Our Huckleberry Friend
September 26, 2012 1:34 PM   Subscribe

Popular US crooner Andy Williams, best known for singing the bittersweet "Moon River" (YouTube link), is dead at age 84.

Peak Crooner had long been attained when Andy Williams started his career---the popular music craze begun by Rudy Vallee and Bing Crosby had reached its heights with Frank Sinatra, and was already the stuff of second-string Vegas casino stages and television variety shows hosted by the likes of Perry Como, but Williams's smooth, melodic tones and his affable personality made him a favorite with audiences from his very first performance of "Moon River" on the 1962 Academy Awards broadcast. The Breakfast at Tiffany's theme, by Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer, won the Oscar, and launched Williams to stardom.

He eventually got his own television variety show, which ran from 1962 to 1969, featuring performers as disparate as The Osmond Brothers and Elton John. Williams's appeal to older audiences remained strong (my own great-aunt Frances was a big fan) even as music tastes changed. He earned a number of gold records with largely forgettable ballads; though his rich voice and impeccable phrasing always shone, he never found another number as magically suited for him as "Moon River".

Eventually, like all US performers who primarily appeal to older white audiences, Williams opened a theater in Branson, Missouri. His was called the Andy Williams Moon River Theater, and he performed there until his health no longer permitted.
posted by Sidhedevil (52 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

Overheard on Twitter this morning: "Nelson Muntz inconsolable."
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:37 PM on September 26, 2012 [21 favorites]

Williams attracted some notoriety when his ex-wife, singer Claudine Longet, went on trial for the murder of her boyfriend, skier Spider Sabich, in 1976. Williams, who had three children with Longet and who had by his account a good friendship with her after their separation and divorce, stood by her; she was eventually convicted of a lesser charge in Sabich's death.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:38 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

posted by tommasz at 1:44 PM on September 26, 2012

The first non-country act to go Branson. His theater there was featured in Architectural Digest.
posted by Egg Shen at 1:48 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Claudine Longet wasn't just a pretty face or crack shot, she was a spectacularly gifted singer. Er, maybe peculiarly gifted singer would be better. She's not for everybody, but I think she's one of the all-time greats. White Horses, Let's Spend The Night Together. Dig the lisp.
posted by Fnarf at 1:52 PM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

posted by Aquaman at 1:56 PM on September 26, 2012

posted by m@f at 1:56 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

"Nelson Muntz inconsolable."

Sorry to derail but I'm 32 and there are so many celebrities, artists, writers, & other notables that I learned about because of The Simpsons. Prior to this episode I knew of the song but The Simpsons gave him a face and a name.

posted by Fizz at 1:57 PM on September 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

Yeah, I could only find a clip in Spanish... or this sound.

posted by Madamina at 2:04 PM on September 26, 2012

posted by jquinby at 2:12 PM on September 26, 2012


Knew I shoulda gone to see him in Branson.
posted by Atreides at 2:21 PM on September 26, 2012

I accidentally caught part of the primetime emmys the other night. This has been a bad year. We lost a lot of the great ones.

Hurry up, December.

posted by chemoboy at 2:22 PM on September 26, 2012

posted by BlackLeotardFront at 2:39 PM on September 26, 2012

I spent much of my elementary and junior high school years fantasizing about slow dancing to Moon River at a school dance with my childhood crush. We would sway together and press chastely up against each other while Andy crooned in the background. I was sure that we'd lean into a kiss after the words "we're after the same rainbow's end, my Huckleberry friend."

Never figured out what a Huckleberry friend was, and the miraculous dance and kiss never happened either, but thank you Andy Williams for hours of dreaming.

posted by jasper411 at 2:50 PM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

WTF is a huckleberry friend? Is that like a guy you go on river rafting trips with? This song lyric bugged the hell out of me when I was a kid and they played this song on the old folks channel my grandma always listened to. See also: Roger Whittaker.
posted by bukvich at 2:51 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

RIP Andy. You had a vast influence over popular culture for decades. Thanks for existing, I hope people remember you long into the future.

posted by hippybear at 3:03 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

posted by bz at 3:09 PM on September 26, 2012

posted by Artw at 3:12 PM on September 26, 2012

R.I.P. Andy Williams. Can't Get Used To Losing You.
posted by MonkeyToes at 3:17 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Johnny Mercer said in an interview that a "huckleberry friend" was a friend you could drift down a river with like Huckleberry Finn.
posted by Sidhedevil at 3:21 PM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

posted by Smart Dalek at 3:29 PM on September 26, 2012

posted by dougkess at 3:41 PM on September 26, 2012

My parents have an old hi-fi with tubes and a record player that plays 16-33-45-78's, and lots of records that no cool parent would ever own (easy listening collections of pop hits of the 70's?!?).
And there were the Christmas albums. From a 78 of Gene Autry singing Frosty the Snowman, to the Disney Christmas album of the 70's, we had hours of Christmas music that would cue up on the spindle and drop down, one by one. My mom's favorites though, were the two Andy Williams carol collections. My mom liked to sing, in the car with the radio, to the golden oldies channel on cable she's put on for the bird. Whenever there was music she knew, she sing in beautiful, effortless harmonies that I was always so envious of. She loved those Andy Williams records, and would sing along to the old-fashioned carols people don't sing anymore. Looking back it's probably one of my favorite Christmas traditions, those Andy Williams albums; so much so that when one of the speakers on the hi-hi finally gave out, I special-ordered those albums on CD (pre-internet) so we could keep listening to them, but it wasn't the same. Last year, after my mom got sick, my dad decided to surprise her and ordered replacement speakers and restored the old hi-hi to its former glory, and we played those Andy Williams christmas records throughout the Christmas season and it was just like the old days. We just didn't know it would be her last Christmas with us. But thanks to Andy, I'll always be able to hear my mom's beautiful voice singing along with him.

God speed, Andy.

posted by ApathyGirl at 3:41 PM on September 26, 2012 [13 favorites]

My mom was a huge fan of his. I'm old enough to remember watching when he was on television. When a read about his passing earlier today, I was wondering if any of you kids would even care or know enough about him to make a front page post.
posted by crunchland at 3:47 PM on September 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

I've cried about this a ridiculous amount.
posted by JanetLand at 3:50 PM on September 26, 2012

I had taken Andy Williams for granted until a friend pointed out that his crooning style was a big influence on my hipster god Scott Walker. Kinda puts things in another cosmic perspective.
posted by ovvl at 3:57 PM on September 26, 2012

I always loved him even though I was really absolutely the wrong age to do so. I also came here just now to see if anyone had put up a post. So thanks for doing this.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 4:03 PM on September 26, 2012

Remembering [Andy Williams'] Christmas Specials (Video), Jen Chaney, The Washington Post, 26 September 2012
While that “dream maker ... heart breaker” of a song may have been Williams’s signature tune, as the Post’s Maura Judkis rightly notes, it’s hardly the only thing for which the popular singer was known. In fact when some hear the name Andy Williams, the first thing they immediately think is: Christmas.

Not only did Williams release multiple Christmas albums over the years, all of which included his famous take on “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” he also hosted recurring Christmas specials even after his original variety series, “The Andy Williams Show,” ended its run in the early 1970s. Over the years, big stars — from the Osmonds to Dorothy Hamill to, yes, Punky Brewster and Joey Lawrence — joined Williams to celebrate the season.

It only seemed appropriate to remember the life of Mr. Christmas with a few clips from some of his holiday classics.
Williams is, as Sidhedevil noted in the post, perhaps best known for Moon River, but more people probably hear his rendition of Most Wonderful Time of the Year more often.

R.I.P., Andy.
posted by ob1quixote at 4:03 PM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

A sublime version of Scarborough Fair with Simon and Garfunkel.
posted by plastic_animals at 4:05 PM on September 26, 2012 [4 favorites]

Bummer. I posted about My Huckleberry Friend in a previous incarnation. I'm also not afraid to say that I loved his choice of sweaters.
posted by unliteral at 4:15 PM on September 26, 2012


My parents went to one of his Christmas performances about 25 years ago and took me along. It was the first concert I ever attended. For me, Christmas isn't Christmas without Andy.
posted by Hop123 at 4:26 PM on September 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

WTH! nostalgically revisiting that link, it was changed between May and September 2007 but is still available via Wayback for all your listening needs.
posted by unliteral at 4:31 PM on September 26, 2012


While he called himself a lifelong Republican, he was a good friends with Robert and Ethel Kennedy, campaigned for Kennedy, and was at the hotel when the presidential candidate was assassinated. In addition to singing Ava Maria at the funeral, Mrs. Kennedy asked that he sing The Battle Hymn Of The Republic. In 1969, Williams and his wife named their son Bobby, after Kennedy.

He was a collector of modern art and displayed pieces from his collection in his theater in Branson. The building design used rock formations, waterfalls, koi filled ponds, ferns and trees native to the Ozarks. The inside of the theater incorporates the outside. Trees and plants are seen throughout the theater's three lobbies. The building's design won an Architectural Digest award.

Other hits included Love Story, Butterfly, and Can't Get Used To Losing You.
posted by Anitanola at 4:40 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

My dad had his records, and he was, along with other dad favorites Dean Martin, Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra, a big part of the aural background of my childhood days.

And Claudine Longet, wow, there was some serious boyhood crush material, right there. Wowza.

So long, Andy.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:49 PM on September 26, 2012

Does anyone know if the pizzicato strings at the beginning of Can't Get Used to Losing You have ever been sampled in anything? They sound like they'd be perfect for something in the style of Bittersweet Symphony.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:10 PM on September 26, 2012

posted by NordyneDefenceDynamics at 5:10 PM on September 26, 2012

posted by condour75 at 5:13 PM on September 26, 2012

Swear to god, "Moon River" is my dog George's favorite song.

It probably has something to do with the melody and the goofy way we sing it to him to get a reaction.

But maybe it's some kind of cosmic spiritual ode to his departed great-grandmother (my grandmother) who grew up in The Ozarks, not far from Branson.

Or maybe, I like to think, it's because he was born under the moonlight next to a river in Taiwan, a nervous feral pup who had no idea he'd end up living 8,000 miles away with some weirdos in Brooklyn.

It's a mystery.

But boy he loves that song.

R.I.P. Mr. Andy.
posted by dyobmit at 5:17 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, yeah, "Most Wonderful Time of the Year" is amazing. The way he punches "much" in "There'll be much mistletoeing" is gorgeous.

His enunciation of even the most banal lyric was always impeccable and made you want to believe.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:31 PM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

At last, the bear gets his cookie. But, he'd rather have Andy back.
posted by SPrintF at 5:32 PM on September 26, 2012

Andy Williams once visited Spokane (Washington) and was eating at a riverfront cafe with his party when my husband came in for a brief lunch break from his work. The place was busy; there was nowhere to sit except for an empty seat at Williams' party's table. Mr. Williams said to my husband, "Why don't you come on over here and sit with us?" Bless you, Andy. Hope you're crossing the big river in style today.
posted by Lynsey at 5:35 PM on September 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

Good grief, I haven't thought of him in ages. If you'd have asked, I would have guessed he was already long gone.

Moon River was one of the few songs 'adult' songs I knew as an eight year old. I could belt that sucker out with the best of 'em.

Good night, Mr. Williams.

posted by BlueHorse at 5:43 PM on September 26, 2012

Christmas, for me, always sounds like Andy Williams.
posted by stltony at 6:29 PM on September 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Saturday Night. I am 15 or 16 or 17, and The Andy Williams Show comes on. I am sitting there with my parents and little brother watching it because I could not get a date, and did not have the where-with-all to go out of the house and make something happen, even in the SoCal beach town that I grew up in.

So I am watching this guy in a sweater, pondering on the miserableness of my life, wishing I were anywhere else, even in prison.

And, for the longest time, his visage was attached, in my psyche, to my state of being a loser, Saturday night after Saturday night after Saturday night. It is only recently that I have enjoyed and appreciated his long and successful career.

posted by Danf at 7:26 PM on September 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Aww. I was just looking through my parents' albums today, and, like everyone who bought records in the 1960s, they had disk after disk of Andy Williams. Sad news.

posted by Mael Oui at 7:31 PM on September 26, 2012

Although my folks' taste in music embarrassed the hell out of me when I was in high school, I'm now grateful that I was exposed to Andy Williams, the Ink Spots, and even Tennessee Ernie Ford. (Can't say the same re Mitch Miller.)

BTW - SNL news update did a segment re the "Claudine Longet Invitational Ski Tournament", which featured shot-after-shot of skiers in spectacular wipe-outs - each preceded by the sound of a gunshot.

(I know - that's not funny, that's sick.)
posted by she's not there at 7:42 PM on September 26, 2012

He lived for many years on West 53rd Street in the Museum of Modern Art condo building, Museum Tower. He'd stop by my African art street vending spot, talk and buy. He was a lovely person, gentle, soft spoken, friendly easy-going, unpretentious. Some years later I saw an Architectural Digest magazine article on his apartment. Wow, he had an extraordinary and beautiful collection of West African art.

Glad he got a good long run.

*•. .•*Wishing him melodic resonance on cosmic moonbeams.
posted by nickyskye at 8:27 PM on September 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

My dad still sings Moon River as he potters around the garden. Thanks for the memories Andy.

posted by arcticseal at 8:40 PM on September 26, 2012

posted by rleamon at 9:07 PM on September 26, 2012

Crunchland, we're all kids in some way. But I know how you feel.
posted by chemoboy at 11:35 PM on September 26, 2012

When a read about his passing earlier today, I was wondering if any of you kids would even care or know enough about him to make a front page post.

There's enough oldsters here to remember ol' Andy.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 4:04 PM on September 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

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