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Don Williams Dead at 78

Don Williams
Jason Kempin, Getty Images

Country singer-songwriter Don Williams died on Friday (Sept. 8), a representative for the artist reports, following a short illness. He was 78 years old.

Williams was born on May 27, 1939, in Floydada, Texas, but grew up in Portland, located on the state’s eastern coast. The artist entered, and won, his first talent contest at the age of three (his prize was an alarm clock), and he began playing the guitar as a teenager. Williams married Joy Bucher in April of 1960; to support himself, his wife and their two children, Gary and Timmy, he worked a number of odd jobs.

In 1964, while living in Corpus Christi, Williams, Lofton Cline and Susan Taylor formed the Pozo Seco Singers, a folk trio. In their years together, the group earned six hits on the pop charts, the biggest of which was “Time.”

After the group disbanded in 1969, Williams soon found his way to Nashville. By 1971, he had earned a songwriting contract, and the following year, he signed with JMI Records. Williams debuted on the country charts in 1973, with “The Shelter of Your Eyes,” the same year in which he released his first album, Don Williams Volume One. In 1974, Williams earned his first No. 1 song, “I Wouldn’t Want to Live If You Didn’t Love Me.”

From 1974 through 1991, all of Williams’ singles landed in the Top 40 on the Billboard country charts. He was named Male Vocalist of the Year at the CMA Awards in 1978 and, in the 1970s and ’80s, appeared in two movies: W.W. and The Dixie Dancekings, and Smokey and the Bandit II. In 2010, Williams became a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame.

In March of 2016, Williams announced his retirement. The 6-foot-1 singer was recently forced to cancel his 2016 tour due to an unexpected hip replacement surgery, which likely played a part in his decision to retire. Williams most recently released a new album, Reflections, in 2014 and spent much of 2015 on the road.

In 2017, Williams was the subject of a tribute album, Gentle Giants: The Songs of Don Williams. The disc features Lady Antebellum and Garth Brooks, among many others.

Funeral arrangements for Williams are pending.

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