Besides his success as a crooner, Andy Williams was king of the TV variety hosts
As a kid, I never really knew Andy Williams as a pop music star; to me, he was always the nice-looking guy who sang a few tunes in-between the stars I really wanted to see on his variety show.
Airing on NBC through the '60s and in syndication at the first half of the 1970s, Williams' show was a tribute to old school, Las Vegas-tinged showbiz, with appearance by Nancy Wilson, Jonathan Winters, Anthony Newley, Bobby Darin and more. To my young eyes, it was like Sinatra's Rat Pack without the danger -- a bit of televised warm milk to usher you into the world of show people.
I can't imagine what the American Idol generation would make of Williams' show, which was deliberate as a Bing Crosby ballad and twice as wholesome. Those were the days when TV shows just aimed cameras at stage performers and let them do their gigs; no need to wrap great singing in a contrived contest or footage of backstage drama.
Our pop music critic Sean Daly has a wonderful tribute to Williams in today's newspaper, noting how he provided an "old fashioned stability" to a nation deep in the civil rights movement and Vietnam.
But it's also worth noting how his TV show brought a variety of entertainment to homes across the country, decades before The Voice and American Idol. Enjoy a few samples below; hat tip to my pal Roger Catlin, who let me know about this wild collabo between Williams, Ray Charles, Mama Cass and Elton John (!).