BRANSON, Mo (Reuters) - Veteran singer Andy Williams, a 1960s television variety show star best known for his rendition of the ballad “Moon River,” told fans over the weekend that he has been diagnosed with bladder cancer.
The 83-year-old entertainer broke the news to a live concert audience at his Moon River Theater in Branson, Missouri, during a Saturday performance of his “2011 Andy Williams Christmas Show,” city officials confirmed on Sunday.
“I do have cancer of the bladder,” a local newspaper, the Branson Tri-Lakes News, quoted Williams as saying from the stage. “But that is no longer a death sentence. People with cancer are getting through this thing.”
The theater’s website made no specific mention of Williams’ diagnosis but says “due to health reasons Andy may not make a live appearance in his Christmas Show.”
Calls to Moon River Theater management were not immediately returned.
The 2,000-seat dinner theater is named after Williams’ signature song, written by Johnny Mercer and Henry Mancini for the movie “Breakfast at Tiffany‘s.”
It became Williams’ own theme after he sang it at the Academy Awards ceremony in 1962, the same year he began hosting his own regular weekly TV variety show on NBC.
Known for a smooth vocal style, he also recorded hits with “Days of Wine and Roses,” “The Shadow of Your Smile,” “Can’t Get Used to Losing You,” “Solitaire,” “Music to Watch Girls By,” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” and the theme from the 1970 movie hit “Love Story.”
A close friend of the Kennedy family, Williams sang “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” at the funeral of Robert F. Kennedy after the New York senator was assassinated during the 1968 presidential campaign.
He also sang at the funeral of Kennedy’s son, Michael, who was killed in a 1998 skiing accident.
In 1999, a polyp was discovered on his vocal chords. Resisting surgery, Williams chose instead to rest his voice with no singing and little talking for 10 months until the polyp went away on its own. At that time, he was forced to cancel tours of the United States and Britain and more than 100 shows at the Moon river Theater.
He has been appearing in Branson on a regular basis since 1992, typically performing two shows a day, six days a week for nine months a year.
Williams is among the higher-profile performers associated with Branson, which has grown into a major vacation and entertainment hub in the Ozarks, attracting such talent as Dolly Parton, Roy Clark and Pat Boone.
Additional reporting by Sheri Linden in Los Angeles; Editing by Steve Gorman and Jerry Norton