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Native Texan Don Williams, the ‘Gentle Giant’ of Country Music Passed at Age 78

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Tony Maples Photography


Don Williams, best known for his deep, soulful voice and distinctive songs that speak to the heart, passed away last week following a brief illness. Williams was born May 27, 1939, in Floydada, Texas (located in the Panhandle of the state) but grew up in Portland, Texas near Corpus Christi.

A 1958 graduate of Gregory-Portland High School, Williams’ music career began at the tender age of three when he won a talent contest. According to the artist’s website, Williams began playing guitar during his teenage years, learning the songs that he heard on the radio. He and his friends played in local bands around the Corpus Christi area. In 1957, while in high school, Don and a group of friends played and sang for the opening of Billups Service Station in Taft, Texas. They were paid a total of $25.

Musical Beginnings in the Corpus Christi Area

Don Williams

Photo: Facebook/Don Williams Music

Williams wed wife, Joy Bucher on April 10, 1960. To support his family–which would grow to include two sons, Gary and Timmy–Williams worked at a number of odd jobs, including oil field work, and also as a bill collector. While living in Corpus Christi in 1964, he formed the folk-styled trio The Pozo Seco Singers with Lofton Cline and Susan Taylor.

His big break came in 1971 when Williams found his way to Nashville. There he got a record deal and recorded such chart toppers as “Tulsa Time,” “She Never Knew Me,” and “It Must Be Love.” He was named the Male Vocalist of the Year by the Country Music Association in 1978.

Collaborations with Keith Urban and Others

Don Williams Keith Urban

Photo: Facebook/Don Williams Music

The 1980s were a successful decade for Williams as it notched his biggest hit with 1981’s “I Believe In You,” which not only topped the Country charts but crossed over to No. 24 on the Hot 100. Williams continued to perform for sold-out crowds in America and abroad, playing a final tour in 2006. After 2006, he made a few appearances on the road, adding vocal contributions to such artists as Alison Krauss, Vince Gill, and Keith Urban, but in 2016, Williams decided that the time was right for his final performance. Calling it a career after one of the most successful careers in the history of the Country Music business, Williams is quoted as saying, “It’s time to hang my hat up and enjoy some quiet time at home. I’m so thankful for my fans, my friends and my family for their everlasting love and support.”

“I Believe in Music…and I Believe in You”

Don Williams

Photo: Facebook/Don Williams Music

When the news of Williams’ passing started to trickle through social media last week, many shared this verse from Williams’ best-known song, “I Believe In You.” It seems fitting and prophetic:

“I don’t believe that heaven waits for only those who congregate

I like to think of God as love He’s down below He’s up above

He’s watchin’ people everywhere He knows who does and doesn’t care

And I’m an ordinary man sometimes I wonder who I am

But I believe in love I believe in music I believe in magic and I believe in you”