The most popular pianist in history is dead

The most popular pianist in history is dead


norman lebrecht

October 09, 2011

His name was Roger Williams, and that may not ring an instant bell, but his 1955 recording of Autumn Leaves was the only piano solo to top the Billboard chart. It sold two million copies and has never been beaten by another piano jockey.

The original, Les Feuilles Mortes, by Joseph Kosma was a 1946 hit for Yves Montand.

Williams, born Louis Wertz in Nebraska, was 87 at his death.

Here’s his hit track.


  • Dr. Marc Villeger says:

    “Originally it was a 1945 French song “Les Feuilles mortes” (literally “The Dead Leaves”) with music by Joseph Kosma and lyrics by poet Jacques Prévert. Yves Montand (with Irène Joachim) introduced “Les feuilles mortes” in 1946 in the film Les Portes de la Nuit.[1].”
    Not Jacques Brel…

  • paul myers says:

    Dave Kapp, my first ‘boss’ in the industry ran his label on the strength of records by Roger Williams (whose name he chose out of the phone directory).The other ‘star’ on the label was Jane Morgan, “The American Girl From Paris”, whose first hit was ‘The Day That The Rains Came’., followed by ‘Fascination’.
    Dave was an interesting man, who started in the 1920’s, working for his brother Jack, who founded American Deccca (MCA). He was Bing Crosby’s producer from 1929 to 1947 and, over the years ‘discovered’ many artists, including Woody Herman. He also made some of the first spoken-word records, and his staff included Dylan Thomas’ “two hairy ladies” who went on to found the Caedmon label. After Jack’s death, he went to see Menotti’s “The Consul”, and was so moved by it that he was determined, against much opposition, to record it, which he did and, shortly after, resigned from Decca and moved to RCA, where he ‘found’ Harry Belafonte , Eartha Kitt and many others. Eventually, he started his own company (with a classical branch) and, according to him, Lou Wertz, walked in off the street and, having heard him play, he renamed him Roger Williams. The rest is history.