Andy Williams Interview

He won three Emmys, and been nominated five times for Grammy’s; been selected as Billboard's "Best Male Vocalist" three times, had 11 of his singles placed in Columbia Records Hall of Fame, and recorded 17 albums that went Gold for Columbia. His album "Days of Wine and Roses" was named by Billboard Magazine as "Best Vocal Album of the Year," and " Moon River" might be considered his theme song. By now, you probably guessed we're talking about Andy Williams.

Recognized as one of the world's most popular singers, and performing to sell out crowds the world over, President Reagan once said, "Andy Williams, I think we'll have to declare your voice a national treasure."

Andy Williams' latest album is called " Nashville" (Curb Records).

Q: Andy, do you ever get tired of singing the songs that have been the most successful for you?
A: Well, I'll tell you, if I had recorded some little kind of ditty thing like "Itsy, Bitsy Polka Dot Bikini" or something like that and it was a hit, and I made some money on it, I wouldn't particularly want to do it anymore. I certainly wouldn't want to do it 20 years later. But I don't mind doing " Moon River," because it's a great song. I don't mind doing "Days of Wine and Roses" or the "Theme from Love Story" or any of those songs that I've had. I can't think of one song that I've had a hit record on that I wouldn't enjoy singing over and over.

Q: Do you ever get a feeling as you're recording a song that this is going to be a hit?
A: Well, you can have that in your mind, but, in this country market, that I'm not that familiar with, I rely a great deal on producer Jimmy Bower's judgment. I feel very good about the songs I recorded.

Q: Who ultimately decides what songs will make it onto your record? You or your producer?
A: Well, the producer decided what the ten songs were going to be on the album. But, he also insisted that I like all of the ten and that I had to pick the songs. So, he sat me down in his office and every 20 minutes he brought in a new publisher with songs. And, this went on for days. I sat there for hours, listening to songs. Of the hundreds I heard, I picked out 30 that I really liked, and I eliminated a lot of 'em as we went along. Out of the songs that I really liked, he (the record producer) picked out ten that he thought had the best chance in the country market.

Q: How do you know when a song is right for you?
A: I know songs that I like. Jimmy Bower felt it was very important that I like these country songs. I really liked them for obvious reasons. They had great lyrics and a beautiful melody. And, they were songs that touched me, and I felt that I could do well.

Q: You started out singing with your brothers, and then you went solo. Did any of your brothers stay in show business?
A: Yeah, my brother Dick, who was just a little bit older than I am, went with the Harry James Band for two years. Then he went on to the Tennessee Ernie Ford Show that was on in the daytime. At the same time, I was doing the Steve Allen Tonight Show from New York. My brother Don became an agent. He handles country acts, mainly Ray Stevens., and my brother Bob went into the real estate business. The smart one.

Q: But, people always want to hear a song.
A: I think singers are gonna be around for a long time. It's just that the styles change. Now rap music is the most popular among young people. It gets the most radio play. It don't like rap very much. But, that will go and something else will come in. The young people always have their day with their kind of music. Fortunately for me, when I was recording, I was in the mainstream. That was the kind of music the kids were buying. Before that, it was the Big Band singers.

Q: Did you ever think the music business would come to a point where having a good voice isn't nearly as important as having a good gimmick?
A: Well, yeah, it hasn't bothered me. It's true that we're going through a period now where what we consider the good voices, is not as important as it used to be. It's more singer, songwriters. And, it's more important that you write your own songs, and sing your own songs, and express your own words, in your own style. It doesn't matter whether you've got, what we consider a good voice or not. A lot of the people that are singing now, and very popular on records, don't have what I consider a good voice. But, that doesn't really matter. That's not what they're selling.

Q: Was Cadence Records the first label you signed with?
A: Actually, I signed with a label called Label X. It was a subsidiary of RCA-Victor. They just called it X, 'cause it was brand new and they didn't have a name for it yet. It sort of stuck as long as they had the label going, which was two or three years before they disbanded it. I released one record with them, I think. "You Can't Buy Happiness." I think that sort of scuttled the whole company. Then, I went with Cadence Records.

Q: Just how difficult was it back then to get a record deal? What was it that a record company was looking for, when they signed you?
A: I can't say what everybody was looking for. They were looking for people to sell records. People they thought would sell records. They were always looking for a new somebody. A new Everly Bros., a new Bruce Springsteen. Somebody like that. Mitch Miller was always looking for somebody like Guy Mitchell. Then, he found Johnny Mathis. Then they were looking for a new kind of Johnny Mathis. I sang for Archie Bleyer. I guess he just liked my voice. He thought I had a quality in my voice that was different than anybody else’s, and that if he found the right song for me, I could have a hit. That's why I wanted to be with him so much. He took such close care of me, and my record. He did with everybody he had on the label. I felt very secure with him. He was one of the best "single" record producers in the business that I ever knew. I had a lot of success with him. He had great integrity with everything he did. When I moved to California to go on television on a weekly basis, he said we really can't work this way, if you're gonna be out there and I'm here. He just released me from my contract. He didn't ask for anything. Then, I went with Columbia Records, because they were everywhere.

Q: As a former host of your own variety show, can you tell me what happened to TV variety shows?
A: I don't know. Networks are fighting each other trying to get ratings more than they ever did. They don't even want to take the time to put on a musical variety show as a special. It's just impossible to get the networks to put one on.

Q: Was there a lot of work in putting together that one hour show of yours?
A: Oh, a lot of work. I was there six days a week, and many days were over 14 hours. They were long days. There's a lot to do to make a show look like it's spontaneous. Even Dean Martin had to show up, and work a little bit.

Q: Did you know that Rush Limbaugh mentioned your name on his radio show? He was talking about a study that found men who were 57" tall had a greater chance of getting a heart attack, and then Rush added, "Unless you're Andy Williams and you wear elevator shoes."
A: I don't know why he would say that. I've never worn elevator shoes in my life. I guess it's like a Mickey Rooney joke. There are certain people you target I guess for certain kinds of jokes. There are short jokes and you use people like Dudley Moore or me, or Dustin Hoffman or Perry Como. I don't know why he picked on me. It doesn't bother me. I'm more concerned with the fact that he plays "Born Free" and shoots machine guns, shot guns, and cannons during his animal activities session. He plays my recording of "Born Free." I certainly wouldn't kill an animal and I don't eat meat. But, that's just because I don't think it's particularly good for me. I don't feel strongly one way or the other whether he does it. It's like saying I hate Johnny Carson because he said something bad about George Bush. Comedians do that. I don't put Rush Limbaugh in the category of Comedian, but he does some funny things. I don't care enough about him to worry about it. There's a lot more important things in life than what people say about you.

Q: You were friends with Robert Kennedy. With all of the talk about a conspiracy surrounding Robert Kennedy's death, I have to ask; would Ethel Kennedy stand back and be silent, if she thought that was the case?
A: No. I don't think she would be. She's very Catholic. I don't know. I was gonna say they probably feel they can't bring Robert Kennedy back, and it doesn't really matter whether there were two guns or one gun. He was killed. I've talked to Teddy about it afterwards, whether he felt there was a conspiracy. He didn't — A conspiracy on both cases, John and Robert Kennedy.

Q: You sang at Robert Kennedy's funeral.
A: I did, yeah.

Q: That had to be very difficult to do.
A: It was terrible. It was very difficult.

Q: How do you prevent your voice from cracking? That had to be so emotional for you.
A: The whole time was very emotional. Everybody was crying all the time, including me. But, when you have to do something, and you have to perform, then you do your job. When I went back, what I called backstage, when they came to get me to sing this thing, The Battle Hymn, I was very emotional and very nervous. I went behind the altar where, whatever they call that back there; I'm not Catholic, so I don't know what that is, but anyway, I'll call it backstage. There were other priests back there, talking, reciting their next sermons and the things they were gonna do when this was over. There was another one coming in. I got the feeling that this was show business. This is what I had to do. I had to get out and sing this song and be part of this afternoon. That's the thing that got me through it, when I realized that's what my job was. So, you try and block out everything, and you think of trying to get everything out of your mind, and focus on something. It doesn't matter what it is. Something, that's away from that Cathedral. And then I did it. I got through it. Then, I fell apart.

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