Name at birth: Howard Andrew Williams
Andy Williams was the laid-back pop singer whose string of hits in the late 1950s led to his own popular television variety show in the 1960s. He was best known for his 1962 version of the song "Moon River," the Oscar-winning tune first sung by Audrey Hepburn in the 1961 film Breakfast at Tiffany's. Andy Williams got his singing start in his hometown of Wall Lake, Iowa, first in the church choir and then as part of an act with his three brothers. They performed on radio in Cincinnati and Chicago, and in 1944 did backing vocals for the Bing Crosby hit "Swinging On A Star." Williams toured nightclubs with Kay Thompson in the late 1940s, but went solo in 1952. He got his first big break as a regular on Steve Allen's TV show Tonight, which led to a recording contract and hit records like 1956's "Canadian Sunset," "Butterfly" and "The Hawaiian Wedding Song." A 1957 summertime stint as a TV host led to his own successful variety show, The Andy Williams Show, which ran in one form or another from 1962 until 1971. While pop music was changing with the imprint of rock and roll, Williams held steady with romantic ballads sung in his smooth tenor. He had a big hit in 1971 with another movie song, "(Where Do I Begin) Love Story," the theme from the 1970 film Love Story. But "Moon River," a song that was not released as a single, became his signature tune. He both owned and performed in the Moon River Theater in Branson, Missouri, opened in 1992.