“The Gentle Giant” is easily one of the most underrated country stars of all-time.
Known for his smooth, deep voice and incredible sideburns, Don Williams has consistently flown somewhat under the radar in conversations about the genre’s greats, despite a deep catalogue and long resume from 45 stellar years as a solo artist.
Don was born in 1939 in Floydada, Texas, the youngest of Loveta Mae and James Andrew “Jim” Williams’ three sons. He was raised in Portland, Texas, and after high school, worked in the US Army Security Agency for two years before leaving to pursue a music career.
His first foray in music came with a group called Pozo-Seco Singers, which he founded with Susan Taylor and Lofton Cline. They recorded a few albums with Columbia Records, but didn’t have much commercial success, leading to Williams departing in 1969 and the group disbanding in 1970.
After leaving the Pozo-Seco Singers, Williams took some odd jobs, but returned to the industry in late 1971, signing with Jack Music Inc. as a songwriter, and in 1972, signed with JMI Records as a solo country artist.
His first success as a solo artist, oddly enough, came from the UK Country-Western boom of the mid 1970’s, putting two songs in the Top 40 Pop Charts across the pond. This lead to large commercial success back home.
From 1974 to 1991, he released 46 singles, only 4 of which didn’t make the Top 10.
His first number one was “I Wouldn’t Want To Live If You Didn’t Love Me”. Written by Al Turney, it was the lead single for his 1974 album Don Williams Vol. III, which made its way to number three on the US Country Albums chart.
His first and only chart topping album came 2 years later with Harmony, featuring two number one’s in “Til the Rivers All Run Dry” and “Say It Again”.
In 1978, he released his most well-known song, “Tulsa Time”, as the lead single for Expressions. This lead to his only ACM and CMA wins, Single Record of the Year and Male Vocalist of the Year, respectively.
In all, he released 25 original studio albums, secured 17 number one singles and was one of the top selling country artists in the 1970’s and early 80’s.
He continued releasing original albums through 2014, when he put out his final project, Reflections.
Like most great artists, he had a hard time hanging it up.
Don originally announced his retirement in 2006 and went on his “Farewell Tour of the World”, finishing with a sold out show in Memphis, Tennessee called the “Final Farewell Concert”. But a few short years later, in 2010, Williams came out of retirement and began touring again.
He called it quits for good on March 1st, 2016. Cancelling the remainder of his shows, he put out this message to fans around the world.
“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.”
Sadly, Don passed away a little over a year later from emphysema.
An absolutely legendary career that spanned over 4 decades, won the hearts of fans all across the world, and remains one of the most prolific in country music history.
RIP to “The Gentle Giant”