So here we are, well into 1957, and still no UK number 1 from Elvis. We’ve had spoofs (Rock-a-Billy) and sound-a-likes (Singing the Blues) but still the top spot remained out of reach. Joining the artists who were clearly trying to emulate his sound is easy listening legend Andy Williams. Butterfly is an odd entry in his catalogue as it’s unrepresentative of what he later became known for.
Williams was born in Wall Lake, Iowa in 1927. He and his three older brothers Bob, Don and Dick formed the Williams Brothers in 1938. Their big break came in 1943 when they sang backing vocals on Bing Crosby’s Swinging on a Star. The brothers then appeared in a number of films, and then began collaborating with head of MGM’s vocal department Kay Thompson. Williams later revealed that he and Thompson fell in love, despite nearly 20 years between them. After the brothers split, Thompson also acted as his mentor, preparing him for a solo career and writing many of his songs. Although he struck out on his own in 1953, it wasn’t until 1956 that he began making waves, thanks to his regular appearances on Tonight Starring Steve Allen.
Butterfly was written by Bernie Lowe and Kal Mann, the duo behind Elvis’s Teddy Bear. It had first been a hit for singer and guitarist Charlie Gracie, now largely forgotten but a rock’n’roll pioneer at the time.
It’s disarming at first, hearing the unmistakable voice of Williams singing this kind of song, and becomes even more so when you hear the fairly unpleasant lyrics he’s singing. Butterfly is about a man who can’t stand seeing his love hanging round other men. So what is he going to do about it?
‘I love you so much, I know what I’ll do
I’m clippin’ your wings, your flyin’ is through
‘Cause I’m crazy about you, you butterfly’
What does ‘clippin’ your wings’ mean, exactly?
As the years passed and Williams became the wholesome, easy listening crooner everyone remembers, Butterfly was forgotten, despite being his only number 1 both here and in the US. More hits followed, and in 1962 he covered Moon River, which became his signature tune. Other notable songs that were more in the ‘Andy Williams’ vein of course include Music to Watch Girls By and Can’t Take My Eyes Off You. The same year, The Andy Williams Show began and ran until 1971. His Christmas specials, and version of It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year earned him the nickname ‘Mr Christmas’. He died in 2012 of bladder cancer, but will always be remembered as one of the foremost crooners of the 1960s and 70s.
Written by: Bernie Lowe & Kal Mann
Weeks at number 1: 3 (24 May-6 June)
Singer Siouxsie Sioux – 27 May