Roger Williams

Roger Williams
Nelson Tiffany / Los Angeles Times


Roger Williams
Music: West side of the 1500 block of Vine Street
Born Louis Weertz on Oct. 1, 1924 in Omaha, NE
Died Oct. 8, 2011 of pancreatic cancer in Los Angeles, CA

Roger Williams performed on the piano for eight American presidents, recorded 115 albums and was the first popular pianist to be honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Born Louis Weertz in 1924 in Omaha, he was raised in Des Moines. His musical skills were apparent almost from birth: At the age of 3 he walked up to the piano and began to play.

Williams registered at Drake University at the age of 16 as a piano major, and was promptly booted out of the music department for the egregious sin of playing a jazz version of "Smoke Gets In Your Eyes" in one of the practice rooms.

His first hit was “Autumn Leaves,” although Williams had no particular high hopes when he headed home after recording the song. "My fondest dream for that whole thing was that it would pay the last month's rent, which I still owed," he said with a chuckle. "Who knew it would become a No. 1 record!"

Other Williams hits have included "Born Free," "Till," "Almost Paradise" and "The Impossible Dream." He has played with the nation's top orchestras, and appeared in such varied places as Carnegie Hall and Garden Grove's Crystal Cathedral.

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