The majority of people who know the name of the late, great popular music manager Albert Grossman do so because of his storied and at times bitterly litigious tenure guiding the early career of Bob Dylan.
A gruff, hard-dealing businessman with a well-deserved reputation for driving some of the hardest bargains in the business, he also had a gifted nose for talent - and besides Dylan, he took a number of other outstanding talents under his wing, including Janis Joplin, Richie Havens, The Band, Gordon Lightfoot and the Texas-based trio the Pozo-Seco Singers.
Not familiar with that last group? That's understandable, as they only had two significant radio hits during their four-year tenure with Columbia Records (1966-70). However, from their ashes sprang two very successful acts, the first of which was a completely contrived "folk group" called the Hillside Singers that scored a gold record with the massive hit single "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing," a crass reworking of a popular Coca-Cola commercial jingle.
The Hilltop Singers vanished just about as quickly as they appeared, leaving just two albums and that smash 45 behind. However, the second artist linked to the Pozo-Seco Singers went on to develop an instantly recognizable style of laid-back country and western music that tips its weathered cowboy hat to both soft-rock and syncopated, dance-oriented rhythm and blues. That singing guitarist is none other than the "Gentle Giant" of C&W, Don Williams.
Don't remember Don Williams, either? Well, shame on you.
All right, all right, fair enough. One could forgive such a popular music memory lapse.
After all, before June 2012, when Williams' most recent collection of new studio recordings (titled "And So It Goes" and featuring guest appearances by such stars as Alison Krauss, Vince Gill and Keith Urban) was released on the respected independent label Sugar Hill, he'd gone for almost eight years without a new album. That dry spell coincided roughly with his retirement from performing and public life, as Williams wrapped up a worldwide "Farewell Tour" in late 2006. However, it seemed that retirement just didn't suit the soft-spoken, bearded bard: He returned to the stage in 2010 and has continued to perform internationally since.
A beloved and laconic troubadour with a whopping 26 solo albums under his belt (not even counting compilations and anthologies), Williams' back catalog includes 17 No. 1 hits on the country and western charts, including "I Believe in You," "Till the Rivers Run Dry," "I'm Just a Country Boy," "I Wouldn't Want to Live if You Didn't Love Me," and perhaps the definitive version of songwriter Danny Flowers' tune "Tulsa Time."
Williams' take on that last song was named Single of the Year in 1978 by the Academy of Country Music, and also inspired Williams' avowed fan, blues-rock legend Eric Clapton, who released his own very similar arrangement of "Tulsa Time" just a few weeks after Williams'.
Inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2010, Williams is a one-of-a-kind artist: a seemingly straightforward and unpretentious gentleman who has (by all public accounts) maintained an almost zen-like detachment from the trappings of fame and success that routinely overwhelm artists with half as much of either. Famously recalcitrant, he avoids interviews like the plague, preferring instead to let his music do the talking. And, when they do speak, his songs - which often center around universal themes such as love, forgiveness, tolerance and enlightenment - do so in the soothing, dulcet tones that only a bass baritone vocalist such as himself can muster.
In fact, Williams' voice is so instantly recognizable that over the course of his career, he has received a stunning 20 nominations for either Top Male Vocalist or Male Vocalist of the Year from both the Academy of Country Music and the Country Music Association.
That unique approach both to penning lyrics and delivering them against a smooth and relaxing backing of drums, piano, guitars and pedal steel has influenced dozens more musicians than Eric Clapton: Williams' hits have been covered or played live by everyone from fellow iconic C&W acts like Johnny Cash, Lefty Frizzell, Charley Pride, Kenny Rogers, Webb Wilder and Alan Jackson to rock artists like the Who's Pete Townshend, Lambchop and Bonnie "Prince" Billy.
While it's a safe bet he'll offer up renditions of most, if not all, of his trademark hit singles at this intimate show, it's also highly likely he'll give his Savannah audience a sneak preview of tunes from his upcoming studio album, "Reflections," which will be released on Sugar Hill Records in just a few weeks.
However, regardless of the exact makeup of his set at The Lucas Theatre, followers of his career know what to expect from Don Williams, as his reputation for quality presentation and plainspoken humility precedes him, even at the age of 74.
As he told a reporter in a rare interview from 1995, "I think (the longevity of my career) is super amazing. The fans are still there and they seem to like what I'm doing, and y'know, that makes me real happy."