Don Williams, Remembered 1939 – 2017

Don Williams, Remembered 1939 - 2017

Don Williams, “The Gentle Giant” of Country Music, passed away Friday at the age of 78.

“Don had such an amazing voice and his songs, for me, defined a key time in my life,” said CMA Chief Executive Officer Sarah Trahern. “I still reach for his music regularly when I want a mellow mood and a gentle voice. I only got to work with him on television projects a few times but he was a delight. His warm soul will be missed and his songs and legacy live on.”

He was born May 27, 1939 in Floydada, Texas. Williams learned guitar from his mother during his childhood and performed in a variety of Country, folk, and rock’n’roll bands during his teen years.

Living in Corpus Christi after high school, he partnered with Lofton Kline to form a musical duo called The Strangers Two. In 1965, they added Susan Taylor to the group and renamed themselves the Pozo-Seco Singers. The folk-pop group signed with Edmark Records, a local record label, and had a regional hit with their single “Time.” With that success, Columbia Records signed the group in 1966 and re-released the song nationally where it charted in the Top 50 on the pop charts. The threesome had two additional Top 40 pop hits with “I Can Make It with You” and “Look What You’ve Done” before disbanding in 1970 after releasing their fourth album.

Williams moved to Nashville and signed as a songwriter with Jack Music, Inc. owned by legendary producer/publisher Jack Clement. In 1972 he signed with JMI as a solo artist. While his first single “Don’t You Believe” did not receive much airplay, the 1973 follow up “The Shelter of Your Eyes” reached No. 14 on the Country singles chart. He released a few more singles to varying degrees of success before hitting No. 5 with “We Should Be Together” in 1974. This success led to a recording deal with ABC/Dot Records. His debut single on the new label, “I Wouldn’t Want to Live If You Didn’t Love Me,” topped the Country singles chart in the summer of 1974.

During the 1970s, Williams grew into one of the most popular Country artists in the world with No. 1 songs such as “You’re My Best Friend,” “Love Me Tonight,” “Till the Rivers All Run Dry” (which he co-wrote with Wayland Holyfield), “Say It Again,” “Some Broken Hearts Never Mend,” “I’m Just a Country Boy,” “Tulsa Time,” “It Must Be Love” and “Love Me Over Again” (written by Williams). In addition to his American success, he gained a huge following in the United Kingdom and Europe. He was named CMA Male Vocalist of the Year in 1978. Williams also appeared in movies such as “W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings,” and “Smokey and the Bandit II.”

Williams wrote several of his hits, including “I’ve Got a Winner in You” (with Holyfield), and “Lay Down Beside Me,” both of which hit the Top 10 in 1978. But he also frequently recorded songs written by Bob McDill, Holyfield, Roger Cook, Dave Loggins, John Prine, and Allen Reynolds (who produced several of Williams’ early albums). For more than 17 years beginning in the mid-70s, Williams co-produced his albums with Garth Fundis.

In 1980, Williams released his most successful single “I Believe in You,” which topped the Country singles chart and reached No. 24 on the pop singles chart. 1981 saw two more No. 1 singles (“Lord, I Hope This Day is Good” and “Miracles”); a No. 3 duet with Emmylou Harris on “If I Needed You”; and the CMA Album of the Year Award for I Believe In You. Additional No. 1 singles in the ‘80s included “If Hollywood Don’t Need You,” “Love is On a Roll,” “That’s the Thing About Love,” and “Heartbeat in the Darkness.” He switched labels, moving from MCA (which had acquired ABC/Dot) to Capitol in 1986, and then to RCA in 1989. His last Top 10 single was in 1992 with “Lord Have Mercy on a Country Boy.”

Williams announced his “Farewell Tour to the World” in early 2006 and performed around the globe before wrapping up with his sold-out, final concert in Memphis, Tenn. at the Cannon Center for Performing Arts on Nov. 21, 2006. He then retired from live performing, recording, and public life. Among his many career accomplishments were induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame (2010), 17 No. 1 hits, and 13 CMA Award nominations, which led to a win for Male Vocalist (1978) and Album of the Year (1981).

The Country Music Industry Remembers Don Williams and Troy Gentry 

Shocked to hear the news about Troy Gentry today. When i was coming up as a new artist, he and Eddie were always extremely cool and supportive of me and my career and i will always have nothing but respect for those guys. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends and fans. RIP “T-Roy” – Jason Aldean

So sad to hear about the passing of Troy Gentry. Always loved playing shows with MG. Sending up prayers for his & the rest of the MG family. – A Thousand Horses

Deepest Sympathies to friends fans and family of Troy Gentry, Rest In Peace brother. – Bellamy Brothers

2 legends lost at once. Troy Gentry and Don Williams will be missed so much. Praying for their families and may they rest in peace. – Big & Rich

The world changed today. Country music lost both a Friend and a Hero. Troy Gentry and Don Williams, you both will be dearly missed. – Lee Brice

Country music is at loss today. Our prayers are with the families of Don Williams & Troy Gentry. It’s a sad day. – Luke Bryan

My heart goes out to the family and friends of Troy Gentry. We are all incredibly sorry to hear about your loss. Your music will live on! – Chase Bryant

Troy Gentry is someone I considered a friend, and we are all absolutely numb right now. Sending love to his wife Angie and their children. – Terri Clark

Man, what a sad day in country music. Rest easy Don and Troy – Luke Combs

Just heard the news about Don Williams and Troy Gentry. Country music lost a hero and a friend today. My heart goes out to all. – Easton Corbin

Saddened to learn about the tragic passing of Troy Gentry. He was a buddy. – Cowboy Troy

So sad to hear the news of Troy Gentry. My prayers are with his family and friends. – Sheryl Crow

I remember the night I got to tell Troy and Eddie they were going to become members of the Grand Ole Opry. So sad – Charlie Daniels

Rest in peace Don Williams
You left us a lot great musical memories – Charlie Daniels

RIP Troy Gentry. Absolutely tragic. Thoughts + prayers out to his family. – Dan + Shay

Absolutely heartbreaking. God bless his beautiful family and all who will mourn this great loss. – Charles Esten

So sad to learn of Troy Gentry’s passing today. Truly horrible. Prayers for his family and loved ones. – Sara Evans

My thoughts & prayers are with the families and friends of Don Williams and Troy Gentry. I will miss them both! – Crystal Gayle

We are absolutely heartbroken over the passing of Opry Member Troy Gentry. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends. – Grand Ole Opry

Sad day in country music. RIP Don Williams and Troy Gentry. Prayers for your families. – Randy Houser

What a sad day for country music. Don Williams was a legend, and for good reason. So many beautiful songs. – Jason Isbell

Jesus, be with Troy’s family. Troy was a GREAT human, I was glad to know him, and this loss hurts my heart. – Chris Janson

The band and I so sad to hear about Troy Gentry. We were just with them boys two weeks ago. God bless him and his family and band family. – Sammy Kershaw

Sad about Don Williams but Troy Gentry was my friend. I had great times with him. I’m stunned, angry and upset at the moment. I’ll miss you. – Shooter Jennings

My heart breaks for the family and friends of Troy Gentry. I had the pleasure of playing shows with him and he was always so kind – Jana Kramer

Devastated to hear the news. Troy, thank you for your kindness, your spirit, your joy and the love you shared with everyone you met. – Little Big Town

Heartbroken & Devastated to hear the news about our brother Troy Gentry. Our thoughts & prayers are with him & his family. Troys friendship & encouragement to us will never be forgotten. Rest Peacefully Brother. – LOCASH

Only met Troy once. He couldn’t have been any nicer. So sad! Prayers for his family, Eddie, & all his fans! – William Michael Morgan

RIP Troy Gentry. This has absolutely stopped me in my tracks. He was always super to me through the years. So sad! – David Nail

Sad day for country music. Troy Gentry and Don Williams have passed and that makes my heart hurt. Don was my hero and Troy was my friend – Jake Owen

God bless you Troy Gentry. Heartbroken and in disbelief. – Brad Paisley

Shocked and saddened by the sudden, tragic loss of Troy today. He was a friend and a good man. Prayers go out to his precious family. – Rascal Flatts

I can’t believe it…Doesn’t seem possible that Troy Gentry is gone. Big prayers for his family and Eddie. We’ll miss you Troy. – John Rich (Big & Rich)

Sending my sincere and heartfelt prayers to the families & friends of Don Williams and @T_RoyMG. – Kenny Rogers

I was saddened to hear of Don Williams passing today. His simple music, gentle voice & beautiful songs will live on forever. RIP Gentle Giant – Ricky Skaggs

Our hearts are absolutely broken with the tragic news of Troy Gentry’s passing. What a great guy, artist and friend. Our prayers go out to his family. God bless you Troy. You will be missed. – Thompson Square

So sad to hear that “Gentle Giant” Don Williams has died! What an incredible legacy of great music he leaves behind. May he RIP. – Travis Tritt

I’m speechless. Pray with me for the family of Don Williams & especially the family of Troy Gentry. It’s a heavy day for country music. – Josh Turner

What a horrible day! Learning of the loss of #DonWilliams & my friend #TroyGentry of @mgunderground. A very sad day for us all! – Mark Wills

Just heard about Troy Gentry… I literally have no words. Have known him for years and played so many shows with him and Eddie… – Chris Young