Andy Williams began his amazing career in his hometown of Wall Lake, Iowa. It was there he began singing with his three brothers in a local Presbyterian church choir that was established by his parents. At the tender age of 8, Andy made his professional singing debut as part of the Williams Brothers Quartet. The brothers became regulars on radio station WHO's "Iowa Barn Dance show" in Des Moines, Iowa. From there, the brothers continued their radio days being prominently featured on national stations like WLS in Chicago and WLW in Cincinnati.
This widespread radio exposure brought the boys a considerable following which eventually caught the attention of Bing Crosby. With Crosby, Andy and his brothers made their first professional recording, "Swinging on a star," which became a tremendous hit in 1944.
In 1947, Andy and his brothers teamed up with comedienne Kay Thompson (who also wrote the popular children's book series Eloise") for successful, trend setting nightclub act. Thompson and the brothers spent the next few years performing all over the United States and in Europe. But it all came to an end in 1951 as the group disbanded and each brother went their own way. Andy chose to move to New York and continue to pursue his vocal career.
While in New York, Andy got his first television gig as a regular performer on Steve Allen's "Tonight Show." For 2 1/2 years he appeared on Allen's show which led to his first recording contract with Cadence Records.
Andy's first album, Andy Williams Sings Steve Allen, was released in 1956. It wasn't long before Andy had his first Top 10 hit with "Canadian Sunset." What followed was a string of hits that included "Butterfly," "Lonely Street," and " The Hawaiian Wedding Song," for which he received the first of his five Grammy Award nominations.
His work in television continued during this time period with regular appearances on "The Dinah Shore Chevy Show" and, in 1958, for 13 weeks he presented "The Chevy Showroom with Andy Williams." In the summer of 1959 Andy was chosen by CBS to host a variety program that was to replace ''The Gary Moorre Show" for a 13-week period. When this series of shows concluded, Andy began to concentrate on one-hour television specials. The first, "Music from Shubert Alley," was presented by NBC on November 13, 1959.
But New York City and television were not the only places you could see Andy during the late 1950s. He also returned to the nightclub circuit performing for live audiences as he did years before with Kay Thompson and his brothers. All of this exposure and hard work would soon payoff in a very big way.
The first event that kicked Andy's career into high gear was the change of recording labels. In 1962, he began his 28-year association with Columbia, Records. Almost immediately he scored his first top 10 hit for Columbia, "Can't Get Used to Losing You." Many more hits were to follow, but none would become more associated with Andy Williams than " Moon River," the Oscar winning song from the film Breakfast at Tiffany's. This song, which Andy had already recorded for an album, quickly became his theme song after his stunning performance of it at the Academy Awards.
Although never released as a single, the song propelled his album, Moon River and Other Great Themes, to Wine and Roses, which became his all-time biggest chart hit spending an incredible 16 weeks at #1 and staying on the chart for over 100 weeks. His subsequent recordings were best sellers and resulted in Andy receiving 18 gold and 3 platinum certified albums.
The second event that helped make Andy a superstar was the debut of his weekly television series, " The Andy Williams Show." Debuting on September 16, 1963, Andy premiered his new variety show on NBC that would eventually last for nine years and would win three Emmy Awards for Best Musical/Variety Series ( 1966, 1967, and 1969). It was one of NBC's top ranked programs. From this series Andy began his classic Christmas specials that featured the entire Williams family.
Live performances were still a big part of Andy's career and in 1966, he opened Caesar's Palace and subsequently headlined at the famed Las Vegas hotel for the next 20 years.
By the time "The Andy Williams Show" ended in 1972, Andy had become a true international superstar. With tremendous worldwide record sales and global distribution of his television shows, he was just as popular in other countries as he was right here in the US. This recognition prompted several tours of England, Europe, Australia, Japan, and Asia, breaking attendance records wherever he appeared.
At this point in his career, most performers would have opted to sit back, relax and just make minimal concert and television appearances. However, Andy chose another path; one that has put him in the international spotlight once again.
In 1991, Andy took a trip to Branson, Missouri, to see his friend Ray Stevens, who had just opened a theater in the growing country music town and amazing talent the town featured, that he began to make his own plans for becoming a part of the small Ozark community.
His plans to build a $12 million state-of-the-art theater came to fruition as the Andy Williams Moon River Theater opened its doors on May 1, 1992. Andy had become the first non-country performers and theme shows began to move into tiny town that would soon be known as the live music capital of the world.
At his Moon River Theater, Andy performs six days a week from September through December. His electrifying performances blend, music, comedy, and dance into a spectacular production show that has become Branson's most popular show. In November and December, the Andy Williams Christmas Show packs the 2000 seat theater with a show that recalls his classic television Christmas specials.
The Moon River Theater's design reflects the beauty and environmental integrity of the surrounding Ozark Mountains. The 48,000 square foot structure is set among 16 acres landscaped with foliage, rock formations, waterfalls and a rippling stream. It won the 1992 Convention Award for developed land use from the State of Missouri, and is the only theater ever to be featured in Architectural Digest.
For the interior, it was Andy's idea to create a beautiful auditorium for live performances along with a lobby area that he could display pieces of art from his personal collection. Displayed in the lobby and auditorium are sculptures and paintings by renowned artists like Willem de Kooning, Henry Moore, Kenneth Noland, Donald Roller Wilson, Jack Bush, Jacque Lipchitz, and Robert Motherwell.
Andy and his wife, Debbie, now reside in Branson just a few miles from the theater. Their beautiful Country French home that they built is located on a golf course in a private location community. The house overlooks the gorgeous Lake Taneycomo, which is famous for its cool waters and trout fishing.
In the spring of 1999, Andy found himself back on the record charts once again. In England, a commercial for the Fiat automobile company featured Andy's version of "Music to Watch Girls By," which was a minor hit for him in 1967. The ad became so popular that the record company re-released the song as a single and this time around it was a top 10 hit. Because of the renewed interest in his music, Andy made his first trip to England in a decade and appeared on several television shows and radio programs. The response from crowds of all ages have been incredible.
Not one to rest on his laurels, Andy works just as hard today as he did in the beginning. The only difference is that he loves what he's doing now even more than he did back then.