September 26, 2012 / 2:46 PM / 5 years ago

Factbox: Veteran American crooner Andy Williams dies

(Reuters) - Here are some facts about American crooner Andy Williams, who has died at the age of 84:

Williams’ show business career started when he was 8, when he began singing professionally with his three older brothers.

The singer went solo after the group broke up in 1951, drew attention with his appearances on “”The Tonight Show“ and began recording. His first No. 1 hit, “Butterfly,” came in 1957.

Williams, whose golden period was in the 1960s and ‘70s, performed his theme song, “Moon River,” by some estimates, well over 12,000 times.

On August 5, 1966, he took the stage in the inaugural show at the fabled Circus Maximus Showroom at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.

His first marriage, to former French Follies Bergere dancer Claudine Longet, with whom he had three children, ended in divorce in 1975. Two years later, Williams defended his ex-wife when she was accused of shooting and killing her lover, ski ace Spider Sabich. She was convicted of negligent homicide while claiming the gun went off accidentally.

A close friend of the Kennedy political family, Williams sang “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” at the funeral of Robert F. Kennedy, the U.S. senator assassinated during the 1968 presidential campaign. He also sang at the funeral of Kennedy’s son, Michael, who was killed in a 1998 skiing accident.

In 1999, a polyp was discovered on his vocal chords. Resisting surgery, Williams opted for the path of no singing and little talking for 10 long months until the polyp went away on its own. He canceled tours of the United States and Britain and more than 100 shows in his own Moon River Theatre in Branson, Missouri, where since 1992 he had been doing two shows a day, six days a week on a nine-months-a-year schedule.

In the spring of 1999, a Fiat car commercial on British television featuring his 1967 recording of “Music to Watch Girls By” became so popular that it was re-released and became a Top 10 hit.

Reporting by Paul Grant; Editing by Doina Chiacu

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