Ten Essential Don Williams Classics
If any one songwriter was crucial in forwarding Don Williams' recording career, it was the limitless Bob McDill.
Of the 56 songs Williams charted between his first in 1973 and his last in 1992, McDill wrote or co-wrote 14, among them the classic "Good Ole Boys," "Lord Have Mercy on a Country Boy," "Rake and Ramblin' Man" and "If Hollywood Don't Need You."
Williams, who died in 2017, would have been 80 on Monday (May 27).
Like Williams a Texan, McDill was a part of that creative co-op that included producer and songwriter Allen Reynolds, producer Garth Fundis, publisher Bill Hall, singer and songwriter Dickey Lee and Musical Everyman, "Cowboy" Jack Clement, the last of whom gave Williams his first country record deal.
A dabbler in film making, Clement produced on Williams what is arguably the first country music video, a concept clip on McDill's "Come Early Morning" in 1973. "Jack was still into the whole mentality and excitement — for him — of making movies," Williams told CMT in a 2004 interview. "He made a horror movie [Dear Dead Delilah, 1972] that preceded the video. But [the video] was his idea, totally. He just really wanted to do it. [Although] there was virtually no outlet for it at the time. … I think there was like a Saturday morning show in Philadelphia and American Bandstand that at some times would play something like that. … But it was just something he wanted to do. So I said' Go to it.'"
In "Good Ole Boys Like Me," McDill provided Williams with his most quoted lyric: "I can still hear the soft Southern winds in the live oak trees/and those Williams boys they still mean a lot to me/Hank and Tennessee."
Williams would score 17 No. 1s throughout the '70s and '80s, including such non-McDill treasures as "Tulsa Time," "Some Broken Hearts Never Mend," "Lord I Hope This Day Is Good" and "Love Is On A Roll."
Here are 10 Williams/McDill songs essential to appreciating the soft-spoken baritone who came to be known as "the Gentle Giant."
1973: "Come Early Morning"
1975: "(Turn Out the Light) and Love Me Tonight"
1976: "Say It Again"
1976: "She Never Knew Me"
Co-written with Wayland Holyfield
1978: "Rake and Ramblin' Man"
1979: "It Must Be Love"
1980: "Good Ole Boys Like Me"
1982: "If Hollywood Don't Need You"
1991: "Lord Have Mercy on a Country Boy"
Apart from his American audiences, Williams also developed a following in, of all places, Zimbabwe. His 2004 DVD. Into Africa, chronicled his rapturous reception there. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2010.