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Fame & Fortune: Andy Williams

Andy Williams Before Michael Jackson, before Donny Osmond, there was Andy Williams.

The cardigan-wearing Emperor of Easy was the youngest of the singing Williams Brothers who performed on radio and in front of sold-out crowds and appeared in movies in the 1940s and early '50s.

After the brothers disbanded, Andy went on to become one of America's favorite song stylists on the strength of gentle pop ballads, including his iconic "Moon River."

In the book "Moon River and Me: A Memoir," Williams looks back on a 70-year career that includes 18 gold and three platinum albums, two decades as a headliner at Caesar's Palace, and a long-running television variety show on which he introduced the world to the Osmond Brothers, among many others.

A longtime host of the Grammy Awards and countless Christmas specials, Williams left the rat race in 1992 and built his Moon River Theater in Branson, Mo., where he still performs several months each year.

At 82, Williams still sounds timeless.

Bankrate: Brother acts seemed to find their way onto "The Andy Williams Show," true?

Andy Williams: Yes. In fact, when my father brought the Osmonds to me, he said, "You've got to give these kids a helping hand because somebody helped you along the way. So you put them on your show." And I said, "Yes, sir!"

Bankrate: Was he the classic taskmaster manager?

Williams: He was. He was like the Osmonds' father. He was a taskmaster, but he was very gentle about it. He wasn't like I understand Michael Jackson's father was, which was quite a bit tougher.

Bankrate: You and your brothers started out singing for shoes and groceries, right?

Williams: We were very poor to begin with and remained poor until the late '40s and early '50s.

Bankrate: Did you learn how to handle what money you made?

Williams: (Laughs) Well, not then. I was still 19 years old. Like everybody else, we made some money, but when the act broke up and I went out on my own, I spent it pretty quickly.

Bankrate: Steve Allen rescued you when he invited you aboard "The Tonight Show."

Williams: He did. If I hadn't gotten that, I don't know what I would have done. It was my first time on TV. I was on that show for 2½ years, and because of that exposure, even on a late-night show, I got a record deal.

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Bankrate: That must have been good training for your own show.

Williams: Yes, I learned a great deal during that show about what to do with cameras. I got used to doing comedy sketches with Steve. He would say, "All right, Andy, you're going to play a Russian bartender." I had had some training in comedy with my brothers. All of that I used in my own show later on.

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