Don Williams: Requiem For A Gentle Giant

Saturday, 09 September 2017 10:54 AM Written by 


Last year, following a powerful run of Top Ten and # 1 singles that began in 1974 and didn't end until the 90's, Don Williams, who died at 78 on Friday after a brief illness, announced his retirement last year, the year of his Country Music Hall of Fame induction.  After a period of inactivity, Williams had resumed his recording career for the Sugar Hill label in 2012, working with longtime co-producer Garth Fundis, retaining the trademark Williams sound of his glory years.  He recorded two albums for them.

Born in the small town of Floydada, Texas in 1939, Donald Ray Williams focused on music most of his adult life on music. In the early 60's, he and singer Lofton Kline performed as Strangers Two before forming the folk-pop Pozo-Seco Singers with vocalist Susan Taylor. The trio recorded for Columbia.

1966: "Tomorrow Is A Long Time" The genesis of Williams' relaxed solo style (he's doing the lead vocal) appears in this Bob Dylan cover.

Williams briefly left music when the Pozo Secos disbanded, returning as he launched a solo career writing songs for iconoclastic Nashville producer "Cowboy" Jack Clement and recording for Clement's independent JMI label. Clement was instrumental in launching Charley Pride's career.

1972: "The Shelter Of Your Eyes" From an early TV appearance

In a time when the sound of country was slowly becoming generic, Williams's records were instantly identifiable, from his mellow, easygoing baritone to an emphasis on low-key, artfully understated ballads with acoustic accompaniment (except for occasional pedal steel). He always projected dignity, , avoiding the swagger of the 70's Outlaw movement and later, the empty schlock-pop of the 80's Urban Cowboy era. He produced many of his sessions until backup singer Garth Fundis joined Williams as co-producer. These hits, nearly all released by ABC/Dot and MCA, are but a sampling.


"We Should Be Together" He sings his first Top Ten (#5) single on The Porter Wagoner Show.

"I Wouldn't Want To Live If You Didn't Love Me" His first # 1.

1975: "You're My Best Friend" # 1

1976: "Til The Rivers All Run Dry" # 1

1978: "Tulsa Time" # 1 The original single, his closest to a rocker, later covered by Eric Clapton

1980:"I Believe In You" # 1

1982: "Lord, I Hope This Day Is Good" # 1. Written by former Pittsburgher Dave Hanner. From an episode of the syndicated show Nashville On The Road.

1986: "Heartbeat In The Darkness" #  1

2014: Promo video for Reflections, with longtime co-producer Garth Fundis. Note Don's philosophies about his music

Earlier this year, Gentle Giants: The Songs of Don Williams, an all star salute was released, produced by Fundis. With everyone from Pistol Annies to Jason Isbell, Keb Mo' , John Prine, Allison Krauss and Garth Brooks represented it proved a fact already known: Don Williams's imprint on country music spans generations.

We will not see his like again.


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