FORMER President Ronald Reagan once declared that Andy Williams' voice should be made "a national treasure," but that somehow doesn't seem the kind of job the smooth crooner is apt to apply for.
Williams, remembered best for delighting audiences more than two decades ago with his long-running television musical variety show, is a good-natured and generous man, who seems cut from humbler cloth.
He will open the first leg of his "Seventh Annual Christmas Tour" at 6 and again at 9 tonight at the Civic Center Music Hall. Williams will perform Christmas favorites plus his own hits backed by his orchestra and the Oklahoma City University Chamber Choir.
In interviews, Williams doesn't bring up his 17 gold albums or mention the fact that he's a three-time winner of Billboard Magazine's best vocalist award or "The Andy Williams Show's" three Emmys.
Williams isn't one to dwell on the past. He's more than happy to discuss his three children two sons and a daughter, plus two grandkids all of whom "turned out great."
He'll also tell you he's proud to have discovered little Donny Osmond and his talented siblings, the Osmond Brothers.
But what will surprise you is that Williams is candid about what he calls his "days of eating dog food," and he doesn't hesitate mentioning that "Alpo isn't half bad, if you heat it up."
Williams said that, despite a happy childhood performing with his older brothers as the star member of the Williams Brothers (a popular 1940s vocal act), he was left to his own devices in Hollywood after the foursome disbanded in 1953.
"My brothers didn't want to do it anymore," Williams said. "It was frightening and very, very hard before I got my big break on the Steve Allen Show. I guess you could say I was the Donny of the group."
Williams began singing with his three big brothers in the church choir when he was only 8.
"Our father got us into radio in Des Moines, and we had a normal routine because our shows were in the morning," Williams said. "We basically led a normal life when we weren't on the road. I guess it was as normal as any theatrical act can be.
"We traveled a lot and did other shows in Ohio," he said. "I was about 13 when I discovered girls and beer. We moved to California when I was a junior in high school."
In Los Angeles, the Williams Brothers began to make a national name for themselves. In 1947, the brothers made their nightclub debut, appearing with Kay Thompson in Las Vegas.
After the brothers disbanded, Williams struggled through his "dog food days" before getting his big break originally a two-week contract on "The Steve Allen Show" which stretched into three years.
Experimenting with the musical variety TV show format himself, Williams began "The Andy Williams June Valli Show" in 1957 and later "The Andy Williams Show" on ABC. He finally found a home in 1963 on NBC, and "The Andy Williams Show" became one of the network's highest-rated shows until going off the air in 1971.
"One of my proudest finds were the Osmond Brothers," Williams said. "Donny's very talented, but he's found it's very tough to get accepted, and it's hard for people to think of him as grown up.
"But he can have a hit record despite the fact they don't want to accept him. He even has an earring, but they'll never accept him like say Prince or George Michael."
Williams said he is sad, but not surprised, at the demise of live television.
"We've got some live programs, like talk shows, but I think it's a shame there isn't a little more variety," Williams said. "It's simply a matter of ratings.
"They (the networks) are fighting each other tooth and nail, and live musical variety TV shows don't hold up ... maybe people would rather see a mystery."
Six years ago, Williams was approached by a promoter who requested he perform some Christmas songs during his performance with the Seattle (Wash.) Symphony Orchestra.
"I got some Christmas songs together and did about an hour and a half," Williams said. "It was very successful. My agents got about 10 calls, and that's how it started. The next year we decided to take it on the road.
"I like doing this Christmas tour, and we are doing an awful lot of cities. We'll start with Oklahoma and will be performing until the end of December.
"Then, I'm going to go and lie down in some hospital." BIOG: NAME:Archive ID: 408076