His country smash "Fraulein" also was a pop hit in 1957
Songwriter Lawton Williams, known for the 1957 song of
the year "Fraulein," as well as "Geisha Girl" and "Color of the Blues,"
died of a respiratory illness Thursday in Fort Worth, Texas. He turned 85 on Tuesday.
Country singer George Jones said, "He was always very, very nice and
a real talent. He finished up 'Color of the Blues' with me, and wrote one of my
all-time favorite songs, 'Fraulein.'" About every third album, Jones wants
to recut that song, which he once covered.
Writing just came naturally to Mr. Williams, said his daughter Joan Dollar.
"He would just get an idea about something and then write a song around the
idea," said daughter Janet Steen. "He was writing while he was in the hospital. He
was saying words to himself; you could see his mouth moving."
Born in Troy, Tenn., the fiddler's son was stationed in Houston during World War II. There
he learned songwriting from Floyd Tillman.
Mr. Williams enjoyed his first cuts by artists such as Cliff Bruner and Laura Lee McBride and
performed on radio stations. He began recording for Sultan and Fortune labels in
the late 1940s, and later signed with Four Star, Coral and Imperial.
Songs fit post-war era
Hank Locklin hit No. 4 with "Geisha Girl" and Bobby Helms
took "Fraulein" to No. 1 in 1957. This year marks the 50th anniversary
of "Fraulein," which was Country Song of the Year at the 1957 Billboard and
Cashbox Awards. It spent 52 weeks on the country charts and became
a No. 16 pop hit.
"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 with 'Geisha Girl.' "
Jim Reeves cut "Senor Santa Claus," Gene Watson and Joe Nichols
recorded "Farewell Party" and Bobby Bare released
"Shame on Me."
Mr. Williams, who recorded for Mercury and MCA, once
said, "As long as country music fans want to hear traditional country music,
that's what I'll be writing and recording."
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