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Roger Williams

Pianist Roger Williams' sweeping, sparkling arpeggios, showy technique, and gentle easy listening arrangements made him one of the most popular pop instrumentalists of the late '50s and '60s. Like many other easy listening musicians, he blurred the boundaries between pop, jazz, and classical, creating a smooth, relaxing hybrid. Between 1955 and 1972, he had 38 hit albums and 22 hit singles, including the number one hit "Autumn Leaves."

Williams (born Louis Weertz) began playing piano as a child, but he was lured into boxing while he was a high-school student. After suffering several injuries -- including breaking his nose a number of times -- he decided to turn his full attention to music, enrolling as a piano major at Drake University. As a student, he began playing hybrids of jazz, classical, and pop. A school official heard him playing "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" in one of the university's practice rooms and expelled the young musician.

Following his expulsion, Williams joined the Navy, where he earned a B.A. in engineering. When his tenure in the Navy was finished, he went back to Drake and re-enrolled in the university. After a couple of years, he moved to Juilliard, where he studied under jazz pianists Lennie Tristano and Teddy Wilson.

Williams' first big break arrived when he was scheduled to provide accompaniment for a Juilliard vocalist on Arthur Godfrey & Talent Scouts 1946-50. The vocalist didn't appear at the show, leaving the pianist to play a solo spot. Dave Kapp, the head of Kapp Records, heard Williams on the show and was impressed. Kapp signed the pianist to a contract and changed his name from Louis Weertz to Roger Williams; the name derived from the founder of Rhode Island.

After releasing a few singles, Williams had his first hit with the arpeggio-laden "Autumn Leaves" in 1955. The single reached number one on the U.S. charts and began a streak of 22 hit singles that ran through 1969; he had two other Top Ten hits, "Near You" in 1958 and "Born Free" in 1966. Williams was equally successful on the album charts, racking up a total of 38 hit records between 1956 and 1972, including the Top Ten albums Songs of the Fabulous Fifties (1957), Till (1958), Maria (1962), and Born Free (1966).

Williams' audience faded away in the early '70s, but he continued to record into the '80s. He remained one of the most popular pianists of the postwar era. He was the first pianist to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and he played for every President of the United States between Harry Truman and Bill Clinton. Roger Williams died of complications from pancreatic cancer on October 8, 2011 in Los Angeles; he was 87 years old. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine, Rovi
full bio

Comments

I go someplace else when I listen to his music, someplace peaceful and full of hope. Thank you Roger for giving me this escape.
In the mid 70's I worked at a Farm and a Cannery around Wallkill, NY. Many times after long hours working, I would plop down in front of a fan (Summer time, 'natch), and put on a Roger Williams album - and was instantly transformed to a world of peace and solitude. He helped me thru the long hours of work as I looked forward to once again being in that place of joy and bliss at the end of the day. I hope to meet him in person someday amid the places his music brought me to - paradise!
Now he plays with the Angels
My favourite pianist - played with such feeling. Have been a fan since the 1950's and his first album Near You
The Best! Soundtrack ever to date!
All the comments posted are so true and I agree with them. He was one of the best!
Ann Horton
I like them all.Thank-yo u !
markggalaviz
The most beautiful piece ever! I am grateful for inspired souls like these that will forever be remembered. You made this world a better place.
2011 Was a bad year with Roger Williams and John Barry gone! Their works will outlive the rest of us! Thanks , for the memories and melodies!!!
forgot he had passed on-hope he is playing for the gathering in the beyond
Love t....Rick
martian95524
When I was 16 my Mom took me to dinner at The Nugget in Reno and I sat just a few yards away while he and his orchestra played popular hits of the day but in ways I had never heard before. I have been a fan of his every since, and I'm glad he kept playing for the public. I only wish I had saw and heard him perform again after I became an adult. Then again, perhaps nothing would ever again equaled that one magnificent performance. It is one of my favorite memories I had with my Mom.
I saw Roger perform just a few years ago when he was about 84 or 85 years old. His talent and enthusiasm never faded or diminished. It was a remarkable concert that I will always remember. Those nimble fingers effortlessly playing even the most complicated pieces, just extraordinar y . You sensed that he was a kind and warm person as well. God bless Roger.
jlombardo123
The sweetest, most humble, gentle man I have ever known; played for me in his home whatever I wanted to hear. So humble, he slept on a pad next to his piano. Love you, Roger, you are missed. Now you are my favorite station. Rest in Peace, That's crazy man, crazy.
You don,t realize how much a part of your life these guys were until you hear them again. Roger Williams is right in there. DMB
Wondering if he ever covered any Judas Priest songs?
hope is still playing the piano when I greet him in the big concert hall in the sky.
gailskipwals h
TEARS!!!!!!! LOVED WILLIAMS MUSIC FOR DECADES .... 'AUTUMN LEAVES' IS WILLIAMS GIFT TO ALL OF US!
jjsgem4
Roger's music touched my heart for all these years. I'm grateful for his recording career. I had hoped to hear him one more time (he was to be on tour on Alabama's Gulf Coast).
dgs331
Roger Williams died of pancreatic cancer on October 8, 2011, at the age of 87. May he rest in peace.
Wonderful easy listening piano. When I am upset or tired I put on one of his albums and I can feel my blood pressure drop. One in a million!
love his music! it relaxes me ! big time
Love his music....
Roger Williams is a wonderful artist. He has created some very beautiful works of art in the music world today.
nanickolas
Roger Williams has the touch!! He's a great artist and will be around for generations.
Beautiful music..... Roger Williams has been my pianist idol
for years now. I still love to hear him play.
I get to see and hear him on the Cristal Cathedral Program
with Robert Schuller.... Roger still has that majic touch
on the piano.

jriden
Smooth sound----sop h i s t i c a t e d - sooooooooooo relaxing
fred.ruder
Listen to his first hit record called Almost Paradise, it preceeds Autumn Leaves
His music is magic




















His music is just beautiful. His "somewhere in Time is almost haunting







1
Roger Williams music is almost magic. His "Somewhere in Time" is hauntingly beautiful.



billie.jeffr i e s
Can't get much better than this!!
I used to play a simplified version of Misty in junior high school - Roger Williams style is magic!
gbonjokian
I thank God for his soul stiring compositions .
This guy has been my idol for years and I am soo glad he is still playing.
He is 83-84 yrs. of age and still has that magic touch on the ivories.
He's the best...

jr

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