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The Christmas crooner

I am sorry to hear that 84-year-old Andy Williams died. I love the song "Moon River." Plus, I got to interview him once and he was sweet and funny.

Yikes, that interview was back in 2000. He was coming to Shea's. Wow, that was a long time ago. Here is what I wrote:

On the phone from Cincinnati earlier this week, the 72-year-old entertainer laughed as he discussed the progress of his current Christmas tour. "The weather's been so bad!" he marveled, cheerfully. For one gig in Neenah, Wis., he reported, his two trucks - carrying lighting and sound equipment, costumes and musical scores - didn't make it. But the show went on anyway.

"We wore just what we were wearing on the plane, and borrowed instruments from a high school band. It was just awful," Williams laughed.  "I was calling the band my migrant workers from California. They looked awful, terrible, grubby. I said, "This is the worst thing I ever heard.' We just laughed."

Williams' career has been full of happenstance. Growing up in Des Moines, Iowa, he sang with his brothers on the radio. The quartet sang back-up on Bing Crosby's colossal hit "Swinging On A Star," from the 1944 movie "Going My Way." A year later, in one of the odder episodes in his life, Williams found himself dubbing Lauren Bacall's singing voice in "To Have and Have Not."

Williams said he began his solo career after his brothers broke up their act. Several times in those early days, he almost quit. "It's difficult," he admitted. "You sing and nobody cares. Years and years and years of singing in clubs, people dancing in front of your face, it's very discouraging."

As decades passed, Williams' relaxed, graceful style led to hits including "Butterfly," "Canadian Sunset," "Moon River" and the theme from "Love Story." He became best known, however, for his television shows.

He's proud of those TV shows, he said, and also of his artistic credo.

"You listen, learn from other people, and you don't fluff people off," Williams explained. "I used to come off stage and grade myself, 85, 95 . . . That's good training there. It gets you in the right frame of mind. You do the best you can."

-- Mary Kunz Goldman

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