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Williams did book some rock and soul acts, including the Beach Boys, the Temptations and Smokey Robinson. On one show, in 1970, Williams sang “Heaven Help Us All” with Ray Charles, Mama Cass and a then-little known Elton John, a vision to Williams in his rhinestone glasses and black cape. But Williams liked him and his breakthrough hit “Your Song” enough to record it himself.

For many families, Williams and his music were a holiday tradition. His annual Christmas specials continued long after his show ended, featuring Williams dressed in colorful sweaters singing favorites that almost always included “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” a song written for Williams that became a holiday standard.

Williams‘ act was, apparently, not an act. The singer’s unflappable manner on television and in concert was mirrored offstage.

“I guess I’ve never really been aggressive, although almost everybody else in show business fights and gouges and knees to get where they want to be,” he once said. “My trouble is, I’m not constructed temperamentally along those lines.”

His wholesome image endured one jarring interlude.

In 1976, his ex-wife, former Las Vegas showgirl Claudine Longet, shot and killed her lover, skiing champion Spider Sabich. The Rolling Stones mocked the tragedy in “Claudine,” a song so pitiless that it wasn’t released until decades later. Longet, who said the slaying was an accident, spent only a week in jail. Williams stood by her. He escorted her to the courthouse, testified on her behalf and provided support for her and their children, Noelle, Christian and Robert.

Also in the 1970s, Williams was seen frequently in the company of Ethel Kennedy, Robert Kennedy’s widow. The singer denied any romantic involvement.

He was born Howard Andrew Williams in Wall Lake, Iowa, on Dec. 3, 1927, and began performing with older brothers Dick, Bob and Don in the local Presbyterian church choir. Their father, postal worker and insurance man Jay Emerson Williams, was the choirmaster and the force behind his children’s career.

When Andy was 8, his father arranged for the kids to have an audition on Des Moines radio station WHO’s Iowa Barn Dance. They were initially turned down but kept returning until they were finally accepted. The show attracted attention from Chicago, Cincinnati and Hollywood. Another star at WHO was a young sportscaster named Ronald Reagan, who would later praise Williams as a “national treasure.”

The brothers later worked with Kay Thompson, a singer who eventually became famous for the “Eloise” children’s books. She had taken a position as vocal coach at MGM studios, working with Judy Garland, June Allyson and others. After three months of training, Thompson and the Williams Brothers broke in their show at the El Rancho Room in Las Vegas, drawing rave reviews and as much as $25,000 a week.

After five years, the three older brothers, who were starting their own families, had tired of the constant travel and left to pursue other careers.

Williams initially struggled as a solo act and was so broke at one point that he resorted to eating food intended for his two dogs.

A two-year TV stint on Steve Allen’s “Tonight Show” and a contract with Cadence Records turned things around. Williams later formed his own label, Barnaby Records, which released music by the Everly Brothers, Ray Stevens and Jimmy Buffett.

Williams was a lifelong Republican who once accused President Barack Obama of “following Marxist theory.” But he acknowledged experimenting with LSD, opposed the Nixon administration’s efforts in the 1970s to deport John Lennon and in 1968 was an energetic supporter of Robert Kennedy’s presidential campaign.

When Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles in June 1968, just after winning the California Democratic primary, Williams sang “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” at his funeral.

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