In the late 1970s, after a dozen years in the business and a handful of minor country and folk hits, Don Williams -- a big man with a baritone to match -- finally hit the big time. In 1978, Music City News called him the "Most Promising Male Country Artist," the Country Music Association named him "Male Vocalist of the Year," and his song "Tulsa Time" -- now a standard -- was named single of the year. Over the next decade, Williams lived up to the accolades by placing 52 Top 40 hits on the Billboard country charts, 17 of which went all the way to number one.
Williams tried to turn his early musical successes into a film career and appeared alongside Burt Reynolds in W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings and Smokey and the Bandit II. But the fast-paced Hollywood lifestyle didn't appeal to country music's "Gentle Giant," who has always preached the virtues of stress-free living.
Although two of Williams' best recordings, "Amanda" and "Louisiana Saturday Night," are now more closely associated with other artists (Waylon Jennings and Mel McDaniel, respectively) and Eric Clapton has all but claimed "Tulsa Time" as his own, the original recordings remain definitive. With songs like "It Must Be Love," "Lord, I Hope This Day Is Good," and "I Believe in You," he brought an honest, soulful edge to the increasingly poppy sounds of '80s country.
After nearly half a century in the spotlight, Williams is taking one final lap around the globe to say farewell to all of his fans. On Tuesday, November 21st, he'll bring his band to the Cannon Center to say goodbye to Memphis.
Don Williams, the Cannon Center, Tuesday, November 21st, 7:30 p.m., $26.50-$46.50