Born 24 August, 1938, in Abilene, Texas, USA, Mason Williams did not take up the guitar until his days as a mathematics student at Oklahoma City University. Once drafted into the US Navy, he found time to develop his songwriting skills.
After his discharge from the navy he took up folk singing in the Los Angeles area. Through a series of fortuitous meetings he became a regular writer for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour - one of the most popular television shows of the late Sixties. He won an Emmy for his work on the ground breaking show.
Aside from his Smothers work, 1968 was the big breakthrough year for Williams. Two friends of his, an Israeli singing duo called Esther and Abi Ofraim, took his nonsensical song 'Cinderella Rockefella' to number one on the British pop charts. The song also became a major worldwide hit and was one of the years biggest novelty successes.
'Cinderella Rockefella' was only a minor hit in the United States but later in the year Williams compensated by reaching the US number two slot with his self-composed instrumental smash 'Classical Gas'1.
This melodic and imaginative single, which reached number nine in Britain, was not just a vehicle for his guitar work - it featured full-blown orchestration and covered a range of styles in just a few minutes.
Produced by Mike Post - later to strike big with TV themes like 'The Rockford Files' and 'Hill Street Blues' - 'Classical Gas' was one of the first successful classical/rock blendings and helped to encourage similarly fruitful experiments by other artists during the 1970.
The Bus Book
Williams released a series of albums during the late Sixties and early Seventies but with little success. However, he is a versatile and enigmatic talent who had other irons in the fire. He has worked as a poet, publisher, photographer and author. A combination of the latter two skills led to the publication of The Bus Book, a deceptive, ordinary-looking volume which unfolded into a life-size photo of a Greyhound Bus. This masterpiece is now a permanent exhibit at the New York Museum of Modern Art.
Prose, Poetry and Sunflowers
The writer of many other books of prose and poetry, Williams is also a conceptual artist whose work includes a short film in which a biplane draws a stem and leaves beneath the sun, turning it into the 'world's largest sunflower'.