There are still a few of the old-style crooners out there swinging for the fences. Jack Jones remains one of the most suave of all male crooners at age 74. And Bobby Vinton and Johnny Mathis, now both 77, each continue to sell out concert halls from coast to coast. And both are still in fine form and voice.
As many know, I host an oldies show on WSRK FM103.9 every Thursday night (since 1997). On the day we reported Andy Williams’ death I was prepared to do a mini-tribute to him on my show. I hadn’t listened to his records in a very long time.
When the “ON AIR” light came on that night I started the show with “Moon River.” I had my headphones turned way up and was completely surprised by the reaction I had to hearing this song for the first time in decades. The lush background vocals, the shimmering Henry Mancini instrumentals, and then, as if from a distance, I heard it. A soaring, boyish voice lightly adorning the violins with a pure tone that was positively intoxicating.
Williams essayed Johnny Mercer’s timeless lyrics in an ethereal yet powerful manner. I was lost in the song as I sat there in my dimly lit studio. I closed my eyes as the performance in my headphones swept over me. There I was again dancing up close with the girl with the pony tail at my Sidney High School sock hop in the ‘60s.
I was transformed through time to my living room in my childhood home, watching and laughing along with my parents at the antics and goings-on on the Andy Williams Variety Show. I found myself briefly transfixed by the image of Andy Williams singing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” next to the closed casket holding Robert F. Kennedy’s body. There was Andy kibitzing with the charming Osmond boys later, and then his theater in Branson, Mo., of the same name as the very song I was listening too. I never did make it down to the “Moon River Theater.”