IOWA ICON: Andy Williams (1927-2012)
The songs were of another era.
But the voice of Andy Williams kept them alive as the Iowan crooned into his ninth decade.
There were many places that claimed him, but he was Iowa’s first. Born in Wall Lake in December of 1927 where he and his brothers began singing at the Presbyterian church. They would reunite there outside their old home in the 1990s.
In the 30s, the Williams family moved to Des Moines–right next door to Arthur Schreves, who became friends with Andy’s older brother, Bob.
“Andy, he was just a little guy about six years old,” said Schreves, ”and Bob kind of looked after him, his mother wasn’t too well at the time.”
The Williams Brothers quartet got its start on WHO radio’s Barn Dance.
“Well, they were starting to sing together then,” Schreves recalled, ”I remember them being out on the front porch with their dad and the four boys, singing.”
That was on Brattleboro Avenue near Drake University. The home is still there, and so is the front porch.
There’s little doubt that Andy Williams’ fans were those who grew up with his Billboard hits in the 50s, his variety show in the 60s featuring duets with other superstars.
But it was his Oscar-night performance of a Henry Mancini song in 1962 that made him a legend.
Moon River became the Williams calling card…and eventually, the name of his theater in Branson, Missouri. Iowans visited him there, often.
“In about five minutes he came out,” recalled Jack Lashier of his backstage visit in 2004, ”and he spent fifteen minutes with my wife and I and just talked about Iowa and Wall Lake and Des Moines and WHO and all of this stuff that we have honored him and he still had a great, warm spot in his heart for Iowa.”
He has a spot in the Iowa Hall of Pride’s “Hall of Heroes, to assure a lasting legacy. Not that that was in doubt. The voice of Andy Williams reached generations of Americans and this Iowa Icon won’t be forgotten by them.