Singer Andy Williams and wife Debbie Williams walk the red carpet during the 40th Annual Songwriters Hall of Fame Ceremony at The New York Marriott Marquis on June 18, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Songwriters Hall of Fame)

Long before anyone began calling Mariah Carey the “Queen of Christmas,” there was a man known as “Mr. Christmas” and he’s the subject of this Throwback Threesome. Andy Williams was born in Wall Lake, Iowa in 1927, and he began singing in a Presbyterian church children’s choir. The Williams family moved around a bit. Andy spent his high school years in Cincinnati and Los Angeles. At just 17, he joined the U.S. Merchant Marine and served until the end of World War II.

Andy had three older brothers who also sang and they formed the Williams Brothers quartet. The group performed on radio stations across the Midwest and, eventually, in Hollywood. They appeared in a number of films and sang on several soundtracks. The brothers also toured as part of the highly-successful nightclub act, Kay Thompson and the Williams Brothers, between 1947 and 1953.

Andy Williams launched his solo career in 1953. He struggled to put out a hit for the first few years, but by the end of the decade Williams was an established star. The crooner enjoyed peak popularity in the 1960s with songs such as “Moon River” and “Days of Wine and Roses,” both written by composer Henry Mancini and lyricist Johnny Mercer. “Moon River” was such a smash, it became Williams’ signature song. He would later open the Moon River Theatre in Branson, Missouri.

Mr. Christmas

In 1963, Williams released his first collection of holiday songs, The Andy Williams Christmas Album. It was the album that introduced Williams’ seasonal classic “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” as well as his recording of “Happy Holiday/The Holiday Season.” Two years later, Williams put out his second holiday album, Merry Christmas. As with his first Christmas album, this release featured a mix of secular and religious songs, including “Sleigh Ride” and “Mary’s Little Boy Child.”

Andy Williams was a perennial presence during the holiday season on radio and TV for many years. Williams recorded a total of eight Christmas albums over the course of his career. On top of that, he hosted his own weekly TV variety show, The Andy Williams Show, in the 1960s. His Christmas specials aired regularly until 1974 and intermittently from 1982 into the 1990s. According to Songfacts, those specials were a big reason that he was nicknamed “Mr. Christmas.” Andy Williams passed away in 2012 at the age of 84.

Throwback Threesome: Andy Williams

  • Happy Holiday/The Holiday Season (1963)

    “Happy Holiday” was composed by Irving Berlin in 1942. Andy Williams’ former mentor, Kay Thompson ,wrote “The Holiday Season.” In 1947, Thompson had hired William and his brothers as the backing singers in her nightclub act. The pairing of the two songs as a medley was first popularized by Andy in 1963 when he included it on his first holiday collection, The Andy William Christmas Album.  The clip below features the reunited brothers performing the medley in 1964.

  • It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year (1963)

    Written in 1963 by George Wyle (also known for the Gilligan’s Island theme) and Eddie Pola, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart in 2020. One of the activities included in the lyrics is the telling of “scary ghost stories,” which was a Victorian Christmas tradition. Williams released other versions of the song throughout his life, but his original 1963 recording is the gold standard.

  • Sleigh Ride (1965)

    Composer Leroy Anderson published “Sleigh Ride” as an instrumental in 1948 and the first version was recorded by the Boston Pops a year later. Mitchell Parish added lyrics in 1950. While the Ronettes’ 1963 cover might be the most popular version, Andy Williams put his own swinging stamp on the Yuletide favorite for his second holiday album, Merry Christmas.

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