Still crooning after all these years

By PAT NASON, UPI Hollywood Reporter
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LOS ANGELES, Aug. 22 (UPI) -- At 74, singing legend Andy Williams is slowing his schedule down a bit -- but not much.

The star of the Emmy-winning "Andy Williams Show" (1958-71) recently wrapped up a two-week tour in England, where there has been a resurgence of interest in his music. Now he is getting ready to open a three-and-a-half month run at his Moon River Theater in Branson, Mo. on Sept. 6, sharing the bill with Glen Campbell.


Williams will finish the stand on Dec. 10, after performing the annual Christmas show that his fans have looked forward to each year since he was doing annual holiday specials decades ago on network TV.

Fifty-eight years after he and his brothers -- The Williams Brothers -- sang with Bing Crosby on the 1944 hit "Swinging on a Star," and 45 years after scoring his first hit record, "Canadian Sunset," Williams isn't making new hits, but some of his old ones are finding new audiences.


In the past two years, British record buyers have made hits of "Music to Watch Girls By" and "Can't Take My Eyes off of You," a pair of Williams' hits from the 1960s. Frankie Valli had the U.S. hit on "Can't Take My Eyes off of You," but Williams' version of the song was the hit in England.

Both Williams records found new popularity England after being used in car commercials.

"When I went over there last year, it was like I was Ricky Martin," said Williams. "Girls were jumping up and screaming. It was nuts."

The fans in Branson are not quite so demonstrative.

Williams said evening audiences are often lively but some audience members at early shows seem "half asleep." Apparently, that's life in Branson -- but Williams thinks the entertainment center might be getting a little hipper.

"In the summer for a week or two last year they had The Beach Boys," he said in a telephone interview with UPI from Branson. "I don't know how well that would go over in the fall, where it's mostly older retired people, with campers and vans."

In any case, Williams is glad he can still sing -- considering what he went through in 1999, when he sustained vocal cord damage that made him wonder whether he would ever since again.


"It was a scare," said Williams. "I called Julie Andrews because she had just had an operation. She said don't use my doctor."

Andrews told Williams that Dr. Gerald Berke, chief of head and neck surgery at UCLA Medical Center, was "terrific." So Williams saw Berke -- who recommended silence instead of surgery, to see if the problem would fix itself.

"I didn't talk for two months, didn't sing for nine or 10 months," said Williams.

For the first time, the singer canceled his annual Christmas show. When he was able to sing again, Williams performed at a Society of Singers tribute to Andrews. It didn't go well.

"I sang ... just rotten," said Williams.

Another legendary singer, Pat Boone, was at the event. He called Williams and recommended a vocal coach, who ended up advising Williams over the course of a half dozen lessons that the best thing he could do would be to get back in shape.

"I got thinking about tennis players, or any athlete," he said. "It takes them a long time to get back. I guess it was natural that having spent all my life and then not singing for 10 months -- it is a muscle, and like any other muscle in your body if you don't use it, it just gets weak."


As scary as the episode was, Williams -- whose parade of hits includes "Moon River," "Days of Wine and Roses" and "Can't Get Used to Losing You" -- said he was prepared to accept the outcome if his singing days were over.

"I was thinking, well, if I can't sing anymore that's okay, because I'd done everything I wanted to do, he said. "I would have gone on and done something else. If I was 45 it would have been different, but I was 70."

He said he had been ready to cut back his performing schedule anyway.

"I just decided I would work only in September, October, November and part of December, and six weeks in April and May," said Williams. "That's pretty good for me because I get my fix of singing and it gives me time to do other things too."

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