Mason Williams has been one of the icons in the American entertainment industry for over 6 decades through specialization in playing the classical guitar, song composing, singing, writing, comedy, and poetry. He is notable for composing the 1968 piece, Classical Gas as well as writing for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and Saturday Night Live. Unsurprisingly, his contributions to the industry have earned him several recognitions and awards including 3 Grammys.
Away from his successful career, Williams has a private life that is equally as fascinating. He is married to a woman named Karen Williams.
Mason Williams was Born in Texas but Grew Up Dividing his Time Between Oklahoma and Oregon
While Mason Douglas Williams was born on August 24, 1938, in Abilene, Texas, it was not there that he spent his childhood as he split his time between two states during his childhood. First, he lived with his father, Jackson Eugene, a tile setter in Oklahoma, and his mother, Kathlyn Williams in Oakridge, Oregon. Based on his parent’s separate living conditions, we may not be wrong to assume that they were not together as a couple.
Focusing on other details of his background, we gathered that between his parents, he spent most of his time with his father in Oklahoma which explains why he also attended school at Northwest Classen High School in Oklahoma City. Notably, he discovered pop songs by listening to the radio and this pushed him to sing in the choir. In fact, he is said to have formed his first group, an acapella quartet that sang in the 50s rock & roll style.
He Wanted to Be an Insurance Agent
Despite his interest in music, Williams and his lifelong friend, Edward Ruscha drove to Los Angeles after he graduated from high school in 1956. While there, he set in motion his plan of becoming an insurance agent by enrolling at the Los Angeles City College as a math major.
But it soon became clear to him that he was more passionate about music, thus, he moved back to Oklahoma City. At first, he took a crash course in piano but his teacher told him that he would never be a great musician but would probably play well one day. He took the advice in stride and enrolled to study music at Oklahoma City University.
The Texas-born’s Music Career Took Off After he Bought his First Guitar in 1958
Apparently, he had lots of exposure to music while working at a record shop to support himself through college. As it is, things became serious when he bought his first guitar, an old stellar guitar he purchased for $13 in 1958. From that point onward, his fate in music was sealed.
Reportedly, he made several compositions using the guitar, and soon enough, he started attracting other music aficionados like Scott Fulton and Bill Cheatwood to form the Nightlighters which eventually became the Wayfarers Trio. He later moved to Texas State University to be close to them. However, after they separated, he dropped out of school to continue pursuing his career.
Since then, he has done solo as well as collaborative work with others. Through his music exploits, he has released more than 10 solo albums and critically acclaimed singles including Classical Gas and A Gift of Song. So far, Classical Gas won 3 Grammys. His other awards and recognitions are;
- Honorary Doctor of Music from Oklahoma City University(1996)
- BMI Citation of Achievement of national and international popularity for Classical Gas
- Distinguished Service Award(1999)
- Oregon Musician Laureate(2000)
- Inducted into the Oregon Music Hall of Fame(2007)
Mason Williams Served in the US Navy for a Few Years
In 1961, Williams was called up from the reserve to active duty in the US Navy. While there, he was posted in San Diego, California, and served on the USS Paul Revere.
Notably, he continued to pursue his music interest by night by working in local clubs and when the Navy discharged him in 1963, he easily switched back to music, or do we say he continued building his music portfolio as he never stopped pursuing it in the first place.
The Entertainer Released his First Book in 1964
Shortly after he left the Navy, Williams released his first book, Bicyclists Dismount in 1964. The book was a collection of poems, lyrics, and photos. This side of his life proved that he was an all-round creative. Prior, the Saturday at the World crooner had published a lifesized photo of a Greyhound bus back in the 60s.
To give credence to this, Williams has since added The Mason Williams Reading Matter to his collections.
He is also a Comedian
Over the years, Williams’ creativity has taken different forms including doing stand-up comedy to make his point. What stands out in his routine is his ability to combine music and guitar to make his point. He released Them Poems among many collections.
Aside from doing solo stand-up gigs, he has also worked closely with others like Catherine O’Hara, Glen Campbell, Petula Clark, and Steve Martin. Notably, he has written over 175 hours of music and comedy for network television. His work was showcased in;
- Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour
- Saturday Night Live
- Murray Romans TV Show
- Smothers Brothers 20th Reunion Special on CBS
- Tommy Banks Show
Williams is Married to his Third Wife, Karen
The multi-talented entertainer is married to a Canadian-born attorney named Karen Williams and together they live in Eugene, Oregon. Details about their relationship are not well known but from all indications, the pair are quite loved up.
Moreso, this marriage is a third for the Williams. His first walk down the aisle was on April 22, 1961, when he tied the knot with Sheila Ann Massey. They welcomed a daughter named Kathryn Michelle before the marriage ended in divorce.
Despite the failure of his first marriage, the classical guitarist did not allow himself to wallow in pain. Instead, he gave love a chance again when he got married to Katherine Elizabeth Kahn in February 1994. From what we gathered, they did not welcome any children during the marriage. Sadly, they remained together for ten years before parting ways.