Country Music Hall of Famer Don Williams dead at 78

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His mellow sound influenced a later generation of singers including Joe Nichols and Josh Turner and Keith Urban has said Williams drew him to country music.

Country singer Don Williams died at age 78, his publicist said Friday.

In 1960, WIlliams married Joy Bucher, with whom he had two sons, Gary and Tim. The Country Music Hall of Famer was known for being soft-spoken.

Williams' career caught the eye of veteran executive Jim Foglesong, who signed the singer to Dot, (later ABC / Dot) where his debut single for the label "I Wouldn't Want To Live If You Didn't Love Me" became a chart-topper in September 1974.

According to Williams' representative, the legendary country singer passed away after a short illness. An internationally popular country star, Williams recorded dozens of hit songs, including "Tulsa Time", "Lord, I Hope This Day Is Good" and "It Must Be Love".

He continued to tour and record until recent years. He had a 15-year run where every single ended up in the top 40 country charts. He toured internationally, including in Great Britain, New Zealand, South Africa, and Ireland.

He went on to score his biggest hit in 1981 with "I Believe in You", which made it all the way to #24 on the pop chart.

In addition to his recording career, Williams appeared in the 1975 Burt Reynolds films W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings and 1980's Smokey and the Bandit II.

He retired again in 2016, stating "It's time to hang my hat up and enjoy some quiet time at home".

Don Williams briefly announced a retirement in 2006, but returned to the road in 2010. "I'm so thankful for my fans, my friends and my family for their everlasting love and support". In May he was the subject of an all-star tribute album, "Gentle Giants: The Songs of Don Williams", that featured homages from the leading lights of both country and Americana, including Garth Brooks, Chris Stapleton, Jason Isbell, Alison Krauss, Dierks Bentley, and John Prine.

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