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WILLIAMS, MARC

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WILLIAMS, MARC (1903–1974). Marc Williams was a pioneering cowboy radio singer and recording artist. He was born Marcus Dumont Williams in Ellis County in 1903. He was the son of Charles Curren Williams and Zelica Grace Morgan. He reportedly worked as a cowboy as a young man and studied at the University of Texas for a legal career. Williams held a regular radio program as the “Cowboy Crooner” on KRLD from 1927 to 1930. In 1930 he performed on the air in Waco. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s Williams also did live appearances in North Texas as well as some vaudeville touring.

Between 1928 and 1936, Williams recorded nine sessions for the Brunswick and Decca labels, waxing a total of thirty-nine sides, of which thirty-six were issued. Most of his titles were classic cowboy songs, including the first recorded version of “Cole Younger,” recorded for Brunswick in Dallas in November 1930, and an early version of “Jesse James.” A comparison of his lyrics to songs in John Lomax’s Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads (1910) reveals that he was at least familiar with that work. Among his finest performances is the gently-rapped “Sioux Warriors,” perhaps his best-known recording. Williams possessed a smooth singing style that contrasted sharply with the roughhewn sound of early cowboy singers such as Jules Verne Allen. As a result he forms a bridge between those artists and later silver screen cowboys such as Gene Autry.

Facts about Williams’s life remain vague. In 1937 he published the songbook Marc Williams Collection of Favorite Cowboy Songs. He fronted a cowboy band that included Bill Stockard, Pete Scarborough, and Bob Arwine on KFJZ (Fort Worth) in 1940. Sometime along the way, he adopted the moniker “Happy Hank” for a children’s radio show in Dallas which lasted until at least 1947. According to some sources, he may have played that character for a children’s program on WHO radio in Des Moines, Iowa, possibly during the 1930s. Williams is also said to have done radio work in Detroit, St. Paul, and Cincinnati. He graduated from Wayne State University in Detroit in 1959 and began a legal career in that city. Williams returned to Fort Worth about 1971 and seems to have given up public performances. He died in Fort Worth on June 18, 1974, and was buried next to his parents in the family plot in Midlothian Cemetery in Midlothian, Ellis County, Texas. His recordings can be heard on Marc Williams: The Forgotten Singing Cowboy, released on Jasmine Records in 2004.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Norm Cohen, Long Steel Rail: The Railroad in American Folksong (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2000). Douglas B. Green, Singing in the Saddle: The History of the Singing Cowboy (Nashville: Country Music Foundation/Vanderbilt University Press, 2002).
John Lomax, Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads (New York: Sturgis & Walton, 1910). Tony Russell, Country Music Records: A Discography, 1921–1942 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004).
 

Kevin S. Fontenot

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Kevin S. Fontenot, "Williams, Marc," accessed October 20, 2017, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fwick.

Uploaded on March 18, 2015. Modified on November 1, 2015. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.