03 Dec 1927 1
Wall Lake, Iowa 2
25 Sep 2012 1
Branson, MO 2

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Full Name:
Howard Andrew Williams 2
Full Name:
Howard A Williams 1
Also known as:
Andy Williams 2
03 Dec 1927 1
Wall Lake, Iowa 2
25 Sep 2012 1
Branson, MO 2

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Andy Williams, whose corn-fed good looks, easygoing charm and smooth rendition of "Moon River" propelled him to the heights of music stardom in the early '60s, died Tuesday at his home in Branson, Mo., following a battle with bladder cancer, his family announced. 

He was 84, and 2012 had marked his 75th year in showbiz. 

With 17 gold and three platinum records to his name, Williams enjoyed his golden years playing golf and dividing his time between La Quinta, Calif., and Branson, where he appeared at his Andy Williams Moon River Theater since 1992. 

It was on the stage of that theater, in November 2011, Williams announced he had bladder cancer. At the time, he assured fans the disease was no longer a death sentence and that he had every intention of being a survivor. 

Born in Wall Lake, Iowa, the son of a railroad worker, Howard Andrew WIlliams sang in his family's church choir with older siblings Bob, Dick and Don. In the late '30s, the boys built up a name for themselves regionally on Midwestern radio stations as the Williams Brothers quartet. 

After the war, in 1947, they joined entertainer Kay Thompson in her innovative and sophisticated nightclub act. In his 2009 memoir Moon River and Me, Williams admitted he had a long affair with Thompson, who had been a legendary vocal coach at MGM (she taught Judy Garland and Lena Horne to sing for the screen) and was 18 years the senior of her handsome young protégé. 

In 1952, when the brothers' act broke up, Andy launched his solo career, only to find himself broke and without bookings. Giving himself one last shot, he wisely switched his repertoire from clever Noël Coward ditties to the latest pop hits, and his New York club appearances soon included singing spots on the Tonight show (which was in Manhattan at the time), then regular TV shots and a Columbia Records contract. 

By the early '60s he had an easy-listening hit under his belt, "Can't Get Used to Losing You," though it was his romantic take on the Best Song Oscar winner from 1961's Breakfast at Tiffany's, "Moon River," that landed him on the map – and kept him there. 

The smash hit recording led to NBC's 1962 launch of The Andy Williams Show, which remained on the air until 1971 and then returned as an annual Christmas special. It was on the variety weekly program in 1963 that Williams introduced to America a group of young singing siblings from Utah, The Osmond Brothers. 

Despite his own clean-cut good looks – the Williams signature look was a turtleneck under a brightly colored pullover sweater – scandal did touch Williams's life. In the mid-1970s, his ex-wife, French dancer Claudine Longet, went on trial in Aspen for the fatal shooting of her lover, international skiing star Vladimir ("Spider") Sabich. 

In the end, Longet, who claimed the shooting was an accident, was found guilty of misdemeanor criminal negligence and received only a 30-day sentence, which she served on and off at her convenience. In his 2009 memoir, Williams, who during the trial had accompanied his ex-wife to the courtroom on a daily basis, continued to defend her innocence. 

Longet and Williams were married from 1961 to 1975 and had three children together: Noelle, Christian, and Robert. They survive him, as does his second wife (since 1991), Debbie Williams. 

From left: Merrill Osmond, Donny Osmond, Alan Osmond, Andy Williams, Wayne Osmond and Jay Osmond

(CNN) -- Legendary singer Andy Williams, known for his smooth voice and classics such as "Moon River," died after a year-long battle with bladder cancer at his Branson, Missouri, home Tuesday night, his family said.

Williams, 84, began his singing career as a child in a quartet with his brothers, but he rose to stardom as a solo act starting in the 1950s.

"The Andy Williams Show," a weekly television variety program that ran for nine years on NBC starting in 1962, and a dozen TV specials from 1959 through 1987 made Williams a household name in the United States.

He spent the last 20 years of his career performing on his own stage at his Moon River Theatre in Branson.

Jimmy Osmond said his family would be "forever grateful for the interactions we had with him."

"Not only did he discover us as a group, but also allowed us the opportunity to be discovered as individuals and develop our own talents," Osmond said.

"The clarity and warmth and grace of his singing shaped my love of music as I watched my brothers perform with him on his weekly show," Donny Osmond said.

Williams gave him several voice lessons when he was just 7, Osmond said.

"When I finally joined my brothers and toured with Andy as his opening act and back-up singers, I was always impressed with the way he handled an audience," he said. "He loved the audience. That was one of the most important lessons he taught me."

His sister, Marie Osmond, who made her TV debut on his show at age 3, said Williams was "the first person to affect my career."

"The group 'The Osmonds' would not exist without the foresight and generosity of our mentor Andy Williams," Marie Osmond said.

"No one sang more beautifully than Andy Williams," she said. "Hearing his version of 'Moon River' never failed to move me deeply. I can't imagine the holiday season without Andy Williams; we did so many specials together."

People we've lost in 2012: The lives they lived

"Moon River" became his theme song after he performed it at the 1962 Academy Awards, where it won an Oscar for best song in a movie. Audrey Hepburn sang the Johnny Mercer and Henry Mancini composition in the film "Breakfast at Tiffany's."

Williams' recording career reached superstar status in 1963 when his album "Days of Wine and Roses" spent 16 weeks at the top of the U.S. music charts.

His variety TV show, which promoted the careers of many other artists including the Osmonds, won high ratings and three Emmys.

Singer Ray Stevens, who was managed for years by Andy's brother Don, called him "one classy guy."

"He was a marvelously talented and generous performer who in 1970 entrusted his nationally acclaimed TV show and audience to a green kid from Georgia," Stevens said. "That kid was me, and he changed my life."

Williams hosted the first live Grammy Awards telecast at the Hollywood Palladium in 1971. He went on to host for seven years straight.

"The entertainment industry has lost a giant piece of its living history today, but Williams' legacy will forever be enshrined in the annals of music and television," said Neil Portnow, the president of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. "Our deepest condolences go out to his family, friends, and all who will miss this American treasure."

The singer hosted five Christmas television specials, between 1973 and 1985, along with seven other television specials, the first in 1959 and the last in 1987.

Williams, who also had a home in La Quinta, California, is survived by his wife of 21 years, Debbie, and his three children with French singer Claudine Longet -- Robert, Noelle and Christian.

He was married to Longet from 1961 until their divorce in 1975. A year later, she was charged with the fatal shooting of her boyfriend, Olympic skier Spider Sabich.

Williams stood by Longet, who claimed the shooting was accidental. She spent a month in jail.

Williams' Branson theater was the first non-country venue built in the small Missouri tourist mecca.

Rare photo of Williams Christmas party: 'He was Christmas in Branson'

He was born on December 3, 1927, in Wall Lake, Iowa, where he began singing with brothers Bob, Dick and Don in a Presbyterian church choir led by their parents.

Williams was just 8 when he made his professional singing debut with the Williams Brothers Quartet. The brothers were regular performers on radio station WHO's "Iowa's Barn Dance Show" in Des Moines. Their popularity grew, taking the brothers to national stations, including WLS in Chicago and WLW in Cincinnati.

Doris Day was his friend when they were both young and living in Cincinnati.

"He and his brothers sang and, of course, so did I, and often I would go over to their house and we would sing together," Day said Wednesday. "They asked me to join their group, but my vocal coach thought I should be out on my own, and so that's what I did."

Smokey Robinson said Williams "befriended me when I was just a teenager starting out in show business, and we remained friends throughout the years."

"I regret that we didn't have the chance to spend more time together," Robinson said. "He was one of the great voices and great people of our time."

Andy in World War II

Andy and his three brothers, Bob, Dick and Don, served in the Merchant Marine in World War 11.

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I run a Facebook page called "Andy Williams' Huckleberry Friends."

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