Mr. Christmas: The Christmas Music of Andy Williams

I grew up listening to Elvis Presley and Bing Crosby at Christmas. Actually, I grew up thinking they were essential Christmas listening, maybe even all you’d ever need. While it’s true that for me and my family these two artists have become cherished Yuletide traditions, as I’ve grown older I have come to embrace and love many other artists’ contributions to Christmas music and much listening has been added to my year-end celebrations. I’ve come to learn that other singers also thought highly of the season and returned to it in song regularly. Some artists have affected people much the same way King and Bing have affected me. One artist is Canonsburg’s Perry Como. Another is Howard Andrew Williams of Wall Lake, Iowa. Indeed, Andy Williams has come to be known by many as “Mr. Christmas”.

Like Crosby and unlike Presley, Williams recorded Christmas music often throughout his career, from near the beginning of it until the end. What Andy Williams had that allowed him to make visible contributions to the music of the Christmas season was his television variety program, The Andy Williams Show. As opposed to a performer becoming popular and then being given a show, Andy started his TV run at about the same time he was gaining traction as a recording artist. The show debuted September 27, 1962 with Peggy Lee as a guest star and by this time Andy had moved to Columbia Records from Cadence but had only released a handful of albums and singles for the label – my favourite Andy record and one of my favourites by any artist, Warm and Willing, was released the same month the show started. Williams had, however, already recorded his signature song, Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer’s “Moon River” from Breakfast and Tiffany’s and had sang it on the Oscar telecast on April 9 of that year so Andy was certainly becoming well-known. The Andy Williams Show would run until 1971 and all manner of guest stars appeared on the show. But every December viewers would eagerly anticipate the show’s Christmas edition and much of the excitement came from the expected appearance of men who would become Andy’s regular Christmas guests. They weren’t huge stars like Bobby Darin or Herb Alpert, Sammy Davis, Jr. or Robert Goulet. Instead the Christmas show was added a touch of home and family by the appearance of Andy’s own family. Williams himself has said that, throughout the year, his well-rated program had big performances and fine productions. The Christmas show was more “laid back”, even hokey but pleasant and sincere. A real family affair and something that audiences sitting home in their living rooms with their own families could really connect with.

Don, Andy, Bob, Dick. Great sweaters.

Andy Williams had started in show business as the youngest member of the Williams Brothers. Bob, Don, Dick and Andy sang on the radio before moving to Hollywood. There, they sang on Bing Crosby’s Oscar-winning song “Swinging on a Star” and appeared in four films. They were contracted by MGM to feature in Anchors Aweigh and Ziegfeld Follies (both 1945) when Bob was drafted and the studio cancelled the contract. Entertainer Kay Thompson stepped in and – realizing the boys’ talent – formed a night club act with them. Debuting in Las Vegas in 1947, they were an instant smash and became one of the highest-paid night club acts in the world. After the act broke up in 1951, Andy and his brothers went their separate ways, the three oldest siblings contenting themselves with lower-profile work in the industry or leaving the business altogether. Andy found his way to Cadence Records where he enjoyed his first popularity. Late in 1961, Andy Williams signed with Columbia Records and began a career with few parallels.

© Columbia Records

The Andy Williams Christmas Album (1963)Like Perry Como, it was the warmth of Andy’s voice that fit in nicely with Christmas music and this can be seen from the outset on his very first Christmas album released on Columbia in October of ’63. Actually, there is much to report on concerning this album alone so get ready. Out of the gates, Andy shows that he knows by starting his career in this idiom with Berlin’s immortal “White Christmas”. And here’s my chance to talk about Robert Mersey. Mersey was a house arranger and producer at Columbia Records and had worked with Andy on his Warm and Willing record. I suppose it was studying Sinatra and his relationships with his arrangers that schooled me on the importance of this role. The musical “settings” provided to a singer can often make or break a recording, the very best of course adding to the overall effect of a vocalist’s offerings. Sinatra/Riddle, sure but I’m also thinking of the sumptuous ballads of Johnny Mathis given resonance by Canadian Percy Faith and Gordon Jenkins’ sweeping strings on Nat Cole’s Love is the Thing. Bob Mersey was certainly in tune with the voice of Andy Williams and provides delightful accompaniment on this record, starting with “White Christmas”.

Here I’m also given the rare opportunity to discourse on a fascinating lady, the aforementioned Thompson. Kay was quite a lady. She began her career on radio and she went on to be popular not only as a singer and performer but as a songwriter, vocal coach, choreographer and author; she created and wrote the Eloise children’s books. She mentored Andy and his brothers when she formed their atomic night club act. Inventive Kay added her own “Holiday Season” segment to Irving Berlin’s “Happy Holiday” and “Happy Holiday/The Holiday Season” debuted at the Hollywood Bowl on December 22, 1945. She had created nothing less than a true gem of the season, one that serves as a perfect curtain-raiser for all the Yuletide festivities we love so much.

Kay Thompson and the Williams Brothers.

Andy’s version of “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)” is one of the few that can stand with Nat Cole’s perfect rendition. Again, credit Mersey for creating a wonderful orchestration for this revered song. “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” is Andy’s greatest contribution to the Christmas canon. George Wyle was a composer and vocal director who was working on Andy’s TV show when he composed this song for Andy to sing on his second TV Christmas show. It has since been recorded by countless artists and is one of the most successful songs of the season. This is down to its engaging lyric celebrating the thrills of the season and to Andy’s effervescent reading of it. Williams scored yet another Top 40 hit when in 2017 “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” hit Number 34 on Billboard’s Hot 100. It is a contemporary Christmas standard, nothing less than one of the greatest and most cherished Christmas songs ever recorded.

Similar to “Happy Holiday/The Holiday Season”, Thompson had first sung her “hot new arrangement” of “Jingle Bells” with its “rip-roaring harmonics” at the Hollywood Bowl during Christmas ’45 and “Kay Thompson’s Jingle Bells” was a sensation1. It’s a long story that I plan to get into one day but Andy Williams and Kay Thompson had an affair while they were working together, despite Andy being half Kay’s age. In 1961, they had broken their relationship and Andy married Claudine Longet. As an olive branch of sorts, Williams included two of Kay’s songs on his first Christmas record.

With a jubilant first side and a second side filled with carols including Andy’s fine renditions of “O Holy Night” and “Silent Night, Holy Night”, The Andy Williams Christmas Album serves as one of the most perfectly realized Christmas records you will hope to find. The first side alone is essential seasonal listening. And successful? Try to follow me; for eleven years – between 1963 and 1973 – Billboard published an annual Christmas Albums sales chart. For the first three of those years, The Andy Williams Christmas Album reached the Number One spot and for every one of those eleven years it featured for at least one week on the chart. That means that consistently, into the mid-’70’s, the album was among the best-selling Christmas LPs. The album even charted on Billboard‘s Hot 100 main albums chart in both 2018 and 2019. Similar to Bing Crosby, Andy got it right on his first try and while he continued to release fine Christmas records throughout his life, the most cherished, revered and durable is this first go-’round. Only beef; the frustrating lack of any liner notes whatsoever on the original record jacket.

© Columbia Records

Merry Christmas (1965) — Easy to say that Andy’s second Christmas album pales in comparison to his legendary first and serves mostly as a companion. But on its own it has lots to offer. Credit again goes to Mr. Robert Mersey. Can an arranger present a beloved Christmas song of recent or ancient vintage in a refreshing way without drastically changing a song many are familiar with and have grown to love? Mersey can answer in the affirmative. Case in point his “Sleigh Ride”, the lead-off track here. This wonderful song needs little to make it appealing and it could be wrecked by messing with its structure but Bob Mersey finds the right balance, adding a swiftly buoyant string setting and a jingling vocal chorus that makes this an uptempo literal ride with Andy on his sonic sleigh. “Giddy-up, giddy-up, giddy-up, let’s go!” followed by joyous brass. Perfect, really, with a nice key change.

A delicate, heartfelt “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” is followed later by a judicious “Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!”. Only Herb Alpert and his TJB make this usually jaunty song a more mellow fireside ode to relaxation than Andy and Bob do here. Makes sense to me; storm warnings? Bah! Let it snow. We are inside where it’s cozy and warm. “Christmas Holiday” is a fun waltz written by Craig Vincent Smith, who also wrote the song “Salesman” that lead off one of the better Monkees’ albums, 1967’s Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. This song celebrating the joys of the season seems to be Andy’s own as you’ll not find many other versions.

Like his first record, Merry Christmas featured a secular Side One and a second side loaded with carols and gentler fare and Andy does particularly well on “Silver Bells”. Also like The Andy Williams Christmas Album, this second record was immensely popular. It charted for six consecutive seasons on the Christmas Albums chart, landing in the top spot in ’66 and ’69. Andy Williams would wait almost a decade to issue another album of Yuletide favourites and by that time music had changed. Andy’s approach had, too. The results were otherworldly.

© Columbia Records

Christmas Present (1974) — It’s 1974, the age of Bread. I dunno, maybe not really but you can hear the influence of David Gates’ soft rock outfit on this Andy’s third Christmas album. Case in point the title track featuring light wah-wah guitar and “O Come All Ye Faithful”‘s introduction with an acoustic guitar. Consider that this was released by Andy in between his The Way We Were and You Lay So Easy on My Mind albums, both bearing his soft rock stylings, an approach that can be heard on this record on tracks like “What Child Is This”. At this point in his career, I would accept criticism of Williams and his penchant for scanning the Top 40 listings for 12 softies to cover at his next recording session. But the Williams Touch is a perfect template to apply to these Christmas songs. This is a record of gentle perfection. Andy Williams was almost 48 when he recorded this album but his restrained vocal caresses these 13 songs. Listen how he handles the ending of “O Come All Ye Faithful”, the elongated “Gloria” in “Angels We Have Heard on High” and the last note of Side Two’s “Ave Maria”. You may like Andy’s singing here or you may not. But make no mistake; his singing on Christmas Present is perfect. Full stop.

My man, Ernie Freeman

Here is another case of an astute arranger adding much to the Christmas music of Howard Andrew; first Robert Mersey and now with this record, Ernie Freeman. Its a testament to Freeman’s talent and versatility that he could get his start working with rock and R&B groups and putting out his own records in this idiom and then transition to a creator of classy arrangements for virtually every major vocalist of the Sixties. Even just as a performer, I will always be indebted to Ernie and his Ernie Freeman Combo for their delightful “Mountain Greenery” on Capitol’s Cocktail Capers compilation, part of the Ultra-Lounge series. But consider that Freeman arranged Sinatra’s iconic “Strangers in the Night” – work for which he was awarded a Grammy – and Dean Martin’s iconic “Everybody Loves Somebody”, that knocked the Beatles out of the top spot on the charts in 1965. Ernie also arranged for Connie Francis, Johnny Mathis and Petula Clark, all this in addition to becoming musical director at Frank’s Reprise Records. Throughout the decade of the 1960’s, Freeman arranged songs on almost every one of the sessions produced by Snuff Garrett; look up the prolific Snuff to see how much work that entails. Before retiring, he knocked off some string arrangements for Simon and Garfunkel’s Bridge Over Troubled Water album in 1970 – and won another Grammy.

Provided to YouTube by Columbia/Legacy.

Freeman and Williams are in sync here. Listen to Ernie’s work with the five-note sets played by the strings at the end of “Joy to the World” and the whole chart for “Angels We Have Heard on High”. Is that an oboe that starts “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”? Just gorgeous work by these two men on a wonderful but sadly hard-to-find record.

© Curb Records

I Still Believe in Santa Claus (1990) — Andy’s first three Christmas records are, I would say, essential. His next Christmas records are not. But they serve as pleasing additions to his canon. Case in point this record Andy made for Curb Records in 1990. He still is in good voice, the backing tracks are still traditional and the album sounds fine. I always respect a performer trying to add something new to the world of Christmas music. Harry Connick may be the best at this but the problem is that it is what golfers call a “low-percentage shot”; sure, it may turn out great but its more likely to be a miss and disappear into the mists of time. But if songwriters never made the effort… If Leiber and Stoller never went into the other room and put their heads together with the clock ticking, we wouldn’t have “Santa Claus is Back in Town”. And I would cry. So I don’t knock it but…

Andy here takes a chance on “The Christmas Vow (This is My Promise)”, a pleasant song that has its origins as a Hawaiian melody written by one Charles E. King in the early days of the 20th century. King was a part-Hawaiian born in Honolulu who grew to be a legislator and an educator but really made his name as a composer; his “Ke Kali Nei Aua (Waiting There for Thee)”, otherwise known as “Hawaiian Wedding Song” has been recorded by many, Williams and Presley included. “The Christmas Vow” is a good effort and a nice song; just how long it will stay with you is up for debate.

The same can be said for a song that Andy conjectured would be a new regular at Christmas. “Christmas Needs Love to Be Christmas” is a song Williams debuted on this record. It’s a sincere song and easy on the ears but, as you may have noticed, it has not caught on. Interesting to note that, a full 17 years later, Juice Newton included it on her seasonal album, The Gift of Christmas. I Still Believe in Santa Claus also contains fine versions of “Blue Christmas” presented in its original country music setting and a nice, lazy, mid-tempo “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” complete with children’s chorus. The kids’ singing got me thinking. The tone of this record was likely informed by being the first Christmas album Andy released since becoming a grandfather. The record is really only for completists, like me. It misses with its medley of “When You Wish Upon a Star” and “Toyland” and with its closer, John Lennon’s overrated “Happy Xmas (War is Over)”; the fine “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” should really have wrapped things up.

From the Moon River Theatre in Branson, Mo., circa 1990.

Production here is handled by Michael Lloyd, a name that keeps popping up in my travels. Lloyd produced the music for the successful Dirty Dancing soundtrack and worked much with the Osmonds in the 1970’s. I see the UK’s Ken Thorne did the arrangements. Ken conducted Andy’s previous Christmas record, recorded in England, and is best known Stateside for working with Bing Crosby on Der Bingle’s final records. Lastly, Andy hooked up with Mike Curb’s Curb Records for this one and Mike is someone who is worth looking into (gotcha covered here).

© LaserLight

The New Andy Williams Christmas Album (1994) — A counterpart of sorts to I Still Believe in Santa Claus, this “new” Christmas album is representative of a significant part of the final decades of Andy’s career. In the summer of ’91, Andy’s brother, Don, was managing Ray Stevens and Ray had just opened his own theatre in a town called Branson in the Ozarks region of Missouri. Don suggested that Andy do the same. Wasting no time, Andy opened the Moon River Theatre the following year. Designing it himself, the theatre was the first in the town to feature a non-country music star. When Williams had a television show, he staged a Christmas program every December. Now that he had his own theatre, each November and December were given over to a new “Andy Williams Christmas Show” that featured various special guests.

The New Andy Williams Christmas Album was meant to represent the type of entertainment you would get at the theatre during the holiday season. The special guests for this particular season and on this record include the Osmonds and Lorrie Morgan. Briefly, Andy’s father discovered the Osmond family and Andy had them on his show often, starting when they were but children. The connection has lasted through the years. The Osmonds were guests often at Andy’s theatre in the Ozarks and eventually Jimmy Osmond bought the place.2 Morgan – a typically-gorgeous country singing lady – is of course indicative of the type of entertainer featured in the area.

From Branson in 1995.

This album was released on the LaserLight budget label and you’ll see it often in thrift stores; I’ve found it and bought it on cassette and CD. The record works really well owing mostly to its being an aural depiction of a live Williams show. There’s some chatter between Andy and his guests and they have fine rapport. Andy sings his greatest Christmas hits including numbers from his recent Christmas album and he introduces the aforementioned “Christmas Needs Love” by telling the crowd he thinks it will become a perennial “chestnut”. There’s nothing really wrong with the song; it just goes to show how hard it is to introduce a new song to the ages-old Yuletide songbook. The low point is “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”. Apparently at the theatre, during the song, a dancer dressed as a reindeer would come out and do a couple of steps. While I understand the kids-and-families nature of this show, I cringe a bit picturing when the “reindeer appeared and began to dance”.

The highlights are the reverent moments. Andy asks the crowd to join him and the Osmonds and Lorrie in singing some carols. In a medley, Williams presents some of Ernie Freeman’s wonderful arrangements of these cherished hymns. Here again we see – or hear- that Andy is sincere in presenting this entertainment for the families in the audience. With the feeling that they are joining Andy in his home by the fire, the audience – and the listener – feel the warmth and join in. Andy then recites “Jimmy Bishop’s Christmas Column”3 about the life of Christ before singing “O Holy Night” and wrapping with a few lines of “May Each Day”; I’m assuming Andy would close every show with these few lines. You come away, then, with a pretty good feeling. This is a fine record, one that aligns itself with Andy’s award-winning theatre in Branson and allows the listener to make the trip and enjoy the new Andy Christmas show.

© Unison Music

We Need a Little Christmas (1995) — I’ll assume you’ve seen Jon Favreau’s great Christmas movie Elf (2003). Naïve and unschooled North Pole elf, Buddy, finds himself in Manhattan at Christmas time. In Gimbel’s, a sales associate at the perfume counter is offering “fruit spray”. Buddy is excited. He loves eating fruit and expects a real treat; delicious fruit taste that you can just spray in your mouth! This sounds like it will be sweet, delightful. Not knowing it’s perfume, he grabs the bottle and sprays it in his mouth. His shocked, dismayed and disgusted reaction is quite funny. But you feel bad for him; judging by the nomenclature of the product, he expected something wonderful and instead got something gross. Sadly, this is the story of this album, the last collection of original recordings of Christmas songs Mr. Christmas offered in his lifetime.

Perhaps I’m being too harsh. But when you are Andy Williams, when you are “Mr. Christmas”, you set a high standard. But to analyze this album lucidly, we need to get into a whole other kettle of fish. Those prominent singers of the early 1960’s faced an uphill battle if they wanted to remain relevant in the Eighties and Nineties. Those who continued to record for years past their hit-making days were faced with a conundrum as time went on. Continue to contract an orchestra and record the classics with some newer songs thrown in? Or be brave and embrace “new sounds” and new production techniques to try to put a new face on old songs? Or a combination of the two – maybe find new songs with a timeless quality or maybe record with smaller groups. Williams, Johnny Mathis, Jack Jones and others sang the best songs with the best people back in the day. They were contemporary at the time. Shouldn’t they continue to be “contemporary” as times changed? It worked for Mathis, who had a string of hits with modern sounds in the late 1970’s. In the Nineties, Herb Alpert added a hip-hop vibe to his instrumental sound and while maintaining a certain quality it can’t help but sound dated today. Jack Jones utilized smaller groups and presented inventive arrangements of, for example, “Every Breath You Take” to better results. Bennett’s the only one really to stick to his guns and be successful at it. So, I heckle Andy for this record but I’m only half-serious. However…

The good, old days.

We Need a Little Christmas sounds exactly like the age in which it was recorded and is rooted in the programmed, synthetic style that was popular at the time. Case in point; the credits for this album list 12 engineers and only 2 guitarists playing on 2 tracks. There’s also something being used called a “Groove Activator”; probably cutting edge for the time. Ironically, perhaps, this album’s “fresh, new sounds” are the same things that make it almost unlistenable today. A real drummer was used on only three tracks. Great that you can make this record in your basement sitting at your computer but what about the sounds? Looks like the tracks were built first and then Andy added his vocals in a studio in Branson which maybe adds to the automated, canned atmosphere of the album. The listener feels detached and is unable to really embrace this record. An artist can be timeless or he can absorb whatever’s happening at the time and this latter technique is a hit-and-miss affair and can make some products disposable.

Maybe I’ve digressed too much but my point is Andy decided to employ the lamest variant of adult contemporary music circa 1995 to make this album and it just doesn’t sound great. And another thing; this album was released on June 19th? What in the name of Sam Hill is that about? Andy says on the back cover; “These all-new recordings feature fresh, innovative arrangements of some of my favorite carols. I felt like I was singing them for the very first time.” To hear what I’ve been trying to describe, listen here to even just the very first seconds of the album and then I’ll continue.

Provide to YouTube by Curb Records

There are lush strings, I’ll give the album that and Andy at 67 years old sounds to be in fine voice. I suppose the album is not terrible; it may be fine playing in the background at your family Christmas shindig with older aunts, uncles, grandparents. The album also sold well and was certified gold. It was his 42nd album and his last released in the US; 12 years later he issued I Don’t Remember Ever Growing Up in the UK. Perhaps an ignominious end to his Christmas recording career but let’s be realistic; when a performer reaches his 70s, you are just pleased he is still alive. If he is still making records, great. These records being good records – well, that’s a bonus. These singers just no longer submit to the same critical appraisal. They’ve survived. They’ve won.

It’s a Wonderful Christmas (1996) and Andy Williams Live – Christmas Treasures (2001) — You could say that these two albums don’t really “count”. It’s a Wonderful Christmas seems to be the flyer of all flyers. Likely impossible to find, Discogs has a listing for this CD, filed under “Spoken Word/Audiobook”, that features Andy narrating the story The Greatest Gift by Philip Van Doren Stern – the tale that Frank Capra made into It’s a Wonderful Life (1947). The story is presented in 8 parts and Track 9 is Andy’s “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”. I’ll admit I’m stumped. Where did this come from? Where was it sold? Are there any out there? I see that it’s available on Audible.

Andy and his son, Bobby, produced the Christmas Treasures CD. What the Williams men have done here is collected the best moments from Andy’s many Christmas specials and leased the songs to something called Neon Tonic Records. While this may not “count” then it does have an appeal. While I did not watch them when they were originally broadcast, the Andy Williams Christmas specials have become a part of my traditions through the two DVDs I own that combine clips of the shows with interviews with Andy, his son, Bobby and Donny Osmond. These compilations show the many great highlights from the shows and it’s good to know that some of these performances can be had on this collection. In fact, I have purchased two individual tracks from this album. “The Skater’s Waltz” and “You Meet the Nicest People” were always favourites of mine from the specials. Williams hits a great, growling note at the end of the former and the latter is a wonderful, rousing closer to any mixed CD or playlist.

© Barnaby Records

The Williams Brothers Christmas Album (1970) — Speaking of the Christmas specials, as I mentioned before, the big appeal of these programs comes largely from hearing the Williams Brothers sing together again. This album, a delightful rarity, was released on Barnaby Records, a label founded by Andy in 1963. Through this company, he controlled his own recordings on the Cadence label and those of label mate Lenny Welch. Andy also issued unreleased Cadence recordings by the Everly Brothers and also fostered new talent like Ray Stevens and Jimmy Buffett.

I have learned, through the Williams Brothers and the Osmond family, that there is no better a vocal blend to be heard than that which is produced by members of the same family. And in the specific case of Andy and his brothers the blend they achieve is distinct and hard to describe. When I watch the guys sing together on the Andy specials, I find myself wondering if there isn’t some audio trickery going on. The sound these men make when they sing together is remarkable. Bell-like clarity and a crystalline resonance. It hit me while watching my Ed Sullivan Christmas DVD. One year, he had on the Orbernkirchen Children’s Choir who together make an ethereal sound. It’s the same with the Williams Brothers; the sound they make together is not simply the sound of four men’s voices. It is another sound altogether. A stirring and striking sound with an abundance of warmth and charm. Having enjoyed them on TV, it was a treat to find this album for download somewhere on my travels though the Interweb.

Here again we have a record that is a great compliment to the season and to the Andy Williams catalogue. While The New Andy Williams Christmas Album takes you to the Ozarks for a live performance in Andy’s theatre, The Williams Brothers Christmas Album showcases the four brothers and calls to mind the many times we’ve seen them sing together on TV.

Here the boys revisit “Kay Thompson’s Jingle Bells” and “The Holiday Season” and essay sentimental versions of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”. Their “Caroling, Caroling” medley may be the standout, though as we hear the Williams Brothers do what they do best; apply their unique blend to beloved Christmas carols. While the artist for this record may not exactly be “Andy Williams”, you cannot discourse on Andy’s Christmas music without looking at this album and his singing with his brothers.

To summarize the Christmas music of Andy Williams, I will compare his body of Yuletide work to that of the granddaddy of them all, Bing Crosby. The comparison lies in two things, the first being more concrete. With his early Christmas recordings of the 1940’s, Bing cemented his place in the Christmas music arena. But with his subsequent seasonal offerings, he took it to another level, giving the fans much to feast on. The same can be said for Howard Andrew. His first Christmas album remains one of the biggest-selling and one of the most revered records of all-time. His later releases showed his sincerity and commitment to the idiom and made his name synonymous with Christmas entertainment. The later Christmas records of both men may not be spectacular or anyone’s favourites but they maintain a quality and, again, show their dedication to singing of the season.

The other comparison I will make is perhaps more intangible in nature. And it has to do with style, with warmth. Andy Williams sang Christmas songs with all the love he himself felt for the season and that was plain to hear. It is a big part of what makes people return to his music every season. Sure, Perry Como brought the same feeling but take Dean Martin. I love his two Christmas records but Dino was so casual about it that its great for Christmas parties but perhaps not for fireside introspection. And then there’s Sinatra’s grand perfection. So it’s not a given that every singer from the past provides this same mood or feeling. Andy Williams dealt in warmth. Andy’s records are a perfect companion to Christmas; they sound like the season feels.

And then there’s the Christmas specials and his singing with his brothers. Andy Williams knew it was about family and watching him with his children and his parents drives home a big part of what Christmas is all about. So, it seems clear to me. Aside from the Child born in a manger, your own family and friends – and maybe Crosby – you could ask for no better companion to stroll through the season with than Howard Andrew Williams.

“One of the reasons that Christmas music, the traditional Christmas music lives on forever is it brings back memories to people about Christmases they’ve spent at home with their families. Christmases will always be traditional, I think. People wanna hear the traditional Christmas during that time. Because I think Christmas is a traditional time of the year. And let’s face it, it’s a religious time of the year, too. It’s not just all gifts and toys. There’s some solemnity to it and it’s a very nice, warm time of the year.”4

– Andy Williams

  1. Irvin, Sam (2010). Kay Thompson: From Funny Face to Eloise. Simon & Schuster
  2. Jimmy Osmond had a stroke in 2018 and was forced to take a break from business. He struggled to divest himself of the theatre he renamed the Andy Williams Performing Arts Center and it went up for auction twice. On November 5, 2021, the Branson Tri-Lakes News reported that the theatre – which had never altered it’s “Moon River Theatre” signage – had been purchased by a local family who intended to get back to business, booking the type of entertainment Williams had, in March of 2022.
  3. Canadian Lorne Greene had released Bishop’s column as “One Solitary Life”, the B side of his delightful 1966 single, “Must Be Santa”. Also, Bing Crosby recited this on his 1975 Christmas special.
  4. Questar, Inc. (2001). The Best of the Andy Williams Christmas Shows.


  1. Thanks for devoting time to Andy. I have Christmas Present album (now CD). The title track has a lovely melody and lyrics. A few years on either side of 1970 was Andy’s peak vocally, IMHO. You mention his vocal “warmth” and that’s accurate. I add that his voice had a consistant “joyous” quality. His voice was never as pure or crystal clear like Jack Jones in the 1960’s, but Andy’s string of charting songs is difficult to match during his tenure.

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