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The Best of Interviews With Andy Williams

Aired May 12, 2001 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight the "Moon River" man revisited: interview highlights with the incredible Andy Williams is next on LARRY KING WEEKEND.

Thanks for joining us. Andy Williams is a showbusiness institution; a man blessed with a terrific singing voice and remarkable staying power -- and also, a genuinely nice guy. When Andy sat down with us in March of '97 we talked about his entertainment roots.


KING: My first memory is the Williams Brothers.

ANDY WILLIAMS, SINGER: Right; with Kay Thompson or before that?

KING: With Kay Thompson; you toured with her, right?

WILLIAMS: We toured with Kay Thompson from 1947 to 1949, and then we broke up and got back together...

KING: The Williams -- how many Williams brothers were there?


KING: And you were an act from childhood?

WILLIAMS: We started singing on the radio in Des Moines Iowa when I was about eight. And sang on the radio station WLS in Chicago, then WOW in Cincinnati.

KING: You were going to be The Four Lads, The "Four Aces...

WILLIAMS: We were, we were all of those.

KING: ... The Four Freshman, The Next Four.

WILLIAMS: Right, and then we moved -- the family moved to California and made a record with Bing Crosby right off the bat called "Swinging on a Star," big hit.

KING: Were you the background on "Swinging on a Star"?

WILLIAMS: Yes. KING: Would you like to swing on a star, carry moonbeams home...

WILLIAMS: That's it...

KING: So when he did the break and the group sang, it was you?

WILLIAMS: That's right. And then the war came along. We broke up the act, all went in the service. I didn't, but -- I went in the Merchant Marine for about six months.

KING: You were the kid in the group?

WILLIAMS: I was the youngest.

And then when the war was over we got back together, we got started with Kay Thompson. And that was a great act; great act. Walter Winchell was really responsible for...

KING: Plugging it.

WILLIAMS: For plugging it, you know, he talks about it every day. He loved the act. It became very popular; then television came along. And all of the -- kind of the nightclub business fell out, and we disbanded. I went to New York.

KING: On your own?

WILLIAMS: On my own.

KING: With nothing in hand?

WILLIAMS: Nothing in hand.

KING: What was your break in New York?

WILLIAMS: Well really, the big one was going on Steve Allen, "Tonight Show." But before that I did a lot of things. I did nightclubs.

KING: How did Steve Allen come about?

WILLIAMS: You know Bill Harbach? I think you know Bill Harbach?

KING: Bill Harbach?

WILLIAMS: His father was Otto Harbach, who wrote with Jerome Kern. Anyway, I knew him and saw him on the street in New York one day. And he said, why don't you come and audition for Steve Allen. I said, who is Steve Allen, because I didn't know. He said, well he's been on local here in New York for a year, and he's going network with a show called "The Tonight Show."

So I went over to audition, got the job for two weeks. And just -- nobody said, don't come back; so I came back the third week and I stayed for two and a half years.


STEVE ALLEN: Here's a young fellow, we predict great things for him. His name is Andy Williams. He's going to sing, "In the Still of the Night." Here he is.



KING: You sang nightly?

WILLIAMS: I sang -- well, I alternated with Steve Lawrence. I'd sing two weeks -- I mean, two shows one week and three the next, and two and then three.

KING: They always had some musical act on the show, right?

WILLIAMS: That's right. It was either Steve and Edie, or me and Pat Kirby. Sometimes we all would be together. That was special...

KING: That had to be an enormous break, because that show was...

WILLIAMS: Oh, it's terrific, I mean, to be seen -- well, that started my record career. I mean, because of that I was able to get a record contract with Archie Blier.

KING: Yeah -- so what was your first hit?

WILLIAMS: My first hit was...

KING: When did America get to know you wide? After Steve Allen, which was late night...

WILLIAMS: "Canadian Sunset."

KING: Oh, yeah, it was also an instrumental hit.

WILLIAMS: I did the cover version of the instrumental hit by Hugo Winterhalter, Betty Haywood and Hugo Winterhalter.

KING: And Roy Wood at the piano.

WILLIAMS: Right. And then I had a series of hits: "Lonely Street" was quite a bit hit, "Are You Sincere," "The Village of St. Bernadette"...

KING: "Butterfly."

WILLIAMS: "Butterfly" was a big record.

KING: I love "Butterfly."

WILLIAMS: "Butterfly" was my first No. 1 record. It was the No. 1 record in England, which took me over to England...

KING: Great arrangement, "Butterfly," that crack and... WILLIAMS: Terrific -- Archie Blier was wonderful at coming up with great single records. He was terrific.

KING: And "Moon River" was over the top for you, right?

WILLIAMS: Well "Moon River" wasn't -- no, that was one of my first records with Columbia.

KING: You switched.

WILLIAMS: I switched because Archie Blier said, you know, I know you're going to Hollywood, you're going to start your television series and I don't know how we're going to work with you out there and me here, you know. And he said, if you want to leave and go with somebody else, I understand. I had like two or three years to go with him, and he just let me out.

KING: No kidding? With all your hits, you were money to them.

WILLIAMS: And he was a terrific man.

So I went with Columbia and started having hits right away; "Moon River" was the first one.


(Andy Williams, "Moon River")








KING: We're back with Andy Williams, our guest for the full hour on this edition of LARRY KING WEEKEND.

All right, what was that great song, "da-da-da-da-dum, always follows me around?

WILLIAMS: Oh, "Happy Heart."

KING: "Happy." Oh, what a song that was.

WILLIAMS: That was a good song

KING: You never get tired of hearing "Happy Heart."

WILLIAMS: Because it is very happy.

KING: Who was picking all these songs for you?

WILLIAMS: Bob Mercy.

KING: You had a great A & R guy.

WILLIAMS: Yeah I was fortunate and we worked together for about 15 of 25 the year I was with Columbia.

KING: And then did you get a television show right away in L.A.?

WILLIAMS: I had that before I went, I mean I had that before I changed labels. Otherwise I would have stayed with Archie Blier forever.

KING: So that became "The Andy Williams Show."

WILLIAMS: That became "The Andy Williams Show," 1962.

KING: And that was weekly?

WILLIAMS: That's right.

KING: And you -- that was a very homey show, right?

WILLIAMS: It was. It was...

KING: You wore sweaters, it was...

WILLIAMS: Same sweater I think.

KING: Como -- Perry Como was the only other one do stuff like that.

WILLIAMS: Como had the sweater. Perry Como had a...

KING: And that was a very homey show, right? You wore sweaters it was...

WILLIAMS: Same sweater I think.


KING: Como was the -- Perry Como was the only other one to do stuff like that.

WILLIAMS: Como had the sweater. Perry Como had a stool that he sat on, and I just sort of carried on from that. You know. We had an informal part of the television show where I would come out on stage, out into the audience, and just look at my watch say we are going to have like 10 minutes here, and then the watch would go off, and after 10 minutes. And then do things like Bob Hope would come in, you know out of audience supposedly and we would talk, Danny Kaye some of the greats.

KING: Then you had -- what your brothers came on the show.

WILLIAMS: They were on every Christmas. The Christmas show featured my brothers, my mother and father, my children, my wife, Claudine then. It was a very family show: my nieces, nephews everybody.

KING: That was one of the first to start doing that, right? Bringing on everybody, right?


KING: Why did that work do you think? I mean in the '60s which was a different -- you were bucking the era.

WILLIAMS: Well I think people really once in started -- people really looked forward to seeing how the children had grown from year before. They liked my mother and father. They liked Mr. and Mrs. Osmond. They were funny. And they really are. And the Osmond brothers came on my show.

KING: They started with you, right?

WILLIAMS: They started. My father saw them, at Disneyland on Saturday morning, in an amateur show, and they were the same ages, exact same ages as brothers and I were we started. And he said you've got to help them.

I said but dad we really are trying get a rating. We need to have Jack Benny, and Roy and Dale and he said, "You put them on the show." I said, "Yes sir."

And they came on. I thought for one time, and that informal part came on, introduced them. I said here are four boys of same ages that my brothers and I were and let's see what you think, and brought them out. And they sang, and they went nuts.


WILLIAMS: People went crazy.

KING: That was -- this in the '60s was against the era of the Beatles, and that wave of music. You were the -- kind of the other side.

WILLIAMS: Well I was still traditional, and the Osmond brothers were singing barbershop. But anyway they stayed with show for about seven years and during that time, they learned how to play instruments and they learned how to dance and they learned -- they developed into the kind of performers that they...

KING: Did Marie go on that show?

WILLIAMS: Marie was on only once or twice. She was -- well it didn't even start with Donnie. It started with Jay. He was youngest. And then a few years later, Donnie joined them.

KING: And they were regulars then?

WILLIAMS: They were regulars.

KING: What was -- what do you analyze in retrospect was reason for their success?

WILLIAMS: I guess their versatility.

KING: Not the greatest voices in the world.

WILLIAMS: Their versatility they could do everything and do it really well.

KING: And you liked...

WILLIAMS: Oh, you loved them.

KING: Easy to like them.

WILLIAMS: And they got into this rock 'n' roll stuff. And they never became the Rolling Stones, they became more like the Jackson -- I mean like the -- what's the name of the group? Clark, Dave Clark. That clean cut kind of rock 'n' rollers.

KING: And they were real people too. The Osmond family.

WILLIAMS: Terrific. And they have a place in Branson too but we'll get to that.

KING: We're getting to Branson. What hooked Andy Williams to Christmas?

WILLIAMS: It was just one of the...

KING: And a good album.

WILLIAMS: It was just one of the shows in part of the season, you know. We come around at Christmastime and say well let's do a Christmas show which is normal. And then we decided to bring my wife and kids, and there was only one at that time on the show, and my brothers, mother and father.

KING: But then it became like -- you toured Christmas time. Andy Williams Christmas is coming to a concert hall near you.

WILLIAMS: Christmas show always had a bigger rating than the rest of the shows. People loved the Christmas show. So we went out on the road around Christmas when show went off the air and did Christmas shows. It was terrific.

I mean I got a call, from the Seattle Symphony. He said we would like you to come up and do a concert with the symphony here December 21st. And I said fine. And I wasn't thinking about Christmas. I was just going to do my regular concert act. And I got up there -- the day before I got up there they called and said we're so happy to have you come up here do your Christmas show. I said I'm not doing it -- what do you mean? They said well you are going to do all Christmas music and everything? That was the first time I took some Christmas music up and did part Christmas and part regular.

KING: You also had a big Christmas album, didn't you?

WILLIAMS: I've had six.

KING: I remember the first one.

WILLIAMS: Well the first one is called "The Andy Williams Christmas Album." People go in store and say, "Do you have 'The Andy Williams Christmas Album'?" Just the name of it. That was a good idea.

KING: Your voice, kind of associated with Christmas as Crosby's did in his era.

WILLIAMS: I guess so.

KING: You had a "Christmasy" sound. You sounded like Christmas when you sang Christmas songs.

WILLIAMS: Bells came out.










KING: We're back with Andy Williams. We're going to talk about Branson in a minute; but how often can we get, as a public, outside of Branson to see you?

WILLIAMS: None. I don't work outside of Branson. Only because I work there all the time. I mean I work there nine months of the year. I live in Branson. I worked there from April 19th, we opened this year and we close December 20th.

KING: How many nights a week?

WILLIAMS: Six nights a week, two shows a day. KING: OK, explain this.

WILLIAMS: All right. Now in July...

KING: The name of theater is the Moon River Theater -- Moon River, the theater, right?


KING: So obviously, that song carries through. You cannot work without singing that song.

WILLIAMS: Nor can I do a show without singing that song. But that is okay. It's a great song.

KING: Give me the Branson story.

WILLIAMS: I went to Branson in 1962 and built a theater.

KING: What was there?

WILLIAMS: Country. Country music. There were about 20 theaters, maybe 22 theaters.

KING: In '62?

WILLIAMS: Yes -- No what am I saying -- '92. In '62 I just started the television .

KING: What made Branson -- Why Branson? Who is the first one go there? Who was the father? Who was the Bugsy Segal of Branson, Missouri?

WILLIAMS: I guess it started -- most of it started I think with the Silver Dollar City, which is the theme park, and that brought in millions of people, a couple million.

KING: People drive there.

WILLIAMS: Just to see this theme park. And then there was some hillbilly shows. A couple of them. The Pressleys and the Bogknobbers(ph) to entertain people there to see basically I guess to see that theme park.

KING: Who got the idea, let's build theaters?

WILLIAMS: The first one, of any name value was Roy Clark. He built a theater and was going to work in it. I don't think he built it. I don't think he owned it but had his name on it. And then they brought in other country stars, to appear in his theater. He would only work there maybe two weeks and then be off for six months and work there again.

And they would bring in other people, and they were really doing great business. And then they said why are we doing this? We ought to start our own theaters. So all of those people started their own theaters.

KING: Who worked with Roy.

WILLIAMS: Who worked with Roy.

KING: And it was known -- where is Branson?

WILLIAMS: It is near Springfield, Missouri. It is between Kansas City and STOUFFER: . Louis. About 400 miles, I think.

KING: How big a city is it?

WILLIAMS: The sign says 3706. That is what it was when we opened our theater in 1992.

KING: What do you guess now?

WILLIAMS: Maybe 10,000.

KING: Alright, and it starts to catch on for country fans, right?

WILLIAMS: For country fans was a big thing, in 1992.

KING: Were there hotels there?

WILLIAMS: There were maybe not hotels, but motels. There are hotels now. And they had about 4 million people by that time.

KING: Visiting?

WILLIAMS: Yes. Come there to see these shows and to go to Silver Dollar City. And then I decided to open a theater which I would be the first noncountry performer. I figured if my theater, seats a little over 2000, I figured if they have 4 million tourists, if I get won out of 10 to see me just even out of curiosity, what I was doing, or maybe they didn't have any place to go one night, that I would fill the theater.

But it doesn't work that way, because first of all, a lot -- most of the people that came to Branson then and even now knew what they were going to see before they came there. They bought tickets in many cases. And buses are important there. And you don't get buses for like six or eight months, because they want to make sure you are going to be there. So the first year, you don't have very many buses. And you don't have...

KING: Buses just bring in people to you?

WILLIAMS: We had almost 7,000 buses last year in our theater.

KING: Coming from?

WILLIAMS: All over the United States. All over.

KING: So you were again bucking a trend, you built this theater as a pop artist...


KING: ... in midst of country and western, figuring I will get one out of -- somebody's got to come see me.


KING: Are you -- wasn't just your name on it? You built this theater?

WILLIAMS: I built the theater.

KING: Two thousand seats.

WILLIAMS: Two thousand.

KING: Plush?

WILLIAMS: Wonderful theater. Beautiful. It would be a beautiful theater in San Francisco or Chicago, New York. In fact, friends of mine said it is the best theater they have ever seen.

KING: Is it main strip or are these theaters...

WILLIAMS: Not a main strip like this, like this going down there. It's called "Highway 76." And all of the theaters are basically on that strip.

KING: And people buy most tickets in advance. They know coming May 6, Saturday, the 8:00 show.

WILLIAMS: Idea has always been that they would come by car, or truck or trailer or something. Not too many people flew in. Now they are flying in much more than they did. And they would come two or three days, see five, six, seven shows that time, bring two or three kids with them, spend $300 or $400, period, and go home. And that was basically it. Everything was rather inexpensive and wonderful, wonderful fun. And that is where it is today. It's a family place where doesn't cost too much to see the shows, see great shows now, I mean there's -- it's not country anymore. I mean, it's country and pop.

KING: It's beyond country?

WILLIAMS: It's country and pop.






KING: All right, tell us about Bobbie Kennedy and Andy Williams.

WILLIAMS: He was a friend, a very good friend, and when he was killed, I was there. I was campaigning for him right before he was killed.

KING: You were in L.A..

WILLIAMS: I was in L.A., did the campaign the night before -- two nights before. Then he had a day of rest; that was down in San Diego. And then I was supposed to meet him. Claudine and I were going to meet him after he left the hotel.

KING: Coconut Grove.

WILLIAMS: Coconut Grove. And he said when I go I'll wave and then I'll make a salute kind of wave and then we'll meet you over at the factory. And we were...

KING: The factory being...

WILLIAMS: A disco, a nightclub, restaurant. And then he was killed, and we went to the hospital, stayed in the hospital.

KING: How did you first hear he was shot?

WILLIAMS: We saw it.

KING: You were watching.

WILLIAMS: We were watching on television. So then went down to hospital, found out where he was, waited until the morning when they announced that he was dead. We all got on the plane, flew to New York, left my car out in the parking lot. And then sang the Battle Hymn of the Republic at the funeral which was the hardest thing I've ever done.

KING: After Teddy had spoken?

WILLIAMS: Right after Teddy.

KING: Teddy is crying.

WILLIAMS: Teddy is crying. Everybody is crying.

KING: St. Patrick's.

WILLIAMS: St. Patrick's Cathedral. The only way I got through it is when they came to get me to take me, I was seated out in church -- I'm not a Catholic so I don't know -- the church. And they brought me back what I call backstage.

KING: Backstage at St. Patrick's. WILLIAMS: It would make a great Christmas album. And then I -- backstage I guess you can make a lot of noise back there like they can at the opera. The backstage of opera they bring in all those extras and things, horses and stuff and you don't hear it. You can't hear back there. I heard priests going around reciting things -- the thing that they were going to be doing in another mass at another time.

And I thought, "Boy, this is like show business." That is what really got me around to saying I've got a job to do and I can do it. And so I that is the only way I got through it.

KING: That had to be -- standing there...

WILLIAMS: Terrible. I mean it was really really tough.

KING: And the whole audience is crying.

WILLIAMS: Everybody crying. As I'm singing I could hear speakers going out into Fifth Avenue and Madison Avenue because there were thousands of people out there that couldn't get into the church. It was something.

KING: Did you go down to Washington on the train?


KING: That was a long three hour, 45 minute train ride wasn't it?

WILLIAMS: Yeah I was one of the pallbearers. That was so moving, you would see a man in a civil war outfit saluting. You know. All by himself out in the field. It was very moving.

KING: And then that funeral, that burial, and up in Arlington.

WILLIAMS: And then party at Ethel's afterwards were everybody was happy.

KING: That's Irish Catholic right? They tell Bobby Kennedy stories.

WILLIAMS: Laugh and know he would love it.

KING: He was an extraordinary man I mean to people. He would have made a hell of a president, too.

WILLIAMS: He would have.

KING: Gutsy guy he was.

WILLIAMS: I was with him when he told somebody from one of the heads of tobacco companies you got to -- they said why don't you lay off you know, leave us alone. He said I can't. He said we've got to stop this smoking, you know encouraging children to smoke.

He believed that very strongly and would have given up those seven states where tobacco industry was very heavy, and probably would have lost those states. But he felt so strongly that it was important to be done.

KING: When he was killed, were you angry?

WILLIAMS: I was very angry and I decided to get healthy and I went on a running thing. I would run for like days and days. I mean I ran five or seven miles a day for about a year afterwards and I think was out of anger too.

KING: The need to release.


KING: Then you got very close with Ethel, weren't you? They were linking you for a while.


KING: It was never romantic.

WILLIAMS: No, never. She's just a wonderful lady.

KING: Great lady.

WILLIAMS: We spent time with them up in Sun Valley skiing. And it was just you know, just a friendship.

KING: Everyone talked about you and her as great friends, and...

WILLIAMS: They were always trying to put her with somebody and I was around, a lot because I was good friend. And was divorced. So people put it together but it wasn't that.

KING: Are you surprised or not surprised she never remarried.

WILLIAMS: Not surprised

KING: Because?

WILLIAMS: Because she was still in love with Bobby and always would be, and I don't think there could be another man in her life.

KING: How did you get to be in with the Kennedy group? You weren't known as very political.

WILLIAMS: No, I wasn't political, and I haven't been since.

KING: Right.

WILLIAMS: I was doing my show at NBC in Burbank, and he came to do "Meet the Press" or one of those kind of shows. And he came over the studio where we were rehearsing, and he said Ethel is big fan of yours and so am I. He said we are here for -- we are going to party tonight, would you like to come? It's over at -- Lou Wasserman is giving a birthday party for his wife Eddy. KING: Lou. See him every weekend. The best.

WILLIAMS: A wonderful guy.

KING: Still with the grandkids. Growing up everybody -- a great guy.

WILLIAMS: So I said I'm singing at that. I'm singing happy birthday.

KING: To Eddy.

WILLIAMS: To Eddy and he said I will see you there. So that was -- we saw them there and we sat with them and I danced with Ethel and Claudine danced with Bobby. We had a wonderful time. They said they were going to Palm Springs the next day and they were going to play football, tennis, golf and all that stuff.

So I was playing with golf with Pierre Corset at the Riviera Country Club, and got around to about ninth hole got a phone call. And it was from -- a message. Bobby Kennedy said why don't you come and meet us in Palm Springs. I said well, I can't I'm playing golf and I told Pierre and Pierre said you are crazy. Go down there! I mean what when are you getting another chance to spend time with Bobby Kennedy.

So we got in the car and drove down and that started the friendship.

KING: You know people -- things people didn't know about him; one is a great sense of humor, right?

WILLIAMS: Loved to sing. Had a terrible voice. Loved to sing.

KING: Greatest smile.

WILLIAMS: Yeah, lovely smile.









KING: Welcome back. When Andy Williams visited with us again last August he was gearing up for a special run at his theater in Branson, Missouri, special because a throat problem had forced him to stop singing for many months. And luck for all his fans, the problem cleared up. Andy admitted he was a little nervous about his upcoming opening night. He also said his voice was ready.


WILLIAMS: I developed a node in my throat last October. I had laryngitis. As you know, if you have laryngitis, the only way -- if it's really bad, the only way you can get any sound out of it is if you force it.

KING: Correct.

WILLIAMS: So I did, and...

KING: While singing?

WILLIAMS: While singing. I didn't want to -- I at least wanted to get through that show. But its was the a wrong move on my part. And I developed this node, went to a doctor, took pictures of it. You could see it, big bump on the vocal chord. And a couple people wanted to operate right away. Fortunately, I went to a guy at UCLA, Dr. Burke (ph), who wasn't to anxious to operate, which is a nice thing about the doctor.

KING: Were you looking for someone who wouldn't operate -- was that...

WILLIAMS: You know, you know that I was. And he said, I don't think you know this will happen, but if you don't sing for a while, can you not sing for how long? I said, well, I'm supposed to do a tour of England in January, but I can cancel it. So he said, well, if you don't sing for three months, come back and see me and we'll take another picture. And I did.

Three months later, there was still a node there, but it was gone about half. He said, how much loner can you go without singing? I said, I can go until next fall, when I should come back. He said, well, come back and see me in two months and we'll take another look. I came back, and it was still there. So he said, if you don't sing for a while and just, you know, voice rest, don't talk too much, come back three months. So I came back in three months and it was all gone, so I didn't have to have an operation, and...

KING: Do we ever know, or will we ever know, why it was there?

WILLIAMS: Because of singing when I shouldn't have been singing.

KING: In other words if you have a bad -- if you have laryngitis?

WILLIAMS: If you have laryngitis very badly you shouldn't try -- shouldn't really get through the show, and I was doing two hours shows alone, and it was too much, and I could feel something happening. I just felt, something went wrong there, and I didn't want to have an operation if I didn't have to. KING: You were scared?

WILLIAMS: I wasn't really scared, but I was concerned. I called Julie Andrews, who, as you probably remember, had just gone through that.

KING: She had surgery.

WILLIAMS: She had surgery. So I called her, and I said I'm -- Julie, I'm in the same position you were. I have a node on my throat and have you any suggestions? She said, "Don't use my doctor."


KING: She's suing, isn't she?

WILLIAMS: I guess she is. I think kiddingly she said, "Don't use my doctor."

KING: Well, maybe I'm wrong; maybe she isn't.

What is a node?

WILLIAMS: It's a bump on the vocal chord.

KING: Not a cancer?

WILLIAMS: Not a cancer.

KING: Is it a polyp?

WILLIAMS: It's like a polyp. I don't really know the difference between a polyp and a node, but it's a bump the vocal -- and as you know, if the vocal chords are rubbed together, they make a sound, and when there's a bump there, at some point when you're singing, it comes to that bump, it doesn't make a sound. So you have to remove it some way or let it go way.

KING: So what could you feel that night that was wrong other than just -- you've had laryngitis before.

WILLIAMS: Yes, but I've never sung really through it, you know. I just felt something, really kind of a straining thing, just was like something I knew was wrong.

KING: Did the audience know it?

WILLIAMS: No. I mean, they knew I had laryngitis, there is no doubt about that, and I explained to them I had -- as much as I could, I couldn't talk either. I don't know why I didn't say go away and go see you know, somebody else tonight.

KING: Go down the street, there's more another theaters here, right?

WILLIAMS: But I didn't want to disappoint. You know, a lot of people come to Branson. They plan in advance, maybe sometimes three or four months. In these cases, September, October, November, December, they have a lot of buses, and we may have had 40 or 50 buses that night. People planning to come a year ahead of time, and I didn't want to disappoint these people, really. That's really the reason I did it.

KING: Other doctors said they should cut, right? They wanted to take it out?

WILLIAMS: Yes, because it was obvious, it was there.

KING: Bing Crosby said once that he had a polyp removed and it helped his voice, no, when he was young, it made it deeper, created a lot of that sound he could get.

WILLIAMS: Well, that may have been before he was well-known and he developed the sound, is that right?

KING: Yes, before.

WILLIAMS: Mine is very well-known, and...

KING: You don't want your voice.

WILLIAMS: I didn't want it to suddenly sound like Bing Crosby.

KING: Did you fear cancer?


KING: Never feared it?

WILLIAMS: Never feared that at all. And immediately, the first night I went to -- said, it isn't cancerous, but you really should have it removed, but...

KING: Glad you didn't.

WILLIAMS: I'm glad I didn't, yes.

KING: What -- are you nervous about October 8 -- September 8, I'm sorry? That's not far away.

WILLIAMS: September 8. I'm always nervous opening night anyway. But no, you know, I have been singing in the shower. I -- you sound great in the shower, I'm sure.

KING: You sound great to yourself, right?


KING: No difference?

WILLIAMS: No difference.

KING: Are you singing as good as you ever did? WILLIAMS: No.

KING: What changed?

WILLIAMS: Age, you know.

KING: Can't hit the notes?

WILLIAMS: No, I can hit the notes.

KING: What happens when a singer...

WILLIAMS: I don't know. You know, Sinatra didn't sing as good when he was 70 as he did when he was about 40.

KING: But he had a range thing.

WILLIAMS: That was his best -- I think the best time that I ever sang was in the '60s and '70s, and then it's just a matter of you still sing good, but you don't sing -- you're voice isn't quite as good as it was before.

KING: Are you a tenor?


KING: Strange that a famous balladeer would be tenor, right, that most of them are baritones?

WILLIAMS: Well, they used to have a lot of tenors, like Dennis Day, and -- there are a lot of tenors.

KING: Morton Downey.

WILLIAMS: Yes, Morton Downey. Then it became very baritone and bass, you know, Bing Crosby and Sinatra, all of them, then it changed all around; now it's very high. I mean, Michael Jackson and all the rock singers, they're all higher, they sing very high.

KING: Our guest is Andy Williams. He's with us for the full hour. What a career. How many people started their careers with Andy Williams? How many guests has he had on one of the most famous television shows ever done in America? We'll talk about that, and Branson and lots of other things, and we're happy to report he is A- OK.

We'll be right back with Andy after this.








JERRY LEWIS, COMEDIAN: How do you do "Moon River?" Give me a clue.

WILLIAMS (singing): Moon River, wider than a mile.

LEWIS: And you take the money just like that, is that it?


WILLIAMS: I don't think you should move to much.

LEWIS: Could I just tell you how you can do this? I mean, respectfully, may I just...

WILLIAMS: I would love to learn.

LEWIS: All right.

(singing): Say moon river high tide.


LEWIS: Try that.


KING: Did everybody go on -- everybody went on "Andy Williams."

WILLIAMS: Just about. And Jerry was a little -- scary to work with Jerry.

KING: Why?

WILLIAMS: Well, because he's so brilliant, No. 1, and No. 2, he doesn't want to rehearse, and I like to know what I'm doing all the time, I like to rehearse. I mean, I want to know what I'm saying, what I'm do, but with him, you couldn't, so I didn't know -- you know, we knew he was going say, how do you do this, I'm going to sing that, and I didn't know what he was going to do, and I would have to do what he said, and -- but it's really fun.




KING: Pearl Bailey, the late Pearl Bailey, dancing and sitting.

WILLIAMS: Oh, she's great.

KING: Do you feel your age, Andy? No, do you ever say to yourself: Where did it go?

WILLIAMS: Well, I think everybody feels where did it go, because it goes fast. And -- but I have done a lot of things that I love. I love the period of time that I had the television series. My children were growing up. And we were living in Los Angeles all the time. It was a wonderful time. But I'm enjoying this time that I have in Branson, I think, more -- as much any time I have ever...

KING: Do you go out at all and do work elsewhere?

WILLIAMS: Well, I'm going to England to fulfill an engagement that I canceled last January. I'm going to do that this January.

KING: What about doing a Christmas show again?

WILLIAMS: Well, we do a Christmas show in Branson.

KING: I know, but a television Christmas show.

WILLIAMS: Well, you get CNN to put one on and we will do it. It is hard to get....

KING: Work at CBS.

WILLIAMS: Hard to get networks to preempt something to put on a...

KING: Christmas...

WILLIAMS: You know, when they have "The Grinch."

KING: Let's take a call for Andy Williams.

Cleveland, Texas, hello.

CALLER: Hello.


CALLER: Hi, I would like to ask Andy a question.

KING: Go ahead.

CALLER: And if you had to do it all over again in your career, what would you do differently?

WILLIAMS: Well, I think I would spend -- I would have spent -- I wouldn't have worked quite so hard. I wouldn't have worked all through the summer, which I did. I would do the television series and then record during that time. And then, in the summer, I would on the road with Henry Mancini or the Osmonds, or somebody. I would have spent more time with my kids when they were growing up, during that, say, three months when out of school.

KING: You missed a lot.


KING: Branson, Missouri, hello.

CALLER: Yes, Andy.


CALLER: Your musical style is so much different from that of Glen's. How are you going to integrate that difference in your show?

WILLIAMS: Oh no, well, I think...

KING: That's a good question: Glen Campbell and Andy Williams. ain't exactly...

WILLIAMS: Well, Glen is an all-around good musician.

KING: Great guitar player.

WILLIAMS: Wonderful guitar player, fine singer. And he has been in Branson before. I called him and I said: Glen, why don't you come to Branson for seven weeks and we will do the show together? We will knock everybody out. We will be the talk of the town. He said: Well I don't know. And I said: We'll play golf every day. And he said: I will be there.










KING: If you didn't know, of course, that was Eddie Fisher on left, Andy in the middle, and the great Bobby Darren on the right. All that, by the way, was from the "Andy Williams Show." How many years was that on?

WILLIAMS: Nine years, nine years.

KING: And they're going to release a VHS and a DVD, right?

WILLIAMS: That's right.

KING: Highlights of those shows. WILLIAMS: Highlights, yes. It's called "The Best of the Andy Williams Show," and really my favorite things, Jerry Lewis and Bing. We saw a little bit of Bing.

KING: Eddie Fisher, Sammy Davis Jr., Judy Garland -- they all came on "Andy Williams."

WILLIAMS: They all came on, and, Larry, just terrific. I mean, we don't have that kind of musical variety shows on right now like they used to have with my show, and Dean Martin and Perry Como. It's a different time now. But those numbers were so well recorded and so beautifully -- the sound was so great, Bill Kohl (ph), the engineer on the show, and did a lot of shows for NBC, but he was absolutely best. When you think about the fact that there was -- this was all live. There was microphone above your head this far away, an orchestra 30 feet away, choir over or near the orchestra, and it came together, it was just amazing.

KING: When is it coming out?

WILLIAMS: It's coming out in November.

KING: "The Best of the Andy Williams Show."


KING: Should be a smash just looking this, looking at black and white is a smash.

WILLIAMS: Yes, but this is all in color.

KING: Yes, it is.

WILLIAMS: Yes, all of it.

KING: It's terrific, though, to see vintage television, you know, when they were doing it. It was harder to do that, too.

WILLIAMS: Much harder, but it's alive, and it feels alive. A lot of things today don't sound quite as alive.




KING: I want to ask you about this London thing, but first, let's take a call. Toronto, hello.

CALLER: Hello, Andy.


CALLER: I'm so thrilled to talk with you.

WILLIAMS: Thank you.

CALLER: I'd like to know how you stay so young-looking.

WILLIAMS: Isn't that nice?

KING: You're in good shape.

WILLIAMS: I'm in pretty good shape. I -- I eat well, No. 1. I work out some. I play a lot of golf. But I work out -- my wife has a great gym, I mean -- it's as big as this studio. I mean, we could -- we could sell memberships to it. And I do the treadmill every day, and that's about it. But mainly it's just staying away from fats.

KING: What happened to the Andy Williams Golf Tournament?

WILLIAMS: Well, it was on for 20 years, and then, I just thought it was enough.

KING: Because you -- Sammy had one. You had one for a long time.

WILLIAMS: Yes. Mine was the third one. Bing had one first, and Bob had one, and then I had one. But after 20 years it -- I got in a little bit of an argument with the guy from Shearson Lehman, who was running the tournament there. And I just said, "Well, I don't need this anymore," and I just sort of ended it.

KING: Hancock, New Hampshire, hello.

CALLER: Andy, about 45 years ago, I caught your act in Washington, D.C., and I just couldn't believe, toward the end of the show you put the mike down and sang out over the audience, and it was hard to believe your voice was not amplified. Do you think you'll ever be able to do that again?

WILLIAMS: Oh, I could still do that. Our theater -- I don't know how big that theater was then that you saw the show -- our theater seats about 2,000. I don't know whether I'd be heard in the back if I sang completely acappella.

What did I do? Did I do "Danny Boy" or one of those songs?

KING: Got cut off.

Did you...

WILLIAMS: Oh, he got cut off.

KING: Do you sing now -- like now, do you -- you're driving home. Will you sing to yourself?

WILLIAMS: Well, I will now, because, you know, I want to get back and singing again. And...

KING: So what, do you do exercises?

WILLIAMS: Well, I do a little. I do some.

KING: Like?

WILLIAMS: Moo, moo...

KING: Are you kidding me or are you doing this?

WILLIAMS: No, really. That's what I do.

KING: And this does what?

WILLIAMS: It sort of brings your throat back, your voice back, a lot of things like that.

KING: Do you ever get afraid that it's not going to be there?


KING: Sinatra told me once he used to think of that.

WILLIAMS: No, Frank -- Frank...

KING: When he walked on the stage, will it be there?.

WILLIAMS: His voice was always there. His voice was always there.

KING: But he thought maybe it wouldn't. Did you ever think -- do you ever think it might not be there?

WILLIAMS: Yes, I did.

KING: That's panicky.

WILLIAMS: Well, I've panicked, you know, several times in my life, but it was always there. It always did happen to be there.










KING: Now, is it true you have a hit record in England? WILLIAMS: I -- a couple of years ago, I had a record that I recorded 30 years before they used in a commercial, a car commercial, called "I Can't Take My Eyes off You."

KING: I know that song.

WILLIAMS: Big hit. Big hit.

KING (singing): I can't take my eyes off you.

WILLIAMS: Right. And then about a year later, they brought another one of the early records called "Music to Watch Girls by," and they made another car commercial with that. That became so popular that the teenagers started calling to hear it played on radio, and it became a big hit. It became a bigger hit this time than it was when it was originally recorded.

KING: And that started getting you...

WILLIAMS: And then I started selling albums again. It created a whole upswing of my music. A lot of kids that had never heard of me or Tony Bennett or Burt Bacharach suddenly were getting into that kind of music.

KING: Was it difficult when the music era changed to no longer hear yourself...

WILLIAMS: As much on the radio?

KING: ... on the radio?

You heard yours yourself a lot.

WILLIAMS: No, because, you know, anybody knows that they're not going to go on forever. The record industry is really basically for young people, kids, and they're not going to hear you singing when you're 50 years old when they can hear a 17-year-old Britney Spears or somebody, you know. It's just -- it's that cyclical. That's the way it works.

So I didn't -- I didn't feel badly that they stopped playing my records.

KING: I mean, you could understand it intellectually...


KING: ... but emotionally it wasn't difficult?

WILLIAMS: No, not at all. I still played it on music through, you know, the music stations.

KING: The old time -- and music of your life.

WILLIAMS: Music of your life. All of those channels. There was always -- there always will be Frank Sinatra played. There will always be my records played. Always Johnny Mathis played, just not as much and not on the same top 40 stations.

KING: "Hawaiian Wedding Song" was a big hit for you.

WILLIAMS: Right, big hit.

KING: It was a two-sided hit, right?

WILLIAMS: It was -- it sold about 950,000, and then they turned it over and they played the other side.

KING: Which was?

WILLIAMS: Which was -- I'm wrong. "Can't Get Used to Losing You" was on the other side of "Days of Wine and Roses." "Days of Wine and Roses" sold about 850,000, and neither one of them were a gold. Neither one of them -- so I didn't get a gold record, although the record sold about a million-seven.

KING: You don't get credit...

WILLIAMS: No, it has to be a million on one side.

KING: "Days of Wine and Roses" was humongous.

WILLIAMS: I know, but you know, the album sold so well. You know, I sold more albums than I sold singles.

KING: How about "Happy Heart"?

WILLIAMS: "Happy Heart" was a big hit. Didn't sell a million copies.

KING: I loved "Happy Heart."

WILLIAMS: Well, you didn't buy enough records.

KING: What a happy song to sing that was.

WILLIAMS: Great song.

KING (singing): There's a certain sound...

WILLIAMS: You know, every lyric...

KING: I go to...

(singing): ... always follows me around.


KING: That's it for this edition of LARRY KING WEEKEND. Thanks for watching; good night.





4:30pm ET, 4/16

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