‘Fraulein’ songwriter dies in Texas

Thanks John for passing this one on.


Songwriter Lawton Williams, known for the 1957 song of the year “Fraulein,” as well as “Geisha Girl” and “Color of the Blues,” died of a respiratory illness Thursday in Fort Worth, Texas. He turned 85 on Tuesday.

Country singer George Jones said, “He was always very, very nice and a real talent. He finished up ‘Color of the Blues’ with me, and wrote one of my all-time favorite songs, ‘Fraulein.’’’ About every third album, Jones wants to re-cut that song, which he once covered.

“He was pushing all the right country music buttons for that era,” said songwriter/producer Bobby Braddock. “He was writing songs that were unique and original and that were hard country at a time when so much country was being influenced by rock and roll and rockabilly. He was a great songwriter and he certainly was an influence on the country part of me.”

Writing just came naturally to Mr. Williams, said his daughter, Joan Dollar.

“He would just get an idea about something and then write a song around the idea,” said daughter Janet Steen. “He was writing while he was in the hospital. He was saying words to himself; you could see his mouth moving.”

Born in Troy, Tenn., the fiddler’s son was stationed in Houston during World War II. It was there he learned how to write songs from Floyd Tillman. Mr. Williams enjoyed his first cuts by artists such as Cliff Bruner and Laura Lee McBride and performed on radio stations. He began recording for Sultan and Fortune labels in the late 1940s, and later signed with Four Star, Coral and Imperial.

Hank Locklin hit No. 4 with Mr. Williams’ “Geisha Girl” and Bobby Helms’ took Mr. Williams’ “Fraulein” to No. 1 in 1957. This year marks the 50th anniversary of “Fraulein,” which was named Country Song of the Year at the 1957 Billboard and Cashbox Awards. It spent 52 weeks on the country charts and became a No. 16 pop hit.

“They called the song the Texas national anthem because it was such a great two-step song,” Braddock said. “The people who had been overseas after World War II and stationed in Germany and dated German girls identified with that song. He did the same thing for those who had been stationed in Japan was ‘Geisha Girl.’”

Jim Reeves cut “Senor Santa Claus,” Gene Watson and Joe Nichols recorded “Farewell Party” and Bobby Bare released “Shame on Me.” Williams, who recorded for Mercury and MCA, once said, “As long as country music fans want to hear traditional country music, that’s what I’ll be writing and recording.”

His last recording was on the Heart of Texas Records’ tribute to Floyd Tilman called The Influence. Williams recorded his song “It Just Tears Me Up” with Tilman.

“What we want him to be remembered for are the songs he wrote,” said Steen.

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