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


Auditions Are April 26,27 For Midsummer Night’s Dream

Auditions for the Shakespeare Chattanooga’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be held Saturday and Sunday, April 26 and 27, at the Ripple Theater in Brainerd. This show will officially reopen the Ripple space, dark for nearly four years, and kick off the partnership between Shakespeare Chattanooga and Ripple Productions. Performances will be June 20-22 and 27-29 and ... (click for more)

Lee Has Masterworks Concert April 25

The Lee University Choral Union and Symphony Orchestra will present a concert of masterworks on Friday, April 25, at 7:30 p.m. in the Conn Center.    The program will feature Haydn's “Missa in Angustiis,” Beethoven's “Choral Fantasy,” as well as a selection of choruses from Handel's “Messiah.” This performance will be conducted by Dr. Cameron F. LaBarr, assistant ... (click for more)

Man Shot On Cannon Avenue Early Saturday Morning

A man was shot early Saturday morning on Cannon Avenue. At approximately 5:30 a.m., Chattanooga Police responded to 2300 Cannon Ave. for shots fired.  Shortly after receiving the call, officers learned that a victim arrived at a local hospital.  The victim suffered a gunshot wound to the right leg and is undergoing treatment. The injury is not considered to be life-threatening.  ... (click for more)

Child Playing With Cigarette Lighter Starts $25,000 Mobile Home Fire

A child playing with a cigarette lighter started a mobile home fire on Saturday morning. At 9 a.m., the Chattanooga Fire Department responded to a mobile home fire at 6561 Cassie Lane. It took four fire companies about 10 minutes to get the fire under control. The fire was contained to one bedroom. No injuries were reported. Damage to the home is around $25,000. (click for more)

When The City Was Silent - And Response

I don't know how to say this without getting my head handed back to me on a platter as is often the usual case. But at least I no longer receive the hateful (even threatening) emails and insults I became accustomed to. So I'll just bite and say it: I honestly don't see anything expressed by the NSM that hasn't been said locally on some level at one time or another, and ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: VW-UAW Fiasco Begins

One pundit who is awaiting the opening volleys of “The Volkswagen Hearings” is calling today’s start of the labor union fiasco at the Hamilton County Courthouse as fascism at its finest. That’s what you call it, he wrote in a fiery way, when the union, the employer and the president of the United States all line up on the same side. “And this push to eviscerate the legal rights ... (click for more)