Saturday, September 09, 2017

DON WILLIAM DIES - The Pozo-Seco Singer

    The average person might not quite know the name Don Williams (May 27, 1939 – September 8, 2017). “Hmm, country singer, wasn’t he?” Well, yes, and to C&W fans he was “The Gentle Giant,” with 17 hits on the country charts, a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame.

    He didn’t quite have a crossover single, like George Jones or Johnny Cash, but fans loved #1 country hits such as “I Believe In You” “It Must Be Love,” “Tulsa Time” and “I Wouldn”t Want to Live If You Didn’t Love Me.”  “If I Needed You” was a duet with Emmylou Harris.  His most mainstream achievement was appearing as himself in “Smokey and the Bandit II.”
    It’s possible that not that many of Don’s country fans knew that he was the leader of the Pozo-Seco Singers, along with Lofton Cline (they were originally a duo called Strangers Two) and the added female voice, Susan Taylor. 

      Naturally, here at the Blog of Less Renown, Don's lesser known but pioneering achievement with the folk group is being highlighted. "Pozo Seco" in Spanish literally means "dry well." The poetic meaning here would be that if you are feeling "pozo seco," you're either stoic, or lovelorn. (Consider how Patty Ramey chose her stage name, Patty Loveless). The mellow MOR folkie group offered gentle, smooth interpretations of folk songs. Their first single “Time” landed at #47 on the Billboard charts, and they  hit the Top 40 twice with “I Can Make It With You” (by Chip “Angel of the Morning” Taylor) and “Look What You’ve Done.”  Being on Columbia, the group gave major label exposure to the likes of Phil Ochs and Raun MacKinnon.

    “Changes” is what life is about, and below, Phil’s song is the sample of the Pozo-Seco Singers style. The Pozo-Seco Singers may have sounded smooth, but they found the music business rough. Lofton Kline, tired of touring, and also tired of record producer Bob Johnson’s direction, quit and was replaced by Ron Shaw. With the blame apparently going to Johnson, the group's next singles failed or only grazed the Top 100. Ron Shaw left. Now just a duo, Don and Susan shaved the group name down to Pozo-Seco, and used back-up musicians and singers for their third Columbia album, and their fourth, an indie for Certron in 1970.  

    When Pozo-Seco went kaput, Don didn’t immediately launch a solo career. The humble guy from Floydada, Texas sold furniture, and dabbled in song writing for Jack Publishing. The owner, Jack Clement, ultimately signed him to a record deal on Jack’s JMI label.  It wasn’t until 1974 that he made a stir with “We Should Be Together,” a Top Ten item. His peak award-winning years were 1976-1982, but he continued to amass hits and always had an audience. Old Pozo-Seco albums were re-released with Don’s name prominent.  In 2006, he announced a “Farewell Tour of the World,” but in 2010 he was back on the road, and in 2012 he recorded “And So It Goes.”

    Like George Jones, Don suffered from emphysema. George tried to make it through one last tour, his voice giving out now and then during songs, and ultimately he had to cancel shows and be hospitalized. Don would not deal with such a disappointment or indignity. Last year, March of 2016, he cancelled his remaining gigs. A tribute album, “The Songs of Don Williams,” turned up a few months later, featuring covers by John Prine, Jason Isbell, Lady Antebellum, Keb Mo, Trisha Yearwood, Alison Krauss and others.  “It’s time to hang my hat up and enjoy some quiet time at home. I’m so thankful for my fans, my friends and my family for their everlasting support.” Some figured this was going to be just another temporary retirement. It seemed like Don Williams would go on forever, no matter the changes.

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