Don Williams - Still A Gentle Giant And A Country Cowboy

Wednesday, January 22, 2014 - by Mark A. Herndon

Chattanooga OnStage continues to repeat success in bring great musical artist and other events to the Memorial Auditorium and Tivoli Theater never seems to disappoint the musical interest of the Scenic City.  

A few nights ago was another superstar to grace the historic stage of the Tivoli Theater.  I usually arrive early to have my media credentials verified with Site Security and Artist management.  After receiving specific instructions, as I finished my briefing, the crowd was already massed in the lobby and outside to the street.  I have worked with the Chattanooga OnStage management, security and floor ushers many events, the process is very professional to get everyone in and seated timely. Still you could tell, there were plenty of excitement building with the unusual loud crowd noisy in the lobby area.

As I turned to observed the crowd, I quickly recognized another local superstar and legend in the house. He was not a stranger as I approached, it was an long time and great friend of the local music scene since the early 70’s as I remembered. Tommy Jett (famed Chattanooga DJ well known radio AM 1070) It was great to see how well he looked after recovering from an auto accident and extended near death illness more than a year ago. We shared greetings and the last time it was on the UNUM stage as he introduced another local entertainer James Rogers at Riverbend last year.   We were all here for the same reason…to enjoy one of the best legendary county music singer and songwriter Mr. Don Williams.  

As the lights changed, indication to focus towards the stage, it was another disc jockey and friend, Scot Miller (Suzie and Dale) with WUUQ Classic Country 97.3 and 99.3, set to introduce to the stage legend singer and famed songwriter, “The Gentle Giant”, Mr. Don Williams and his flawless and well-seasoned band of musicians. 

The experience was unbelievable as his voice is ageless.  The songs and music was good for the heart and soul of every fan there.  The house was literally packed (no exaggeration) of fans (all ages) caught up in the music. I was dazed, amazed and thrilled to share the experience. Don was thrilled with the house of fans too. The respect was mutual.  A man of few words and quick quips, he in very few words said he wished he could dehydrate the house and carry it on the road to every event add some water and the next event and there everyone would be. There were no doubt he absolutely enjoyed being at the historic Tivoli house.

I grew up in the 60’s with country, hit the 70’s with Rock & Roll with Southern country, then with the 80’s brought Disco turning into the 90’s Metal and Punk.  Today, it’s all classic to me.  After laying my camera down from the first couple of songs, I began focusing on what I just captured.  The purpose of the photography was to capture the lasting visions of a man and his music… the love, passion, mood and heart of the timeless ballads and moving storytelling in his selected list of hits.  I began listening for some new material as you could almost tell another CD would be on the verge of release. His straightforward yet smooth bass-baritone voice, soft tones, and imposing build earned him the nickname: "Gentle Giant" of country music.

Those who missed the concert and interested in getting re-acquainted with his music on iTunes or YouTube the following is the closest I could track on his set list.  He added a couple of new songs in which titles were not familiar: 1) Good Ole Boys Like Me; 2) Some Broken Hearts Never Mend; 3) She’s in Love with a Rodeo Man; 4) Back in my Younger Days; 5) She Never Knew Me; 6) Elise; 7) How Did You Do It?; 8) From Now On; 9) If Hollywood Don’t Need You; 10) ’Til The Rivers All Run Dry; 11) It Must Be Love; 12) I Believe In You; 13) I Just Come Here For the Music ; 14) Unknown tune [??]; 15) Tulsa Time; 16) Amanda; 17) You’re My Best Friend; 18) Lord, I Hope This Day is Good; 19) I Recall a Gypsy Woman;  Encore: 20) If I Needed You; 21) Louisiana Saturday Night

It is worthy to share some information I researched about Don who retired from the business in 2006, then reemerged in 2012 to continue to share his stories crafted into his own style of music and fill events to capacity everywhere.  So here is what you should know: 

"Don Williams (born May 27, 1939, Floydada, Texas, United States), is an American  singer, songwriter and a 2010 inductee to the Country Music Hall of Fame. He grew up in Portland, Texas, and graduated in 1958 from Gregory-Portland High School. After seven years with the pop group  Pozo-Seco Singers, he began his solo career in 1971, singing popular ballads and amassing 17 No. 1 Country & Western hits.

"Early in 2006, Williams announced his "Farewell Tour of the World" and played numerous dates both in the U.S. and abroad, wrapping the tour up with the "Final Farewell Concert" in Memphis, Tennessee at the Cannon Center for Performing Arts on November 21, 2006. Playing to a full house, the final event was well received and quite emotional for fans in attendance.

"As of 2010, Williams had come out of retirement and was once again touring.  In March 2012, Williams announced the release of a new record And So It Goes (UK release April 30, 2012; US/Worldwide release June 19, 2012), his first new record since 2004. The record is his first with the independent Americana label Sugar Hill Records. The record includes guest appearances by Alison Krauss, Keith Urban, and ” (source: Wikipedia)   

I’m thinking to myself what else could be said about this man and his music, then I turned to Don’s official web page.  It’s best said there and worth repeating. “They came to call Don Williams “the Gentle Giant” in the decades he was a dominating country hit maker because of his unique blend of commanding presence and that laid back, easy style that appealed to adults men and women alike – cutting across national and genre boundaries.”

As I listened and observed Don, it was apparent he had nothing to prove or sell. It was in his music that has stood the decades of time.Today, there are too many modern country pop singers and songwriters hoping their move away from traditional country will stand the same test of time. As for Don with his latest “On and So it Goes", released last year, brings again that winning, self-assured ease to the stage with the musical style as his signature.

Don is the most highly respected ballad vocal model for performers ranging from Eric Clapton, Keith Urban and others.  Don’s absence or let’s say hiatus for 4 years didn’t weaken his strength to keep bring his fans the music we have grown to love for so many years. They may always call him a “Gentle Giant” to be… he is a true cowboy riding along the path with George Strait, Gene Autry, Sons of the Pioneers and Roy Rogers. 

A brief mention of the opening act, an obscure Irish born singer/songwriter Colm Kirwan, found his way from Northern Ireland, now resides in Nashville, and opens with an acoustic set.  I didn’t get the feeling the packed house was connecting with his Irish birth style of country music. Colm’s self–titled CD is a very contemporary county collection with a Celtic flair. One blog reported Colm Kirwin was asked to join Williams’ current American tour after a successful joint venture between the two in Ireland and Scotland. Kirwin has a pleasant voice, with a charming heavy Irish accent. His most astounding and moving number was “Never Alone”. You will see this song climb Nashville charts. However, My personal note would be selecting a local country band to open such as Zack Dylan Band or Band Raven to compliment the stage setting of one of the most loved legend Don Williams.  

More information about Don Williams, his schedule of events and music best found on the web at  http://www.don-williams.com/  look for future events at Chattanooga OnStage here at http://chattanoogaonstage.com/  and Radio Country Classics at http://www.wuuqradio.com/  

The Chattanooga Live Music scene is alive and well… check out the current schedule of local events on Chattanoogan.com Entertainment page and this link http://www.chattanoogan.com/Leasuretime/On-Stage.aspx and follow me at my virtual studio https://www.facebook.com/LastingVisionStudio  and Chattanoogan.com.

Mark A Herndon, CPG
Professional Photographer
m.a.herndon@comcast.net


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