Tennessee, seeking work as a songwriter. He was hired both to write and to try to sell songs to country artists by Jack Music Publishing. After only a short time of having these artists almost buy his songs but reject them because they were afraid that his work was just too different to be popular with country fans, Williams heeded their advice about recording them himself. He signed with JMI Records, which, like Jack Music, belonged to Jack Clement. Though he did perform his own compositions, he did not restrict himself to them. Williams's solo debut album, Don Williams, Volume One, featured the now-classic "Amanda," which also became a hit for Waylon Jennings, and another successful single, "In the Shelter of Your Eyes." Following the release of Don Williams, Volume Two, though, JMI went out of business, and Williams signed with ABC/Dot Records. When the latter company merged with MCA Records in 1978, Williams stayed on, scoring hits with them such as "You're My Best Friend," "Till the Rivers All Run Dry," and "Tulsa Time." The last was voted Single Record of the Year by the Academy of Country Music in 1979.
No matter what company Williams has recorded with during his solo career, however, he has always maintained tight artistic control. As Reavis reported, "he refuse(s) to consider singing any songs about fighting, marital infidelity, or drinking." Apparently it is not so much to take a high moral tone as to be true to his own experiences; Williams told Reavis: "I've never really done those things, they haven't been a part of my life, so I guess I just don't relate to them very well." Instead he prefers love ballads, or songs that tell a story. And according to Morthland, Williams "sifts through 50 to 100 songs for each one of the 15 he records for an album before picking the final 10." Williams also remains in control of his concert appearances. Not only does he limit himself to approximately forty dates a year, but "if he notice(s) people in his audience openly smoking marijuana, he [asks] them to leave," Reavis affirmed. Williams even disbanded his own fan club to protect his privacy and that of his family, and because he simply doesn't believe in them. He told Reavis: "I just don't believe that you've got to know Henry to drive a Ford."
Despite his deliberate distance from the spotlight, Williams continues to satisfy country fans. His 1987 album Traces included songs such as "Old Coyote Town," "Till I Can't Take It Anymore," and "Come From the Heart." Morthland, while faulting the quality of some of the material--Williams no longer writes his own songs--concluded that Traces makes it "clear why" fans "keep coming back for more."
by Elizabeth Thomas
Don Williams's Career
Country vocalist, guitarist, and songwriter; served in the U.S. Army, c. 1957-59; sang with Lofton Kline as the Strangers Two during the early 1960s; also worked odd jobs such as driving a bread truck, collecting bills, and working in the oil fields; sang with Kline and Susan Taylor as the Pozo Seco Singers, 1964-71; co-owned a furniture store, 1971; signed as a songwriter and song salesman for Jack Music Publishing in Nashville, Tenn., 1972; recording artist and concert performer, 1972--. Appeared in film W.W. and the Dixie Dance Kings.
Don Williams's Awards
Voted Male Vocalist of the Year by the Country Music Association, 1978; "Tulsa Time" voted Record of the Year by Academy of Country Music, 1979; CMA of Great Britain voted Williams both Male Singer and Performer of the Year, 1975, and voted You're My Best Friend Album of the Year, 1975.
- Don Williams, Volume One (includes "Amanda," "The Shelter of Your Eyes," and "Come Early Morning"), JMI, 1972.
- Don Williams, Volume Two JMI, c. 1973.
- Don Williams, Volume Three ABC/Dot, 1974.
- You're My Best Friend ABC/Dot, 1975.
- Don Williams's Greatest Hits ABC/Dot, 1975.
- Harmony ABC/Dot, c. 1976.
- Visions ABC/Dot, c. 1976.
- Country Boy ABC/Dot, c. 1977.
- Traces (includes "Desperately," "Old Coyote Town," "Easy Touch," "Running Out of Reasons to Run," "Till I Can't Take It Anymore," and "Come From the Heart"), Capitol, 1987.
- Prime Cuts Capitol, 1989.
- Single releases
- SL In addition to the songs attributed to some of the above albums, Williams has released on ABC/Dot, MCA, and Capitol Records the following hits during the late 1970s and 1980s: "Some Broken Hearts Never End," "Till the Rivers All Run Dry," "Louisiana Saturday Night," "Say It Again," "I Wouldn't Want to Live if You Didn't Love Me," "She Never Knew Me," "The Ties That Bind," "Rake and Ramblin' Man," "Tulsa Time," "Lord, I Hope This Day Is Good," and "Then It's Love."
- Country Music, January/February 1988; March/April 1988; May/June 1989.
- Texas Monthly, October 1986.