Although he was actually born in South Africa, singer Danny Williams rose to popularity in the British Isles during the 1960s, becoming a beloved star who was sometimes called the British Johnny Mathis. Best remembered in the U.S. for his 1964 hit “White On White,” he had already topped U.K. charts in 1961 with one of the earliest recordings of “Moon River,” the Mancini/Mercer classic that would later become identified with Andy Williams.
While growing up in his home town of Port Elizabeth, Danny Williams’ first musical experience was in church, where he was singing solos at age six. His professional career began when he was just 14 and won a local talent contest, which led to a spot in a musical touring company. Within a few years he’d gained a lot of experience while touring internationally with the group, and while in England he caught the eye of a record producer.
Williams’ efforts in the recording studio didn’t pay off at first, but he kept working at it while building his name with the occasional TV guest appearance. He finally struck gold in 1961 when he recorded “Moon River,” a song that had made a splash in the movie Breakfast At Tiffany’s and had won a Grammy for the composers, but not yet attaining classic status. His single shot to the top of the U.K. charts and would be his biggest seller there, although it didn’t repeat its success elsewhere. In the U.S. market, Jerry Butler had a hit with the song, and Andy Williams soon became identified with it.
Danny Williams continued entertaining and making records, reaching Top Ten status in the U.S. with “White On White” in 1964, and he remained popular with British fans for several more years, selling a lot of records with songs like “Jeannie” before encountering emotional and financial problems. He did manage to come back strong in the late 1970s, but in subsequent years he went through some ups and downs. He died at age 63 in 2005.