When Andy Williams started to build his Moon River Theater in Branson 20 years ago, he was placing his trust in the people of Missouri. We didn’t disappoint him. Now, Missouri has lost a great friend with the passing of Andy Williams, an icon who surpassed the musical art form to touch our lives in a distinctly American way.
Not only was Andy Williams drawn to Southern Missouri to start his Branson theater – an architectural landmark for the nation which incorporated the landscape of the Ozarks – he also came here to live. With him, he brought his love of art, and he displayed great works from his private collection at the Moon River Theater. He opened a restaurant alongside the theater.
And he maintained his strong presence in American culture for seven decades, right up to the moment on November 4th, 2011, when he appeared on stage at his theater to announce that he had cancer.
Along the way, Andy Williams wrote and recorded hit album after hit album. He collaborated with some of the greatest songwriters of his generation, and his television show provided a launching pad for some of the greatest voices of the generations to come after his. Throughout his career, Andy never stopped performing. He took only as much time off to rest his vocal cords as absolutely necessary.
Christmas, however, was the best season for Andy Williams. It is hard to turn on the radio in December without hearing Andy’s warm voice light up a Christmas standard like “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” or “O Holy Night.” You can hear in his voice the genuine effect of the season on him. Obituaries printed his quote about doing Christmas shows in Branson, saying, “It gives me a great deal of satisfaction to do a show I think the audience really loves and needs during this time of year.”
And here is the most remarkable thing about Andy Williams: in addition to being a great talent, he was a great entrepreneur and businessman.
He provides an example of how we Americans can take something we love and use our freedom to make it a success. Plenty of folks probably told Andy Williams he was crazy for coming to Branson, Missouri, to build a theater and perform there every night. But Andy loved music, he loved the location, he loved the people… and so he made the right decision for him… and for us.
If we let those freedoms slip away or lose that entrepreneurial spirit, we risk losing the creative genius of Americans who are ready and willing to put their careers on the line to give us new opportunities. Not just the chance to have great theaters or wonderful destinations nearby in Missouri, but the chance also to have new jobs, a thriving economy and a local point of pride that encourages even more investment in the people and places here.
Page 2 of 2 - His passions for art and culture have made an indelible mark on Southern Missouri. Long after Andy Williams is gone, we will see evidence of how he has enriched our communities. Thank you for everything, Andy, and God bless.