Don Williams

Donald Ray Williams (May 27, 1939 – September 8, 2017) was an American country singer, songwriter, and 2010 inductee to the Country Music Hall of Fame. He began his solo career in 1971, singing popular ballads and amassing 17 number one country hits. His straightforward yet smooth bass-baritone voice, soft tones, and imposing build earned him the nickname: "Gentle Giant" of country music.[1]

Don Williams
Williams performing in 2006
Background information
Birth nameDonald Ray Williams
Also known asGentle Giant
Born(1939-05-27)May 27, 1939
Floydada, Texas, U.S.
DiedSeptember 8, 2017(2017-09-08) (aged 78)
Mobile, Alabama, U.S.
InstrumentsVocals, guitar, piano, bass
Years active1964–2006
LabelsColumbia, JMI Records, Dot, ABC, MCA, Capitol, RCA, American Harvest, Giant, Koch, Compendia, Sugar Hill Records
Associated actsKeith Urban, Bob McDill, Dave Pomeroy, Biff Watson, Kenneth Blevins, Terri Hollowell

Early years

Williams was born the youngest of three sons on May 27, 1939, in Floydada, Texas. His parents were Loveta Mae (née Lambert; 1914 2007) and James Andrew "Jim" Williams (1898 1982).[2] He grew up in Portland, Texas, and graduated from Gregory-Portland High School in 1958. After Williams' parents divorced, Loveta Williams remarried, first to Chester Lang and then to Robert Bevers.[3]

On July 20, 1963, Williams' eldest brother Kenneth died after being accidentally electrocuted when touching a live wire. He was 29 years old.[4]

Prior to forming the folk-pop group Pozo-Seco Singers, Williams served with the United States Army Security Agency for two years then, after his honorable discharge, worked various odd jobs in order to support himself and his family.[5][6]

It was with the group the Pozo-Seco Singers that Williams, alongside Susan Taylor and Lofton Cline, recorded several records for Columbia Records.[7] He remained with the group until 1969; it disbanded the following year.

Solo career

After the Pozo-Seco Singers disbanded, Williams briefly worked outside the music industry.[8] Soon, however, Williams resumed his career in music. In December 1971, Williams signed on as a songwriter for Jack Clement with Jack Music Inc. In 1972, Williams inked a contract with JMI Records as a solo country artist. His 1974 song, "We Should Be Together," reached number five, and he signed with ABC/Dot Records.[9] At the height of the country and western boom in the UK in 1976, he had top forty pop chart hits with "You're My Best Friend" and "I Recall a Gypsy Woman".[10]

His first single with ABC/Dot, "I Wouldn't Want to Live If You Didn't Love Me," became a number one hit, and was the first of a string of top ten hits he had between 1974 and 1991. Only four of his 46 singles didn't make it to the Top Ten.[11]

"I Believe in You", written by Roger Cook and Sam Hogin, was Williams' eleventh #1 on the country chart.[12] It was his only Top 40 chart entry in the U.S., where it peaked at #24. It was also hit in Australia, New Zealand and Europe.[13]

Williams had some minor roles in Burt Reynolds movies. In 1975, Don appeared as a member of the Dixie Dancekings band in the movie W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings alongside Reynolds. Don also appeared as himself in the Universal Pictures movie, Smokey and the Bandit II, in which he also played a number of songs.[14]

Early in 2006, Williams announced his "Farewell Tour of the World" and played numerous dates both in the U.S. and abroad, wrapping the tour up with a sold-out "Final Farewell Concert" in Memphis, Tennessee at the Cannon Center for Performing Arts on November 21, 2006. In 2010, Williams came out of retirement and was once again touring.[15]

In March 2012, Williams announced the release of a new record And So It Goes (UK release April 30, 2012; U.S./Worldwide release June 19, 2012), his first new record since 2004. The record is his first with the independent Americana label Sugar Hill Records.[16] The record includes guest appearances by Alison Krauss, Keith Urban, and Vince Gill. To accompany his latest album release he embarked on a UK Tour. A much loved country artist among British fans, he had his final UK tour in 2014.[17]

In March 2016, Williams announced he was retiring from touring and cancelled all his scheduled shows. "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," he said in a statement.[18]


On September 8, 2017, Williams died in Mobile, Alabama, due to emphysema.[19][20][21]


"He may not be the modest homebody he pretends to be, but he sure does project a convincing image of romantic-domestic contentment, complete with separation, sex, and second thoughts. Both the care of the songwriting and the assured, conversational lilt of the vocals divide the sentimentality from the sentiment."

Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies (1981)[22]

Williams has had a strong influence over a variety of recording artists of different genres. His hits have been covered by artists such as Johnny Cash, Eric Clapton, Claude Russell Bridges, Lefty Frizzell, Josh Turner, Sonny James, Alison Krauss, Billy Dean, Charley Pride, Kenny Rogers, Lambchop, Alan Jackson, Tomeu Penya, Waylon Jennings, Pete Townshend and Tortoise with Bonnie "Prince" Billy.[23] His music is also popular internationally, including the UK, Australia, Ireland, Ukraine, India, Cameroon, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Namibia and Zimbabwe.[24] In 2010, the Country Music Association inducted Don Williams into the Country Music Hall of Fame.[25] This is considered to be the Country music industry's highest honor to bestow upon an artist.

On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Don Williams among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.[26]


Academy of Country Music

Country Music Association


Academy of Country Music

Country Music Association



  1. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on March 31, 2013. Retrieved 2013-04-09.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. Texas Birth Index 1903-1997
  3. Texas, Marriage Index, 1824-2014
  4. Texas Death Certificates, 1903-1982
  5. "Don Williams Singer, songwriter, guitarist". Retrieved September 9, 2017.
  6. "Don Williams". Retrieved September 10, 2017.
  7. "Don Williams, Singer of Plain-Spoken Country Songs, Dies at 78". September 8, 2017. Retrieved September 9, 2017.
  8. "Don Williams, Singer of Plain-Spoken Country Songs, Dies at 78". September 8, 2017. Retrieved September 9, 2017.
  9. "Facts about Don Williams" Archived November 1, 2018, at the Wayback Machine.Don Retrieved September 20, 2017
  10. "UK Charts history: Don Williams". Official Charts Company. Retrieved September 8, 2017
  11. "Country music’s ‘Gentle Giant’ Don Williams dies at 78". The Irish Retrieved September 20, 2017
  12. Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book Of Top 40 Country Hits: 1944-2006, Second edition. Record Research. p. 386.
  13. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits: Eighth Edition. Record Research. p. 680.
  14. Music Hall Of Fame Great Don Williams Passes. Retrieved September 20, 2017
  15. "News – Don Williams – THE OFFICIAL WEBSITE". Archived from the original on September 9, 2017. Retrieved July 28, 2010.
  16. "Country Music Legend Don Williams to release "And So It Goes" on June 19th". Retrieved April 30, 2012.
  17. Don Williams: Country music's Gentle Giant". The Telegraph. Retrieved 8 September 2017
  18. Watts, Cindy (March 1, 2016). "Don Williams announces retirement". Retrieved September 8, 2017.
  19. "Country star Don Williams, "the Gentle Giant," dead at 78". Retrieved September 9, 2017.
  20. Don Williams, Country's 'Gentle Giant,' Dead at 78. Rolling Stone. Retrieved September 8, 2017
  21. Roslyn Sulcas (September 8, 2017). "Don Williams, Singer of Plain-Spoken Country Songs, Dies at 78". New York Times. Retrieved September 9, 2017.
  22. Christgau, Robert (1981). "Consumer Guide '70s: W". Christgau's Record Guide: Rock Albums of the Seventies. Ticknor & Fields. ISBN 089919026X. Retrieved March 22, 2019 via
  23. Manage Domain Name Archived January 3, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  24. Don Williams: Into Africa Archived October 3, 2006, at the Wayback Machine and Africa
  25. 4 inducted into Country Music Hall of Fame Archived February 26, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  26. Rosen, Jody (June 25, 2019). "Here Are Hundreds More Artists Whose Tapes Were Destroyed in the UMG Fire". The New York Times. Retrieved June 28, 2019.
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