Danny Williams is not a household name when it comes to the pop-rock music era of the 1960s, but growing up during this time, Williams one big hit in the U.S. in 1964, “White on White” (#9) has always been a favourite with his smooth and stylish way in singing this lovely ballad.
Williams, a native of Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape, South Africa, lived the better part of his life in the United Kingdom where he is much better known and where he earned the nickname, “Britain’s Johnny Mathis” for his mellifluous high tenor voice and fluidity in singing ballads. It didn’t hurt, either that he had natural good looks to go along with his silky voice. Williams will always be remembered in the U.K. for his #1 hit that topped the British charts during Christmas 1961 with a cover version of “Moon River”, a song that has remained an easy listening favourite there ever since.
Danny Williams’s life and musical career story are unlike most others from the decade of the sixties. Williams grew up under apartheid in South Africa where he sang his first solo with a church choir at the age of six. At 14, he won a talent contest and joined a touring show called Golden City Dixies that played throughout South Africa, with additional scheduled shows in Europe including England. Williams took top honours in the competition and started touring with the company. His first break came while in London in 1959 when his performance caught the attention of record producer Norman Newell, the recording manager of EMI’s HMV label. Newell saw in Williams the makings of a new Johnny Mathis and signed him to a recording contract. His debut single was “Tall a Tree”, but it was not until 1961 and his fifth record, “We Will Never Be as Young as This Again”, that Williams achieved a minor hit. Prior to this hit, Williams also appeared on television’s Drumbeat show. He then scored in a big way with “Moon River”. His version of the song soared to the top of the charts just two years after he started recording. The following year in the U.S., crooner Andy Williams put out his rendition of “Moon River” and it was forever after identified with him.
After the collapse of apartheid in 1990, Williams returned to South Africa on several occasions, but continued to live in Britain. In 2005, EMI reissued two of his early albums, “Moon River” and “Swinging for You”, on CD. On December 6, 2005, Danny Williams died of cancer at the age of sixty-three. He was married three times and is survived by his partner Daniella, two daughters and a son, the actor Anthony Barclay.