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Andy Williams' death brings up memories of holiday specials

Actor Andy Williams and his wife, actress Claudine Longet, join their three-month-old daughter, Noelle Christine, for her first picture in Hollywood on Dec. 27, 1963. The baby, the Williams' first, made her TV debut on Williams' show on Dec. 31. Anonymous

(CBS News) For many Americans, Christmas just wasn't Christmas without Andy Williams, dressed in his trademark sweater, looking out from the TV set as he sang "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year."

That song, specially written for "The Andy Williams Show," became a staple of the singer's annual Christmas specials. In 2009, it was ranked at No. 5 on Billboards' "Top 10 Holiday Songs (Since 2001)." It also came in No. 4 on ASCAP's 2010 countdown of holiday songs receiving the most radio.

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The annual Christmas TV specials, which featured the entire Williams family, grew out his weekly "The Andy Williams Show" on NBC. The specials continued even after the show ended in 1972, and the last aired some time in the 1990s.

"The show I always enjoyed doing above all others was the Christmas show, and it was the one that the audiences loved the most, too," Williams wrote in his 2009 memoir, "Moon River and Me." "It always had the highest ratings of the entire season. To this day people stop me on the street and tell me how much they cherished the Christmas shows and how much it meant to their whole family."

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Williams recorded five holiday albums starting with "The Andy Williams Christmas Album" in 1963 and ending with "We Need A Little Christmas," in 1995.

Every November and December, Williams presented the "Andy Williams Christmas Show," with singers, dancers and musicians, at the Moon River Theater, a 2,054-seat venue he opened in Branson. Mo., in the early 1990s. Plans for this year's event, featuring "American Idol" finalist Katie Stevens, were posted on Williams' website at the time of his death.

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