Musician Doc Williams (June 26, 1914-January 31, 2011) was born Andrew John Smik of Slovak immigrant parents in Cleveland, Ohio. After growing up in the mining town of Kittaning, Pennsylvania, and gaining early radio experience in Pittsburgh, Williams and his Border Riders band came to the radio station WWVA in Wheeling in May 1937. With only slight interruption, he was associated with the Wheeling Jamboree radio program for the rest of his performing career.
The Border Riders at times included Doc’s fiddle-playing brother Cy (Milo Smik), blind accordionist Marion Martin, wife Chickie Williams (February 13, 1919–November 18, 2007) as girl vocalist, and such comedians as Froggie Cortez, William Godwin (‘‘Hiram Hayseed’’), and Smoky Pleacher. The band toured widely, especially among fans of the Jamboree in the Northeast and Maritime Canada.
Doc and Chickie’s daughters, Barbara, Madeline, and Karen, periodically shared in their parents’ musical activity. Doc was known for such sentimental songs as ‘‘My Old Brown Coat’’ and ‘‘Willie Roy, the Crippled Boy,’’ while Chickie favored old ballads and had a major hit in 1947 with ‘‘Beyond the Sunset.’’ In more than 70 years in the business, Doc was an advocate for maintaining a traditional country sound. He founded his own record label, Wheeling Records, and in the 1970s opened his Doc Williams Country Store across Main Street from Capitol Music Hall. The store was a Wheeling landmark until it closed in 1998. Doc and Chickie Williams were inducted into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame in 2009.
Doc Williams died at his home in Wheeling.
This Article was written by Abby Gail Goodnite
Last Revised on November 19, 2010
Tribe, Ivan M. Mountaineer Jamboree: Country Music in West Virginia. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1984.