Tennessee-born fiddler's son Lawton Williams long ago learned the value of writing songs for the hearts and souls of servicemen and their families.

It was while stationed in Houston, Texas, with the U.S. Army during World War 11 he wrote two of his major hits Fraulein and Geisha Girl.

So it was no surprise both chart-toppers were healthy earners when first recorded and later revived by a raft of artists during later conflicts.

Williams, like many peers, lived in the shade of his songs as they were hits for other artists.
So when he died of a respiratory illness two days after his 85th birthday at the Harris Hospital in Fort Worth (Cowtown) it was his songs that once again were his legacy.

Although Williams first recorded in the forties his tunes are still covered in the new millenium.

Bobby Helms version of Fraulein topped country charts for four weeks in 1957 and reached #16 on the pop sales graph.

The song, now celebrating its 50th anniversary, had a 52-week reign on country charts.

Williams wrote Colour Of The Blues - a 1958 #10 hit for co-writer George Jones - and later covered by Elvis Costello And The Attractions and James Gwynn.

Texan Gene Watson also had a hit in 1979 with oft-recorded Williams tune Farewell Party - reprised by Joe Nichols on his 2004 album Revelation.

Williams, who had 140 songs on the BMI Publishing site, was still writing shortly before he passed away.

Writing just came naturally to Williams, said his daughter, Janet Steen.

"He would just get an idea about something and then write a song around the idea," said Steen.

"He was writing while he was in the hospital. He was saying words to himself; you could see his mouth moving. What we want him to be remembered for are the songs he wrote."


Williams was born - the son of a fiddler - in Troy, Tennessee, in the early twenties.

But it wasn't until he was stationed in Houston during World War 11 that he learned to write songs.

Under the tutelage of recently deceased, legendary Oklahoma born singer-songwriter Floyd Tillman, he became a prolific writer.

Western swing maestro Cliff Bruner and Laura Lee McBride were among first artists to record the songs he performed live on radio stations.

"I grew up a country boy listening to the Grand Ole Opry," Williams revealed in the biography for his 2003 album Mending Fences on the indie label Tima.

"My first heroes were Opry star, Roy Acuff, and cowboy movie star Gene Autry. At an early age, I knew that working on a sharecropper farm was not what I wanted to do with my life, so I learned to play the guitar and singing just came naturally. During World War II, while in the army, I had the good fortune to meet and become friends with Country Music Hall of Fame member, Floyd Tillman. Floyd helped me a lot in becoming a songwriter and writing some successful songs."

Williams began recording for Sultan and Fortune labels in the late 1940s and signed with Four Star, Coral and Imperial.

Williams also recorded for All Star, Decca, Groove, King, Mega, Allstar, Mercury, Le Bill and RCA.

He hit the charts in the sixties with recordings of Anywhere's There's A People and Everything's OK On The LBJ.

Williams also appeared on the Heart of Texas Records' tribute disc to Tillman called The Influence.

He recorded It Just Tears Me Up with Tillman who died of leukemia at the age of 88 on August 30, 2003, at his home near Houston.

The original song, written by Lawton in 1960, was Floyd's last chart single.

"As long as country music fans want to hear traditional country music, that's what I'll be writing and recording," Williams said.


"He was always very, very nice and a real talent," Jones 75 recalled this week.

"He finished up Colour of the Blues with me, and wrote one of my all-time favourite songs, Fraulein.''

About every third album, Jones wants to re-cut that song, which he once covered.

Equally enthusiast was another Jones hit writer and producer Bobby Braddock.

"He was pushing all the right country music buttons for that era," Braddock added.

"He was writing songs that were unique and original and that were hard country at a time when so much country was being influenced by rock and roll and rockabilly. He was a great songwriter and he certainly was an influence on the country part of me."

The late Texan troubadour Townes Van Zandt earlier covered Fraulein on his 1972 disc The Late Great Townes Van Zandt.

Other artists to cut it included David Allan Coe, George Jones, Charlie Feathers, Al Dean, Mickey Gilley, Little Roy Wiggins, Mason Williams and Mom And Dads.

"They called the song the Texas national anthem because it was such a great two-step song," Braddock said.

"The people who had been overseas after World War II and stationed in Germany and dated German girls identified with that song. He did the same thing for those who had been stationed in Japan was Geisha Girl."

Hank Locklin had a #10 hit with Geisha Girl in 1957.

Jim Reeves also cut Williams tune Senor Santa Claus for his first Christmas album - Bobby Bare's first single Shame On Me was also a Williams original.


Williams 240 song BMI catalogue was a salient signpost to his sense of humour.

The unsung originals begin with Adam And Everett, Aspen Trail, Asphalt Cowboy and Angels Over Baghdad.

In between were Jesus Dot Com, Peanuts In Heaven, Ruby The Red Eyed Rabbit, Santa Claus Junior and Squawlein.

They ended with What Noah Looked Out The Ark At, Wooden Soldier, You Can't Crush A Heart Of Stone and Your Heart Is Beginning To Show.

Williams recorded seven 20 RCA singles - including 1963 releases Rock Of Gibraltar and Don't Destroy Me - and Mama Doll and Farewell Party on Le Bill in 1960.

His most recent solo album was Mending Fences 2003.

Williams was a frequent performer in his prime on Louisiana Hayride and The Big D Jamboree.

His songs also appeared on The Big D Jamboree Live - Complete D Singles Volume 3 - 2000.

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