Octogenarian crooner submits his Horatio Alger tale.
In the 1960s, easy-listening icon Andy Williams’s velvety voice and handsome mug became associated with a culturally conservative side of America that never embraced rock ’n’ roll. But as we learn in this surprisingly candid memoir, Williams endured a pre-success hard-knock life that rivaled the squalid upbringings of many country singers or rock stars. Raised during the Great Depression in tiny Wall Lake, Iowa, a pre-adolescent Williams and his brothers were pushed hard by their hyperambitious manager father, singing at local church socials and anywhere else they could find work. Soon the family was living a peripatetic working-class existence, moving to Des Moines, then Chicago, then Los Angeles, doing radio shows and picking up the odd decent-paying gig. In L.A., however, his father’s dogged persistence paid off when he got the brothers bit parts in a few Hollywood films. However, making it as a solo act in the post–World War II entertainment landscape nearly undid the workaholic singer. At his lowest point he was playing dingy nightclubs to little acclaim and sleeping in vermin-ridden flophouses—he once even resorted to eating dog food. Even as he began to have success on television, hosting the Andy Williams Show, while becoming a million-selling recording artist, life was still tough. Two marriages ended in divorce, and one ex-wife, singer Claudine Longet, was later involved in a controversial shooting. The author’s peak years in the late ’60s are the least compelling, as Williams rambles on about the fruits of success: art collecting, investing in Arabian horses, celebrity golf tournaments and run-ins with the Rat Pack, Elvis, John Lennon and seemingly every major or minor showbiz luminary of the day.
Equal parts oddly compelling and eye-crossingly dull.