Roger Williams Biography
Talented! Charming! Affable! Impeccable Showman! If this sounds like the latest American idol, well, in a way it is, but of a different persona. These are some of the comments overheard at every Roger Williams concert, be it at a symphony, on a ‘Vegas stage, or Carnegie Hall, to name just a few venues.
The first pianist to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Roger has 21 Gold and Platinum albums to his credit. He is a Steinway Artist, he is the first and (so far) only artist to receive the Steinway Lifetime Achievement Award, and he was featured at Carnegie Hall for Steinway’s 150th Anniversary. Roger Williams is also the first to ever have a series of pianos named after him by Steinway. Reader’s Digest puts it this way, “Roger Williams is undeniably one of the greatest pianists of the 20th Century. His illustrious career in music is unparalleled.”
Roger’s music has served as the soundtrack to the lives of three generations, and he burst upon the music scene when he recorded Autumn Leaves in 1955. His version became an American classic and still stands as the greatest selling piano recording of all time. Williams followed with more million-selling records, including Born Free, Impossible Dream, Till, Near You, Almost Paradise, Two Different Worlds, Lara’s Theme from Dr. Zhivago, and the theme from Somewhere in Time charting Billboard hits in four different decades.
A graduate of Drake University, ISU, and the Julliard School of Music, Williams began playing the piano when he was three years of age. He has performed at every major venue, with nearly every major symphony orchestra, including the afore-mentioned Carnegie Hall, the Hollywood Bowl, and the White House. The latter has earned him the title of “Pianists to the Presidents,” having played for nine chief executives.
In Las Vegas, Roger headlined for years at the MGM-Grand and The Tropicana, and the facets from Roger’s starring performances shine over a broad spectrum from coast-to-coast, Featured, recently, among others have been three days at the South Point Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, the Lindenwood Center for the Performing Arts in St. Charles, Missouri, a special concert for Laura Bush and the wives of all the foreign ambassadors in the White House, 30 years as a guest performer on the Crystal Cathedral television show, “The Hour of Power”, and the McCallum Theater in Palm Desert, Califormia, backed by the full Desert Symphony Orchestra. Included in his recent successes is the issue of Roger Williams Plays Your All-Time Favorites, as well as The Greatest Popular Pianist, The Artists Choice, a two-part CD album, one of which has become, by far, the biggest selling item for Reader’s Digest.
Additionally, Roger also starred at concerts in Palm Beach; Boca Raton; Chandler, Arizona; Gulf Shores, Alabama; ISU; Glendora, California, and a return engagement at South Point Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. Having raised millions of dollars for PBS Public Television Specials, another pending television special, “Pianist to the Presidents” for KOCE-TV, is being developed from the performance of the same name at the Nixon Library last year where Roger was the honored performer, and officially re-named “Pianist to the Presidents.
Constantly sought-after as a performer for charitable events, Roger’s doctorates and honors come in volumes, and his accomplishments have been read into the Congressional Record, and included in various Presidential Diaries. One of Roger’s greatest challenges has been to bring music back into the schools again. He was honored with the “Champion of Youth Award from Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Roger promotes music in the schools at a yearly Piano Marathon on his birthday at stellar locations around the country, playing continually up to 14 hours of requests from his audiences. The Reagan Library, the Palm Springs Desert Museum, The Jimmy Carter Presidential Library, the Nixon Library, and Steinway Hall have been just a few of the Marathon’s venues.
During his illness with cancer, Roger saw two of his new 4-CD contract for Varese Sarabande released, Roger Williams, The Man They Call ‘Mr. Piano,’ and Roger Williams Golden Inspirational Hymns, with the final two to be released over the next year or so. A last performance, but an ever-lasting memory, was Roger’s appearance at the 100th Celebration of Ronald Reagan at the Reagan Library in February, 2011. Wherever he performed, Roger Williams developed his marvelous blend of classics with Gershwin, Duke Ellington, and contemporary composers woven into a tapestry of rhythms – from pop music, to blues, to jazz, and year after year the accolades mounted and continued to rise. Roger’s genius of constant improvisation made his music irresistible and timeless, and this is what makes Roger Williams America’s enduring musical legend, and truly Mr. Piano.
When first asked about all the fuss about his career, Roger replied, “I’ve never aspired to become the greatest classical pianist or the greatest jazz pianist. How I admire them both. But it made me very proud that one critic wrote: ‘Roger Williams has raised the so-called elevator music to astounding new heights, and as a result, it has certainly established him as the greatest popular pianist in history.’”