December 21, 2012
The news of the passing of legendary vocalist Andy Williams did not come as too much of a surprise. Andy, himself, announced he faced a diagnosis of bladder cancer last fall and British tabloids were reporting his impending death as recently as July. Still, even at age 84, Williams’ passing leaves a deep, sad mark because of his youthful image and seemingly tireless schedule. In addition to his dozens of albums, his long-running television program and his many years as one of the most popular acts in Branson, Missouri, Williams continued to tour the country and would make appearances in many communities until, nearly, the bad news was announced last year.
Media Heritage’s Mike Martini had the good fortune to sit down with Williams in April 2001 at a hotel room in Los Angeles to talk about an interesting two-year period in his career—a period that brought him to Cincinnati and their legacy radio station, WLW. Andy was just beginning to enter high school at the time. Andy was the youngest of four singing brothers—Andy, Dick, Don and Bob—the singing Williams Brothers. Under the management of their father, the Williams Brothers had worked at WHO in Des Moines and WLS in Chicago before they lost their jobs in a downsizing. They were hired at WLW to perform on many programs, including the Boone County Jamboree, but their primary responsibility was a daily morning program called “Time to Shine.” Sponsored by Griffin Shoe Polish, Time to Shine was a 15-minute musical program that opened and closed with a catchy jingle. In addition to the four-part harmony, Andy would also occasionally sing solo songs—including “mom” and “dad” songs. As the youngest (he was about 14-years old) brother, Andy would interact with the announcer, Jimmy Leonard. After their broadcast, Andy and Dick would make their way to Western Hills High School, where the boys were excused from their first period classes. After school, the boys would reconnect with the older brothers to rehearse the next days’ broadcast.
Andy had fond memories of his two years in Cincinnati, living in Cheviot. He met his first girlfriend, named Elaine, here and also discovered “beer.” Andy made friends among his classmates, who listened to him on radio and he had a chance to live a relatively normal life as a high school underclassman. Around 1943, Andy’s dad decided the time was right for an attempt for a career in Hollywood, and so the family packed up and moved west where they appeared in a half-dozen motion pictures and sang backup vocals to Bing Crosby’s “Swinging on a Star.” The brothers retired from show-business about five years later and Andy went on to fame as a soloist.
For the interview with Martini, Williams was a delight. Although a little shy, he had a brilliant smile and even sang the “Time to Shine” jingle. He was humble and very grateful for his days at WLW, where he learned breathing and announcing tricks and called those days the most important of his youth.