Riding the success of his Wheeling-based radio show before the start of World War II, Williams carved a following during tours of Maine, Vermont and Canadian provinces –
W.Va. Country Music Singer Doc Williams Dies places where some fans still tap in time to songs from his band, the Border Riders.

Williams died Monday at his Wheeling home at age 96.

“He was a complete showman,” Williams’ daughter, Barbara Smik, told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “His humility came across on the stage.”

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1914 as Andrew John Smik, Williams left coal mining as a teen to play in beer gardens and found fame with his wife, Chickie, as one of the most popular acts for WWVA-AM and its show that later became known as Jamboree USA.

After forming the Border Riders, Williams started broadcasting a 2:45 p.m. daily show on WWVA in 1937. He and his wife married two years later and they became the Jamboree’s headline act that could be heard on AM radio into Canada, where Williams had a strong following.

“That station came in clear as a bell,” Smik said. “In those days radio was a very, very powerful medium.”

Smik, who took over her father’s business dealings a few decades ago and wrote a book about him, said she still gets calls from fans in Canada.

“I hear from these children now of many parents that have already passed on, the World War II generation, that took them to Mom and Dad’s concerts,” Smik said.

In 1949, Doc and Chickie Williams and the band began touring, taking their act to northern Maine and beyond.

“That’s how they made their living,” Smik said. “They reached out to people with entertainment and goodwill. Dad would book his show into these little communities, and that’s what he enjoyed doing, especially Canada. The Canadians remained amazingly loyal.”

Williams’ rendition of “The Cat Came Back” sold more than 1 million records on a Toronto record label.

In a 2008 interview with The Intelligencer newspaper, Williams said his music still made an impact north of the border.

“When Wheeling businessmen would go to Canada, they would always get discounts because the people knew our show,” he said.

Williams quit school in the 10th grade to help support his family. He worked alongside his father in the coal mines but left to pursue an entertainment career. His grandmother bought him his first professional guitar in 1933 and he started performing at square dances in small Pennsylvania towns.

As the years passed, he had opportunities to go elsewhere, but he considered Wheeling and West Virginia his home, Smik said.

Chickie Williams died in November 2007 at age 88. In 2008 the state renamed a section of road in Wheeling as the “Doc and Chickie Williams Highway; Country Music Royal Couple.”

The couple was inducted into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame in 2009.

Kepner Funeral Homes of Wheeling was in charge of arrangements, which were incomplete Tuesday.