CATCHING UP WITH… DON WILLIAMS
Bob Paxman, Country Weekly Magazine
At 62, Don Williams shows no signs of aging – or stress. He is still country’s “Gentle Giant” in every respect, slowly twisting his 6 ft., 4 in. frame into a chair and speaking in the same smooth, relaxed tones that have defined his music for nearly 30 years.
Those three decades produced such timeless chart-toppers as “Some Broken Hearts Never Mend,” “Tulsa Time” and “I Believe In You.” Now, 12 of Don’s all-time favorites are included on his latest CD, Don Williams Live: Greatest Hits Volume Two.
“I had so many fans say they sure wished I would do a live album,” Don explains in his warm, Texas-born drawl. “They like the energy and the atmosphere of the live shows. So I got a band together and recorded this album at three different venues in England.”
Why England? Because of the country’s fanatical fans. Over there, Don’s concerts are guaranteed sellouts and his true-blue followers can rattle off every career stat by heart. ”The people there are so interesting when it comes to their knowledge,” says Don with a brimming smile. “They know where I recorded my albums, who the musicians were – they really study everything.” Those devoted fans probably know that he’s written several of his own hits, including “I’ve Got A Winner In You” and “Lay Down Beside Me.” In fact, Don once thought that writing would be his ticket to success.
“When I first started out, there were certain things I wanted to say that I couldn’t find on the outside,” he recalls. “So I wrote the songs myself. But as I went along, there was so much great material out there that I didn’t feel that pressure to write.” And there’s no pressure now. “I’m still writing off and on,” says Don, “but I’m not working on a new album at the moment.” With a typically laid-back grin, he adds, “I’m just trying to keep everything running as smoothly as I possibly can. That’s a goal I’m comfortable with.”
Hank, Tennessee and Don
by Geoffrey Himes
When Williams strips away the “look-at-me, see-how-hard-I’m-working” ego from the vocal, the song becomes utterly transparent. Suddenly you can gaze right through all the vocal technique and studio production and see the song’s characters as clearly as if they were sitting in the kitchen with you. Call it Zen country.
Listen to the way Williams sings “Till The Rivers All Run Dry”, a #1 country hit in 1976. Over Lloyd Green’s dobro and his own acoustic guitar, Williams murmurs, “Till life on earth is through, I’ll be needing you,” in his drawling Texas baritone. It’s a plea of desperation, but it’s delivered in an eerie calm, as if Williams were simply recognizing a law of nature as inevitable as water running downhill. “There’s no hint that Williams wants to make the woman need him back, nor is their any hint that he’s trying to rein in his own desires. The vocal has none of the slow-moving smugness. Instead, there’s a selflessness, a willingness to face up to things the way they are without puffing up one’s own importance. And, paradoxically, Williams’ very selflessness, his refusal to strike a pose, allows the inner core of his personality to come through more powerfully than it does in the music of more extroverted singers.
“It all has to do with honesty,” Williams says. “If somebody’s saying something to me in real life and it’s too over-the-top, I feel like it’s a put-on; it doesn’t ring true. The same thing’s true in music; if the singer’s trying too hard, I’m suspicious.
“Even if the song is well-stated and the emotion is definitely real, it still doesn’t work for me if it’s too over-the-top. They’re dealing with it in a way that I would never address it. I can take the same thing and find another way of saying it that’s not over-the-top, that’s more comfortable. To me, that’s more honest, but bear in mind, I’m just going by my own barometer.”
Williams owes his unique style to a mix of folk and country. From his early days on the folk circuit, Williams draws the understated, quiet style of personal confession that avoids country’s barroom bluster. From his childhood love for country, he draws the plain, direct talk of working-class folks and thus avoids the pretensions of singer-songwriter folk.
This uncanny fusion helped pave the way for such folk-country stars as Mary Chapin Carpenter, Emmylou Harris, Kathy Mattea, Nanci Griffith and Lyle Lovett, but by the time Carpenter was having her early-’90s hits, Williams had fallen from the charts, and then off the major-label rosters. After 52 top-40 country hits (including 17 that went to #1) from 1973-91, Williams found himself in the wilderness of indie labels.
Now he’s back in the major-label ranks with I Turn The Page, which came out Oct. 27 on Giant Records. Working with songwriter-producer Doug Johnson (Giant’s Nashville label chief) and his road band, Williams started recording the album on his 59th birthday last May. The results are not much of a departure from what Williams has been doing for the past three decades; once again the country-folk arrangements frame a voice so relaxed, so guileless that resistance seems pointless.
“I think my style is all a result of my voice,” Williams admits reluctantly. “There are times I cut something and give it everything I’ve got. I think I’m going way over the top with it, but when I listen to it a month later, it still sounds laid-back. That’s just the way I am; I can’t help myself. I’m not one way one place and another way some place else. I’m pretty much the same wherever I am. And that’s the way I like to be.”
On Harmony, the 1976 album that contained “Till The Rivers All Run Dry”, the cover photo shows Williams’ long sideburns fanning out like bell bottoms on his already weathered Gulf Coast face. The tan, felt brim on his Stetson cowboy hat is curled up at the sides, and two hatband tassels lie on the front brim. Today, those sideburns have spread down the jaw into a bristly dark beard marked by a stripe of white hair on each side of his chin. But he still sports the same style Stetson hat and the same rumpled face.
Williams’ sound hasn’t changed that much either. “For me,” he insists, “there’s not much difference. I still go through the same procedure, the same approach; I believe in the same principles as when I started. It’s not something I contrived. Whatever the song calls for, I try to give it a performance within the boundaries of my abilities that is believable and that I can feel good about. I can feel it inside when I’m there.”
Williams co-wrote just one of the dozen songs on the new album, and he says he listened to 200 songs for every one that was chosen. He wound up with one by alt-country writer Kevin Welch (“Something ‘Bout You”), three written or co-written by producer Johnson, two from Dave Hanner (one co-written with his longtime duo partner Bob Corbin), and two co-written by Music Row giant Gary Burr. The one tune Williams had a hand in writing, “I Sing For Joy” (a collaboration with Johnson and Burr), is a very personal dedication to his wife of 38 years, Joy Bucher.
As always, Williams has the best luck with songs that wrap common-sense advice up in a folksy aphorism and a childlike melody. A Tony Arata song suggests that only love distinguishes us from the “Handful Of Dust” we were once and will soon be again; a Burr/Don Schlitz tune advises us to let go of the past and focus on what happens “From Now On”. And “Take It Easy On Yourself” could be a personal manifesto for Williams, the most laid-back of troubadours.
“I don’t think anyone’s really come up with a new thought in a long time,” he claims, “so you can just rule that out. The best anyone can do is come up with a melody that’s in keeping with what people are interested in at the time and lyrics that say whatever you have to say in today’s terms. Beyond that, it’s really just whether the music and the lyrics are making the same emotional statement. As far as what’s being said, is it direct enough? I don’t like to decipher anything. I like it to be very precise, very clear and very direct.”
If the music hasn’t changed much, the music industry has. “Oh, the business has changed tremendously,” he laments. “When I started, the artist and the producer picked the singles and the songs on the album, and the label had little to say about it. They promoted whatever the artist and the producer picked, and that was the end of the story.
“But now it seems the record labels consult with radio people about what songs to promote, which is completely foreign to me. It affects the music a great deal. You have people out there who have a preconceived idea of what kind of things are successful. They get themselves into that kind of mentality where they’re only looking for what fits those criteria, and they’re afraid to even fool with the rest of it.
“I think it’s very unfortunate, because I would like to see the day again when radio stations would have enough faith in their local market that they’ll play something if the audience responds to it, whether or not it does anything nationally. I’d like radio to pay more attention to their local market rather than the national charts.
“I grew up in Texas, and we heard songs all the time that weren’t hits anywhere else but they were huge hits in Texas. I think that’s great. If radio opens up to the local audience, that audience will definitely tell radio what they think. But when you have just a handful of people programming stations all across the country with little feel for what those local markets are all about, you cut the heart out of it.”
Williams was born in Floydada, Texas, and grew up in Portland, near Corpus Christi on the Gulf Coast. He grew up loving music, not just the
honky-tonk sounds of inland Texas but also the rock ‘n’ roll coming from New Orleans up around the coast. He was singing as a little kid and got his first guitar as a teenager.
“I never patterned myself after any one artist,” he insists, “because there aren’t many artists that I’m a fan of everything they do. I’ve always been more of a song person. I love good songs, and I don’t care who does them. But I can tell you who I was a fan of growing up: Johnny Horton, Buddy Holly, Brook Benton, Fats Domino, and Little Richard.” Williams had vocal groups in high school and in the Army, and he got some encouragement from Holly’s producer, Norman Petty. But it wasn’t until he had moved back to Portland after the Army, married his first and still current wife and worked several years as an oil rigger and truck driver that he got back into music.
He hooked up with Portland singer Lofton Kline in a country-folk duo called the Strangers Two. Williams and Kline met Susan Taylor at a local hootenanny, and the three harmonizers became the Pozo-Seco Singers. They cut a single in Houston, got picked up by Columbia and scored a hit with “Time” in 1965.
“The original concept for the Pozo-Seco Singers was we were going to be more folk-country,” he explains. “Susan was the big folk fan. I appreciated Dylan, Ian & Sylvia and Gordon Lightfoot, but I wasn’t into the real get-down folk like Susan was. Even then I was coming more from a rock ‘n’ roll and country standpoint. I loved the energy of rock ‘n’ roll, but at the same time, I was listening to the Grand Ole Opry and the Louisiana Hayride. The first time I heard Elvis was on the Opry.
“Our first single, ‘Time’, was not accepted that well by country radio. It wound up being far more successful in the pop world. That was where our first hit was, so that’s where everybody expected us to stay. I’d say 99 percent of what we did was college concerts. We had about a five-year run of it. I personally wasn’t interested in getting it down to working clubs and putting up with all that – people drinking and talking about the little gal onstage. So when our success had gotten down to that point, we just decided to let it go.”
Williams went back to his day jobs for a year and a half, but the music itch soon got the best of him. He moved his family up to Nashville and got a job working for rockabilly pioneer Cowboy Jack Clement, who had a studio, a publishing company and an indie label. Allen Reynolds was Clement’s right-hand man, and Williams got a job running the office and screening tapes for the publishing arm. Even though the label, JMI Records, was doing mostly rock ‘n’ roll, Reynolds agreed to cut some of the country material Williams was writing.
JMI released Williams’ first solo single, “Don’t You Believe”, in 1972 and scored his first hit with “The Shelter Of Your Eyes” in 1973. When Williams broke into the top five with “We Should Be Together” in 1974, it was obvious he needed a bigger record company, and he signed with ABC/Dot. Reynolds stayed involved for awhile, but soon Williams was producing himself and then co-producing with Garth Fundis, an engineer from the JMI days.
The key creative figure in those early days, though, was Bob McDill, a songwriter who was tuned into exactly what Williams wanted. Though Williams wrote a handful of songs for every album, it was McDill who came up with such memorable hits as “Come Early Morning”, “Amanda”, “(Turn Out The Lights And) Love Me Tonight”, “She Never Knew Me”, “Say It Again”, and “Good Ole Boys Like Me”. His melodies as well as his words seemed as unassuming and plain-spoken as the singer.
“Bob and I are basically from the same neck of the woods,” Williams points out. “He grew up around Beaumont and I grew up down the coast near Corpus Christi. A lot of the music we listened to was exclusive to Texas, because a lot of hits in Texas weren’t hits anywhere else. We listened to B.J. Thomas, for example, for years and years before he became a national artist. Plus there’s a strong Mexican influence in Texas and a strong German influence, too.
“When we first got together, he really didn’t want to hear anything about country music; he was going to be a pop-rock writer and artist and was very dedicated to that. When I started recording some of his songs and having country hits, he softened a lot on that. But neither of us grew up just listening to country music. We loved the Platters, the Diamonds, Teresa Brewer and all those pre-rock ‘n’ roll people. We loved Johnny Horton and Johnny Cash. When Fats Domino and Chuck Berry started doing their thing, we were right in there.
“When Bob writes one that really hits me, it really hits me. He has a different way of saying things that appealed to me, and the way he put chords together was real different for country music at that time. I dare say I would not have had very much of a career without Bob McDill.” “The Band’s Music From Big Pink really turned me around,” McDill told New Country magazine in 1995. “Any fusion between country and rock before that had been taking the worst of both genres, making a double-dumb record. But The Band took the funkiest great grooves with country melodies, harmonies and lyrics about rural life, which I understood perfectly. So I said, ‘This is something I need to be doing.’ If you look at a lot of the early Nashville things I did – the early Don Williams songs – they had a lot of Band influence on them.” Williams hit his stride in the mid and late-’70s, making some of the greatest records of that much-maligned era. His professions of romantic love (“Lay Down Beside Me”), pastoral simplicity (“I’m Just A Country Boy”) and romantic pain (“Some Broken Hearts Never Mend”) seemed all the more genuine for never trying too hard to win us over. And though he belonged to neither the Urban Cowboys, the Outlaws nor the Countrypolitan camp in Nashville, Williams consistently hit the top of the charts.
“Around the time of my third album,” Williams recalls, “I started getting wind that I was really having a lot of success in the UK. We didn’t have any distribution over there at all, but my records were selling great just as imports. So I went over and played a show at a country festival at Wembley. Shortly after that, Anchor Records took over the distribution for us and they really drove it home.”
England’s Country Music People magazine voted Williams Artist of the Decade in 1980, and he remained so popular there that he recorded An Evening With Don Williams before large, appreciative audiences in England and Wales in 1993. Among the fans who had gushed their admiration backstage were Eric Clapton and Pete Townshend. Clapton, in fact, recorded Williams’ composition “We’re All The Way”, and had a top-30 hit in 1980 with Williams’ 1978 country chart-topper “Tulsa Time” (penned by Danny Flowers, who played guitar in Williams’ band at the time the song was written). Townshend, meanwhile, recorded “Till All The Rivers Run Dry”.
Williams’ name also has surface on occasion amidst the careers of many of America’s finest country and folk artists. John Prine and Kevin Welch have each written a couple of songs for him, and Williams has sung duets with both Kathy Mattea and Emmylou Harris. The latter duet, an incandescent version of Townes Van Zandt’s “If I Needed You”, is one of the peak moments in Williams’ career.
“I was on tour in Texas with Waylon Jennings and Emmylou,” he remembers. “I watched Emmy’s show one night in Houston and it inspired me to write a song called ‘Crying Eyes’. It wasn’t about her, but it was her approach. I wrote it on the way up to Fort Worth and played it for her in the dressing room. She loved it and said we ought to do that as a duet, so that’s how that started. So we recorded my song, the Townes song and a couple of McDill songs, but we only released ‘If I Needed You’. It’s just a great song.” Mattea owes a special debt to Williams, for two of her top-20 hits, “Come From The Heart” and “Standing Knee Deep In A River (Dying of Thirst)”, were originally non-single album tracks for Williams.
“Don Williams was the first major artist I ever opened a show for,” Mattea remembers, “and I learned a lot from him. He has great taste in songs, and he has a real sense of integrity. He knows who he is and hasn’t wavered from that. I love that his style is really honest and simple. That appeals to me, because I’m not about vocal acrobatics; I’m about a song well-phrased and well-framed. As with Emmy, the whole country-folk thing seemed very natural to him; it wasn’t forced, it was just where he fit.” After a dozen years with the ABC/Dot/MCA combine, Williams moved to Capitol Records in 1986 for two albums, and then to RCA in 1989 for three discs. He continued to have top-10 hits, but after 1991 the hits dried up, and in 1993 Williams found himself without a major-label deal for the first time in 20 years. He signed with the independent American Harvest label and released a live album, a collection of cover tunes and a disc of new songs.
Finally another Nashville major label decided to take a chance on Williams. “They were inducting Roger Cook into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame,” Williams recounts, “and I agreed to sing ‘I Believe In You’, which Roger wrote. It’s the biggest record I ever had, and it’s one of the finest songs I’ve ever had. Later I found out that Doug Johnson from Giant Records had been at the ceremony and decided he wanted to sign me. I was actually negotiating another record deal, but we had a meeting with him, and his enthusiasm just captivated me.”
Williams’ appearance at the Hall of Fame induction was a very rare social event for him. In a town where hobnobbing at industry cocktail parties is a way of life, the bearded singer is a notorious recluse, preferring to stay home on his Ashland City ranch with his wife of 38 years whenever he’s not actually singing or recording. Apparently, his shy, soft-spoken character is not just a stage persona; he’s even more that way offstage. That’s quickly obvious in an interview situation, where one has to patiently coax answers out of a man reluctant to talk about himself.
“I’ve always taken the attitude that I don’t have to know enough about Henry to buy a Ford,” Williams says. “If I like the car, that’s enough. It should be the same way in music. It has never been my number-one priority to get on TV or on magazine covers. If I had to choose between having a good, solid home life and running after all the glitz, it’s pretty easy for me to say what I would choose.
“I’m not going to name names, but it becomes very evident when people get to a point in their career where they’ll sacrifice everything and anything to be the biggest, to be a household name everywhere. I always think that’s a bit unfortunate when that happens. There’s no doubt in my mind that I’ve made the right decision. I tell you one thing, if I’d approached it any differently, I’d have had a much shorter career, because I’d have burned out.”
Geoffrey Himes has contributed to both the Country Music Foundation’s Encyclopedia of Country Music and the Rolling Stone Guide to Jazz & Blues Albums.
© Copyright 1999 Geoffrey Himes; all rights reserved
Don Williams Discography – No Depression web exclusive
© 2000 No Depression, Inc.
DON WILLIAMS DISCOGRAPHY
No Depression web exclusive
Volume One (JMI, 1973) – These are Williams’ first recordings as a solo country singer, originally released by Cowboy Jack Clement’s JMI Records and later reissued by ABC and MCA. Produced by Allen Reynolds and engineered by Clement, the tracks stick close to a two-step honky-tonk beat and include Williams’ first top-20 hit, “The Shelter Of Your Eyes,” as well as Bob McDill’s immortal “Amanda” (later a #1 hit for Waylon Jennings). In the liner notes, Bobby Bare writes, “In a business filled with pillheads, alcoholics, drug addicts, phoneys, etc….Don freaked out and went straight – found his head right where it belonged. He became a first – the newest thing in show business: a new super-talent with no crutches, no hangups, no problems.”
Volume Two (JMI, 1974) – The second set of JMI recordings, later reissued by ABC and MCA, includes Williams’ first top-10 single, “We Should Be Together”, and McDill’s “She’s In Love With A Rodeo Man”, later a hit for Johnny Russell. It marks the first appearance of Garth Fundis as Williams’ engineer and features such top Nashville pickers as Johnny Gimble, Lloyd Green and Buddy Spicher, and is Williams’ most country-sounding project. In 1997, England’s Edsel Records reissued Volume One and Volume Two as a single CD.
Volume Three (ABC, 1974) – His confidence growing by leaps and bounds, Williams cut his first #1 hit, “I Wouldn’t Want To Live If You Didn’t Love Me”, and a country remake of Brook Benton’s 1960 pop hit “The Ties That Bind”. Reissued by MCA on CD in 1995.
You’re My Best Friend (ABC, 1975) – In the back cover photo, a denim-clad Williams stands in a snowy field surrounded by cows. On the record, his conversational baritone hangs out front without a lot of production to disguise it. The album yielded two #1 hits: the title tune and McDill’s “(Turn Out The Light And) Love Me Tonight”. Reynolds co-produced three songs, but Williams produced the rest himself and wrote the final four. Out of print.
Harmony (ABC, 1976) – This is one of Williams’ very best, for his whispery voice never seemed more intimate, more sincere. The acoustic instruments are up front, though they are reinforced by a steady pulse and tasteful string charts. The album contains two #1 singles – “Till The Rivers All Run Dry” (later recorded by Pete Townshend) and “Say It Again” – plus a #2, “She Never Knew Me”. But the four Williams-written, rivetingly personal non-hits are the high points. Out of print.
Country Boy (ABC, 1977) – Despite the title, this isn’t Williams’ most country outing; in fact, Charles Cochran’s string charts give it a real pop feel, as if it were a return to the Pozo-Seco Singers. There’s no disguising Williams’ Texas drawl, however, and the album yielded three top-10 hits, including the #1 declaration “I’m Just A Country Boy” by ex-Weaver Fred Hellerman. Out of print.
Visions (ABC, 1977) – On this album, producer Williams pushed the pedal steel, fiddle and dobro up front and responded with some of the most straightforward honky-tonk singing of his career. “Some Broken Hearts Never Mend” was a #1 hit, but “Time On My Hands” summed up his unhurried approach to music and life. Even better are such divorce songs as “I’ll Forgive But I’ll Never Forget” and “Missing You Missing Me”, both written by Williams himself. This may be his best album. Out of print.
Expressions (ABC, 1978) – The #1 hit “Tulsa Time” was written by Williams’ sometime guitarist Danny Flowers and became a top-30 pop hit for Eric Clapton two years later. If it proved how swampy and funky Williams could get when he wanted to, “Tears Of The Lonely” may be his most desolate, most moving ballad performance. Out of print.
Portrait (MCA, 1979) – This was the first album co-produced by Williams and Fundis, a team that stayed together through 1990. They had such a light touch in the studio that even the string charts sound subtle, for they’re kept far behind Williams’s acoustic guitar and voice. The album contains the #1 “Lover Me Over Again”, the #2 “Good Ole Boys Like Me” (a McDill tune that pays tribute to “the Williams boys – Hank and Tennessee”), and the Williams original “We’re All The Way”, later recorded by Clapton. Out of print.
I Believe In You (MCA, 1980) – This was the last installment in Williams’ 1973-80 golden era, where the songwriting, the vocals and the arrangements all seemed to share the low-key, down-to-earth honesty suggested by this album’s burlap cover design. The album’s biggest hit was
the #1 title tune, which also became the singer’s only top-40 pop hit as a solo artist. But the real treats were the five McDill songs. Out of print.
Especially For You (MCA, 1981) – One of the high points of Williams’ career was his duet with Emmylou Harris on Townes Van Zandt’s “If I Needed You”. A #3 single, it appeared both here and on Harris’ Cimarron album. The rest of the disc is an odd grab bag of items – string-laden pop,
the #1 single “Lord, I Hope This Day Is Good”, Johnny Cash’s “Fairweather Friends”, and a song where Williams thanks everyone from his Sunday-school teacher to Little Richard. Out of print.
Listen To The Radio (MCA, 1982) – On his last three MCA albums, Williams seemed to lapse into country-pop formulas. The arrangements are smoother and sweeter and the sentiments are stickier. Nonetheless, the album includes a #1 hit, McDill’s “If Hollywood Don’t Need You”, as well as
John Prine’s “Only Love.” Out of print.
Yellow Moon (MCA, 1983) – This was Williams’ first album to picture him with a beard on the cover. It includes two #1 hits – John Prine’s “Love Is On A Roll” and Lyle & Gallagher’s “Stay Young” – but the country-pop sweetness remains. Out of print.
Cafe Carolina (MCA, 1984) – The fiddle, mandolin and dobro are totally absent for the first time, replaced by Charles Cochran’s electric keyboards, which reinforce the pop feel of the proceedings. Still, the album yielded four top-20 hits, including a chart-topper, Richard Leigh & Gary Nicholson’s ”That’s The Thing About Love”. Out of print.
New Moves (Capitol, 1986) – Williams seemed reinvigorated when he left the ABC/MCA combine after a dozen years. He still worked with co-producer Fundis, arranger Cochran and songwriters McDill and Loggins, but the material is fresher and so is the singing. The result was five top-10 singles, including the #1 “Heartbeat In The Darkness” and the strange, recitation-filled song of interracial romance, “Senorita”, written by Hank DeVito and Danny Flowers. Out of print.
Traces (Capitol, 1987) – Williams’ last album for Capitol found him reaching out to such left-field songwriters as Kevin Welch, Jamie O’Hara and Paul Nelson, and scoring top-10 hits with their material. The marriage of an acoustic string band (Mark O’Connor and Pat Flynn) to a tasteful rhythm section made this his best album of the ’80s. Two more Brook Benton remakes kick off side two. Best of all was Richard Leigh and Susanna Clark’s “Come From The Heart,” a #1 hit for Kathy Mattea two years later. Out of print.
20 Greatest Hits (Uni/MCA, 1987) – There are actually 21 songs on this anthology from the JMI/ABC/MCA years. A useful summary.
Best Of Don Williams, Vol. I (Uni/MCA, 1988) – A budget compilation of 11 hits.
Best Of Don Williams, Vol. II (Uni/MCA, 1988) – Another budget compilation of 11 hits.
Best Of Don Williams, Vol. III (Uni/MCA, 1988) – There are only 10 tracks on this edition, which focuses on the poppiest hits.
One Good Well (RCA, 1989) – Williams’ first album for RCA yielded three top-five hits – Dave Loggins’ “Just As Long As I Have You”, McDill’s “I’ve Been Loved By The Best”, and Mike Reid’s title tune. It’s a bit slick in places, but the duet between Williams’ voice and Mark O’Connor’s fiddle on Williams’ “Cryin’ Eyes” is terrific, as is the family-farm lament, “Broken Heartland”. It’s rather short, though (nine songs, 30 minutes of music).
True Love (RCA, 1990) – Three top-10 hits, including the #2 “Back In My Younger Days.” The nostalgic tone of that single was all too appropriate, for this was Williams’ last album to yield a top-40 country single.
Best Of Don Williams, Vol. IV (Uni/MCA, 1988) – A 10-track gathering of leftovers from the previous volumes in this series.
Greatest Country Hits (WEA, 1990) – Budget compilation of a dozen ABC/MCA sides.
Currents (RCA, 1992) – The album takes its title from the many songs that use water as a setting or metaphor, from a fishing song (“Catfish Bates”) to a Mark Twain tribute (“That Song About The River”). The lilting soukous of Zimbabwe’s Bhundu Boys fits comfortably with Williams’ rural bounce on “In The Family”. Once again, Williams pointed Mattea to a great song, McDill’s “Standing Knee Deep In A River (Dying Of Thirst)”, which she turned into a top-20 hit the following year. There were no hits for Williams on this album, though, marking the end of his commercial streak.
An Evening With Don Williams: Best Of Live (American Harvest, 1994) – Williams performs 15 of his best-known songs before live audiences in Great Britain, where he never fell out of favor. Recorded with just a small Nashville combo without strings or choirs, this is Williams stripped down to his essentials. It’s probably the best single introduction to the artist. A 20-minute interview with Williams follows the music.
Greatest Hits (MCA, 1994) – Misleadingly titled budget compilation of MCA album tracks.
Lord, I Hope This Day Is Good (MCA, 1995) – Budget compilation of 10 MCA album tracks.
Some Broken Hearts Never Mend (MCA, 1995) – Yet another budget compilation of 10 MCA album tracks.
Best Of Don Williams (RCA, 1995) – A CD collection of a dozen of the best songs from the three RCA albums.
Borrowed Tales (American Harvest, 1995) – Williams pays tribute to his broad spectrum of influences by covering some of his favorite songs – including honky-tonkers Ray Price and Left Frizzell, rock ‘n’ rollers Eric Clapton and the Box Tops, ’60s folkies Gordon Lightfoot and Tim Hardin, even jazz crooners Peggy Lee and Nat King Cole. He freshens these well-worn numbers by subtraction, stripping away every bit of vocal flamboyance and production excess until the song is distilled to its essence.
Flatlands (American Harvest, 1996) – Acting as his own producer and working with his road band, Williams co-wrote six of the songs himself and re-connected with such familiar songwriters as McDill, Flowers and Jim Rushing. Songs such as “Gulf Shore Line”, “Which Way Is Santa Fe”,
“Shadow Land” and “Leaving For The Flatlands” evoke the geography and psychology of Texas, where open spaces and long distances can separate people as well as towns. A hint of Tex-Mex in the simple arrangements reminds one of Willie Nelson’s later work.
I Turn The Page (Giant, 1998) – Even at age 59, Williams is one of the most mesmerizing singers around; his conversational purr still disarms the listener. This isn’t his best project – many of the songs are too formulaic, and there are no writing credits for McDill and just one-third of a credit for Williams himself – but when he connects with a strong song, as he does a handful of times, the effect is still magical.
© Copyright 1999 Geoffrey Himes; all rights reserved © 2000 No Depression, Inc.
It’s extremely unusual these days for a record company to sign anyone over 40 to a record contract. It’s even more unusual for a company to actively seek out an older artist and offer a deal. That’s why Don Williams was flabbergasted when Giant Records approached him last spring and said they wanted him on their label. But I don’t know. The more I think about it, the more it seems to make sense. Seeing him in concert this past spring effectively turned me into a fan. Sitting on a stool, with a guitar, a modest band and an arsenal of songs, he mesmerized the audience like no other country entertainer I’ve seen.
Pat Quigley, head of Garth’s Capitol Records, said recently the key to a hit country song is a song with universal themes. He said today’s country audience is more upscale and isn’t into drinking and cheatin’ songs. They don’t want whiny, old timey songs. Well, then, that’s right up Don Williams’ alley.
The only thing I worry about is whether or not audiences, and major programmers are so shallow as to reject his music simply because he isn’t “a hunk”. (Sorry, Don, I think you know what I mean…)
For the record, Don Williams will be releasing his new album October 26th. “I Turned the Page” is a collection of the best 12 songs to be recorded in Nashville all year. How he managed to snag such great material from so many hot songwriters in one album is a fair question considering I’m always reading quotes from other singers grousing about how hard it is to find good material. Maybe it’s just that these songwriters know that there are very few true singers these days. There really isn’t a bad song on this album. They all revolve around themes common to everyone…love, loss, friendship and pain. All of these songs are written with beautiful imagery, and delivered with Don’s smooth understated style that makes you listen all the more. His voice has not lost one bit of the magic that time has taken from some of the long-timers still recording.
In song selection, Don again proves that he performs the thinking man’s country. Don’t read that, though, as boring or dry. It’s just a whole lot more interesting than what we usually hear from Nashville. The arrangements, as with all of his hits over the years, are contemporary sounding, yet unmistakably country. Refreshingly, no two songs on the album sound the same thanks to a variety of tempos and instrumentation.
Here’s a track by track run-down of what’s on I Turned The Page:
- “Take It Easy On Yourself” is a pretty waltz that reminds us that we need to slow down. Take life in 3/4 time, and don’t be so self critical. If Pat Quigley was looking for a song to sell to overworked Manhattanites, it’s too bad he missed this one!
- “Her Perfect Memory” is a song of a man’s wondrous appreciation for his wife’s ability to view their marriage though rosy glasses. While admitting he’s been less than perfect, he ponders, “Who am I to tamper with her perfect memory?” Pat Bunch and Doug Johnson wrote the song with a great melodic hook, and lyrics that may well remind you of your own parents.
- “Elise” is an upbeat story of a guy who falls for the lead singer of a bar band that is being largely ignored by the rowdy patrons. Elise is singing her tail off, and only one guy is buying it. It’s as close to a drinking song as you’ll ever hear Don sing.
- “Ride On” is a heartbreaking, true-to-life song about kids who escape to fantasy worlds they’ve dreamed up to cope with the pain dished out by troubled parents. I had big tears rolling down my face at the end of the second verse. Even grown up children will be touched by this powerful song reminding us all to be strong, to hold on through life’s troubled times and do what you have to to “ride on”.
- “Somethin’ Bout You” comes from the perspective of a stubborn man who finds he’s falling in love, despite his best efforts to resist. It’s contributed by another favorite writer on Music Row, Kevin Welch.
- The first single on the album is “Cracker Jack Diamond”. It’s a ‘Young Love” kind of story, but with so much imagery that a video would ruin it’s spell. It’s an upbeat tune with great harmonies, and a modern country feel to it.
- “From Now On” is also single-worthy. It’s a great all-purpose love song written by a couple of guys who have built fortunes on songs like this. Gary Burr and Don Schlitz deserve some more mailbox money for this tune. And to really help put this song over the top, I’d swear that it’s Vince Gill on harmony. (I know he worked on this album, I just don’t know on what songs…)
- “Pancho” is a really unique song, in that it’s a western. It’s the infamous Cisco Kid apologizing to his friend and sidekick, Pancho. Of course, in the TV show, Pancho had to do all of Cisco’s dirty work and was portrayed as a stereotypical dumb Mexican. In the song, Cisco says he sorry and lets him know that he really is his friend.
- “Handful of Dust” was written by Tony Arata, who also penned “The Dance”. If it wasn’t for an awkward cold, acappella introduction on this song, it would be one of the strongest songs on the album. While it’s a good song, I think that opening really hurts it. The message is another universal one, though, that without love, we’re all just a handful of dust.
- “Harry and Joe” is another great story of two old men who find friendship after their wives die. It’s a story that is played out in cities everywhere and one with a delicious twist at the end. Just when you think the worst, well, I won’t spoil it for you. Let me just say that no other singer could deliver it like Don does.
- “How Did You Do It” has a man asking his ex how she got over the pain of their breakup.
- “I Sing For Joy” is has the line that’s used for the title of the album. Co-written by Don, it explains why, after all these years, he’s still singing. He didn’t sell out, he didn’t give up, he turned the page. And he sings for joy. The pure love of it. And damn, aren’t we lucky for it.
I’ll have this at the top of my list for new releases this year. I already have a list of people I’m sending it to, some who aren’t even country fans. It’s a welcome break from the same old, same old we get these days. For Giant, it’s a gamble of sorts, but even if it doesn’t do well, they’re assured of great sales overseas where they have a better appreciation of good music, regardless of the performer’s age or “hunk” status.
Giant is a major record label, so it should be available in stores everywhere. If you don’t see it, ask the clerk. If they’re not helpful, ask for the manager. If the manager won’t help, find a different store. You can also try to find it online at www.don-williams.com. Giant is a major record label, so it should be available in stores everywhere. If you don’t see it, ask the clerk. If they’re not helpful, ask for the manager. If the manager won’t help, find a different store. You can also try to find it online at www.don-williams.com. Giant is a major record label, so it should be available in stores everywhere. If you don’t see it, ask the clerk. If they’re not helpful, ask for the manager. If the manager won’t help, find a different store. You can also try to find it online at www.don-williams.com.
From March 1997′s New Country Magazine
Don Williams, “Leaving for the Flatlands”, (Don Williams), © Everybody and Their Dog Music (ASCAP) – From the American Harvest Recording Society album, Flatlands
Back before country knew the sound of a smashing snare or an overripe rhythm section, there was a guy named Don Williams, whose studio arsenal featured little more than a softly strummed acoustic guitar, a plunking bass and a drummer equipped with brushes. Pour over the top a voice that flowed like an overturned jar of molasses, and the result was a string of smooth hit cuts like “Good Ole Boys Like Me,” “I Believe in You” and “Lord, I Hope This Day is Good,” songs simple yet compelling enough to catch the ear of rockers Eric Clapton and Pete Townshend (who both recorded Williams’ work), not to mention millions of listeners world-wide.
For Flatlands–his latest product for the American Harvest label–Williams doesn’t try to play catch-up with country trends. Instead, he simply rolls out that basic rhythm section and seasoned voice over a baker’s dozen of tunes written by himself, his son Tim, and veteran writer Don Schlitz, among others. Of course, it would be tough to put together a new Don Williams album without the inclusion of Bob McDill, writer of “Amanda” and some of Williams’ most enduring tunes. “Bob and I have had a really long association,” says Williams of his 20-plus years with the famed songwriter. “Thankfully, he always sends me tapes when he knows I’m looking for songs. He’s one of the best writers in the business who has such an incredible ability with imagery.”
Volume 55 – Number 5 – May 1996: Don Williams performs live in Renfro Valley
“The most unusual thing to me about Don Williams is that he is a superstar who does not enjoy talking about himself,” said John Lomax, in the Journal of Country Music. “He is an artist untouched by the personal turmoil common to many of today’s biggest names. Few country music artists have ever enjoyed the sort of world wide popularity Don Williams has achieved,” he continues. “He is a quiet man who chooses his words carefully. He talks slowly, always to the point. Despite his mammoth success he remains sincere, hardworking, religious and down-to-earth. Success may have spoiled many artists in the past, but it seems only to have strengthened the will of Don Williams. At heart I think he is a thoroughly decent Texas country boy who remains fully aware that he counts for no more or less, in the eyes of his Creator, than any other person.”
Don Williams is just that a Texas boy. Born in the Lone Star State and raised near Corpus Christi, Don’s first public performance came when he was three years old. When he was a teenager, he began playing the guitar, and would hurry home from school to try and pick a favorite tune he’d heard on the radio.
Before his musical career became full-time, Don worked odd jobs such as a bill collector, driving bread trucks, working in the Texas oil field, in furniture retailing, in a smelting plant, and for Pittsburgh Plate Glass. While living in Corpus Christi, Texas in 1964, Don founded the well remembered Pozo Seco Singers, a very successful trio (Lofton Cline, Susan Taylor, and Don) that sang a variety of music from folk to pop and country. Their first single, Fame, climbed into the national Top 10, and there were other chart hits by the group. The Pozos disbanded in 1969. Three years later Don released his first solo, a single titled “Don’t You Believe.’ Since then, Don has recorded with five different record labels. His latest release, Borrowed Tales was released on August 1, 1995
His laid-back country singing style has won him fame among fans and fellow artists. “In his simple, affecting songs of love and loss, Williams’ cowboy drawl resonates warmly with vocal harmonies, and sweet chording from acoustic and pedal steel guitars,” said People magazine.
In addition to being an outstanding vocalist, Williams is also an excellent songwriter. His songs have been recorded by such artists as Johnny Cash, Eric Clapton, Kenny Rogers and Pete Townshend. Williams began his writing songs at the early age of 14, with his song Walk It Off. His newest album is a collection of his personal favorites, everything from Eric Clapton’s “Lay Down Sally,” to Lefty Frizell’s “Long Black Veil.”
He has numerous television appearances to his credit, as well as co-starring with Burt Reynolds in two films: WSK & the Dixie Dancekings and Smokey & the Bandit II. Don was also the first country music artists to make a concept music video. This was produced in the 1973 in support of his third single for JMI Records, “Come Early Morning.”
Don now lives with his wife Jan near Nashville, Tennessee, and when he’s not singing or perfonning, he enjoys fishing and tinkering with his prized ’56 Chevy. Don Williams now appears in concert at select dates throughout the year. He has headlined a variety of prestigious venues, from the Sporting Club in Monte Carlo to the Roxy in Los Angeles, from a sold-out Carnegie Hall in New York to London’s Royal Albert Hall. Renfro Valley is proud to host Don Williams live on June 15. Don will perform at 7 and 9 p.m. in Renfro Valley’s New Barn. For tickets and information call 1-800-765-7464 or 606-256-2638 and ask for Renfro Valley’s ticket office.
November 8, 1996
Williams No Loafer, By FISH GRIWKOWSKY: Edmonton Sun
Don Williams. Race-car driver. Space shuttle pilot. Well, maybe not, but the singer shares the name with a lot of folks. One thing’s for sure, his voice sticks out. And, in the seething, shark-like market of modern-day country music, so does his style. As apt to croon about Jesus as a cornfield, sometimes both, Williams stands rooted in tradition, of which he was clearly part.
But turn back the clock, if you will, to a young Don Williams earning his dough … delivering bread in Texas. “I’ll tell you what really soured me on that whole experience,” he says, keenly aware of his pun. “I had put in 100 hours one week, and one day one of the other guys came by my truck and lifted about three or four racks of bread. “I said, `Man, there’s gotta be a better way of doin’ something than this …”
And find it he did. Roping an oddly strong following in the U.K., Williams hooked up with the likes of Pete Townshend and Eric Clapton. “When I started over there, the way I was accepted, with the BBC and such, was just as an artist. “They didn’t pigeon-hole me as far as being a country artist. That gave me far more exposure than if I’d been considered country,” he admits.
He’s happy about Flatlands, his new album from which he’s playing a song or two at the Jube tomorrow. “This is the first new-song album I’ve done in a few years, and I was really delighted at how many writers sent me new songs. “It only means something if it connects with someone, of course.” And Williams plans to keep on working and connecting, with both God above and his fans below in this time of country explosion. “People are getting a little put off by how everything sounds the same. “All that doesn’t make a whole lot of difference to me. I just do what I do. “These record labels, radio, whatever, should broaden the scope some and give these new artists some levity in what they can do. “They would sound waaay more original.” This slice of wisdom from an original himself. Sure beats selling bread!
Don Williams… Feature in Roughstock, March, 1997 by Craig Harris, staff writer for @Country; edited by Doug Hass, Head Administrator for Roughstock
The down-home values which Don Williams exported on his biggest hit, “I Believe In You,” continue to flourish on his latest American Harvest recording, Flatlands, and in his own life as artist. Williams’s hundred-acre spread northwest of Nashville seems like the kind of place to keep such things alive. Williams sounds like he sings — a calm, satisfied baritone that might have been borrowed from one of the steers who used to share the property with a few horses and the Williams family when the Texas-born singer-songwriter first moved there. After he began to reap the rewards of a bountiful career — five gold records and 45 Top Ten singles since 1973 — Williams had to spend more time on the road. “And being gone all the time, I got rid of the cattle, and when the kids got big enough that they got their own wheels, well, the horses kind of fell by the way.”
In the process, Williams discovered he’d also raised a couple of valuable contributors to country music. Son Gary, a drummer, has a band in Nashville, and Tim contributes some lovely rhythm and lead guitar work, backup vocals, and songwriting skill to Flatlands. Tim’s “Wash It All Away” has his father singing against a somewhat unexpected Jamaican rock-steady beat. “Hey, I love reggae, I always have,” the elder Williams points out. I love the rhythm structure and the use of instruments, but I’m sure country was my first influence. My mother listened to country music, and growing up it would have to be a catastrophic event for me to not listen to the Louisiana Hayride and Grand Ole Opry.” But even back then, in Floydada, Texas in the 1940s and 50s, Williams was attuned to other influences. “Before Bill Haley and the Comets, we had the Platters and Brook Benton, the Diamonds, and the Ink Spots, and I listened to all that. When rock began to take form, I was totally captivated by Little Richard, Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly. And I guess since junior high I always had some kind of group I practiced with and performed whenever we could.”
After his voice broke at age 12, Williams began to sound much bigger than he looked, and he found a natural role model in Jim Reeves, who was working the magic crossover boundary between country and rock alongside such singers as Johnny Horton, Webb Pierce and Elvis Presley. When folk-rock took form in the mid-60s, Williams became part of the Pozo Seco Singers, who scored a hit with “Time” in 1969.
Williams found himself surprisingly big in Britain after he went solo a few years later. “The play that I got was with the BBC, which predated independent radio over there, so everyone heard me,” he points out. “I was accepted over there as an artist, not necessarily country or pop or whatever.” Among his biggest fans were two up-and-coming rockers, Pete Townsend and Eric Clapton, the latter of whom exchanged songs with Williams (who recorded Clapton’s “Lay Down, Sally” on 1995′s album of Borrowed Tales). An Evening With Don Williams, his only live album to date, was released in 1994 and recorded at two concert halls in England and one in Wales.
Unknown to many Williams followers, “I Believe In You” was written by two Britons, Roger Cook and Sam Hogin. “I couldn’t believe that someone from England had written a song that said so much of what I feel about so many different things,” Williams admits.
“I really felt the minute I heard it that it was a major piece of work, and when we recorded it, I was scared to death that if we didn’t release it first, someone would cover it and mess it up as far as it being a single by me.” Fortunately for him and for musical history, Williams was the first to reach the charts with the good-natured, personal declaration of the power of love for simple things over the difficulties and confusion of modern life.
“I would rather talk about the hopeful, uplifting things,” Williams notes about the lack of lyrics about abusing lovers, substances, and one’s self among the songs he’s written and chosen for his albums. “It isn’t that I can’t relate to any of the negative stuff — I don’t think there’s anyone who’s breathing who can’t — but I guess it’s just my philosophy: I would rather talk to people in terms of, whatever your problems are, there’s a way of working through it, if you try hard enough.”
This philosophical stance finds Williams remembering and sometimes evoking the forthright songs of the 50s and 60s. “It’s just a personal observation, and may not be that accurate, but to me the music back then leaned much heavier on the melody, and the lyrics were very uncluttered. It was much more like someone was just sitting down and having a conversation with you. They weren’t slick; whether it was a light-hearted statement or absolutely bone-crunching heart-felt, the statements they made then and the manner in which they made them were so direct and so simple. But the simplicity of it still just hits you right where you live.”
There’s been both a moral and a musical consistency to Williams’s approach which carries through to Flatlands, but there are also new elements to be discovered, including the presence of youngest son Tim. “He likes the album a lot. He feels it’s one of the best albums I’ve done in some time,” says the proud father. “And I think it was an exciting experience for him; I know it was for me.”
And there was the adventure of taking the band into the studio to generate some spontaneous communal inventions, an experience which had previously been confined to sound checks. “I just thought that if I could get rid of any pressure and we could just all kind of jack around and hit on some of these special things that stir my imagination, maybe we could come up with something,” explains Williams. “It was absolutely exciting and terrifying, but the end result really was a lot of fun, and I think the guys really enjoyed it.” The result is manifest on “What Does It Matter to Me” and “Glass House,” both credited to The Don Williams Band.
The New Year will probably see Williams on the road for about 70 dates. “That’s enough to keep the band together, but it still gives me enough time at home to keep everything going here,” he affirms. Activity at the home base will include maintaining several vintage automobiles, fishing for sauger, catfish and bass, and thinking up more good things to say in song. Williams’s reflection illuminates a lifetime: “Hopefully, at the end of the day, after you’ve said what you’ve had to say, you’ve said something that’s gonna help folks a little bit, rather than just standing around bemoaning what’s going on.”
DON WILLIAMS (Article on Country.com)
Okay. The magic element to the mighty talent of Don Williams is this: It’s the voice. It’s a rich, thick, barbecue sauce of a thing, as warm and honest as a country preacher’s handshake, as calming as a light rain. It’s a lucky thing Williams has chosen to use that voice for the cause of goodness; in the wrong hands it could hustle used cars, hypnotize armies, perhaps even get a man elected to public office. Instead, Williams has applied that voice to singing simple songs that have moved folks from his home town of Floydada, Texas, to the Ivory Coast. Hits like “Tulsa Time”, “Amanda,” “Lay Down Beside Me,” “I Believe In You,” and “Good Ole Boys Like Me,” are testament to his talent, but he doesn’t sell a song, he doesn’t have to. All Williams has to do is open his mouth. It’s been that way for the better part of five decades, starting back when preteen Williams had Texas radio as his teacher. “I had a reasonably low voice back when I was 12 or so,” says Williams in a reasonably low voice. “I remember when I was in high school, I cut one of the first recordings that I did on any kind of equipment that amounted to anything, it was a Jim Reeves song. This guy who recorded it took it over to a restaurant that had a pretty good sound system and played it, and the people there were saying, ‘You mean this big voice came out of this little bitty guy?! ‘ Back then I was about five foot two and weighed around 120 pounds.”
If you’re going to talk about the voice, the hat is not far behind. Williams’ lived-in lid is not to be taken lightly. This is no fancy prop from some Nashville image consultant’s wardrobe locker, his battered brown headgear has been an anchor for the eyes nearly as long as the voice has been an attraction for the ears. “I’ve had this hat about 15 years,” he says, “but the original hat is not the one that I wear, this is the second hat. The first one I had stolen and ultimately got it back. Then Stetson was nice enough to invite me out and said that they would come as close as possible to trying to duplicate the hat. The original hat doesn’t even have a manufacturer’s name in it, just a gold shield that says U.S.A. ” Which is fitting; Williams has long been one of the country’s strongest exports. His albums are unwavering currency from Belgium to Spain; from Sweden to Africa to Brazil. Some of his biggest fans in Great Britain (where seemingly everyone is a Don Williams fan) are a couple of blokes named Eric Clapton and Pete Townshend, and the UK’s Country Music People magazine voted Williams Artist of the Decade. Of his 26 solo albums since 1973, five have gone gold, and 45 of his 56 singles have entered the Top 10. His original compositions have been recorded by the likes of Kenny Rogers, Johnny Cash, Charley Pride, Lefty Frizell, even Clapton and Townshend. He’s taken a turn in Hollywood, working with Burt Reynolds in the films W.W. and the Dixie Dance Kings and Smokey and the Bandit II. While you probably wouldn’t think of Williams as a techno pioneer, he was the first country artist to make a concept video – way back in the pre-TNN stone age of 1973 – for his third single, “Come Early Morning.” Perhaps the attraction to Williams’ music, from fans and fellow artists, is his non-traditional approach to country songs. You won’t find him warbling about getting bombed, driving fast and divorcing his third wife. In fact, the man has been married since 1960 to Joy. The couple have two sons.
Traditional values come easy to Williams, he’s lived by the nose-to-the-grindstone ethic all his life, through stints as a bread truck driver, bill collector, oil field hand, furniture salesman, soldier, and, of course, musician. Though he’d been singing since the age of three (when he won first prize in a talent show and took home an alarm clock), it wasn’t until the age of 25 that he took the first big step into a full-time music career. “I had always enjoyed music, but it was my hobby, something to get my mind on things other than what was going on in my life at the time. I always thought it would be the grandest thing in the world if I could make a living doing it, but I never really felt that would happen.”
How wrong he was. Along with Lofton Cline and Susan Taylor, he formed the Pozo Seco Singers in 1964. “When we started the Pozos, it was really our intention to be a folk/country group,” Williams says. “Then what we thought was the A side of our first single, a song I wrote called ‘Down The Road I Go’ was quickly overshadowed by ‘Time’, which was the other side. That pushed us more in a folk/pop direction.” “Time” made it to the Top 10, and though the trio was popular on the college circuit and charted five more times, it split in 1969. Williams stepped out of the spotlight, heading to Nashville to work as a songwriter. But his passion to get the music across his way won out, he signed to JMI Records in ’72 and has worn the mantle of “artist” ever since. “I just do what I do the way I do it. I’ve never taken drugs or got drunk just to make somebody feel like I fit the criteria. I always thought that if it was going to happen for me it would happen, and if it didn’t I would do something else.”
At this stage, the only thing Williams will have to do is keep making music. Things have pretty much worked out for the mild-mannered man from Floydada. “It’s gone far beyond anything that I expected,” he says. “If you get down to real basic terms, just the fact that I can make a living doing what I love to do, I think anyone who can do that is among the most blessed in the world.” Don says, “I’ve always appreciated songs that have the possibility of broader appeal. To this day I love songs that talk about a relationship in very strong ways, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be taken just as a guy’s feelings about his woman. It can be on a much broader scale than that; talking about a friend, or your relationship with God.”