Don Williams, country music's 'gentle giant', dead at 78

Emilio Banks
September 10, 2017

Don Williams was born May 27, 1939, in Floydada, Texas, and was playing guitar by the age of 12. He grew up in Portland, TX, graduating there in 1958. He was 78 years old. For his efforts, Williams received an alarm clock.

Williams played in a band with several friends during his teenage years, and started a family not too long after graduating high school, marrying his wife Joy in April 1960.

Williams spent seven years in the folk-style trio The Pozo Seco Singers, before moving to Nashville in 1970. The group inked a deal with Columbia Records, and were soon on the pop and easy listening charts with such hits as "Time" and "Look What You've Done". Jack "Cowboy" Clement signed Don as a songwriter to his publishing company, where he recorded demos for Allen Reynolds.

It's true: In a time of volume and digital precision in music, Williams' smooth, salt-of-the-earth recordings are a respite.

In 1973, Williams made his chart debut with "The Shelter of Your Eyes" and had his first chart-topper with 1974's "I Wouldn't Want To Live If You Didn't Love Me".

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Known for his gently rumbling baritone, as well as his tall, lanky frame, Don's career yielding a catalog of timeless hit songs, including 21 No. 1 chart toppers, that remain popular today.

Williams had 17 number ones in the United States and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2010, before he retired in 2016. In the same year, he won the Academy of Country Music's Single Record of the Year trophy for "Tulsa Time".

His stardom also earned him a few movie roles, including a cameo as himself in 1980′s "Smokey and the Bandit II". In 2010, Williams was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, to commemorate a lifetime of success. The country duo, who were brothers, formed in 1999 and had released eight studio albums.

Even after the hits tapered off, he continued to release albums and tour, often talking about retirement but never quite making it final. Following the tragic news, fans, friends, and fellow musicians paid tributes to the legend on social media. As a lifelong drummer, he chose to take a hiatus from playing music to report it.

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