Mason Douglas Williams was born in Abilene, Texas; son of Jackson Eugene (a tile setter) and Kathlyn (Nations) Williams; married Sheila Ann Massey, April 22, 1961 (divorced); children: Kathryn Michelle.
He grew up dividing his time between living with his father in Oklahoma and his mother in Oakridge, Oregon. He graduated fromNorthwest Classen High School in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in 1956. It was in Oklahoma that he began his lifelong friendship with artist Edward Ruscha.
He lived for a time in Oakridge, and as of 2008, he lived in Eugene, Oregon with his Canadian-born wife, who is a defense attorney.
In 1968 Williams won two Grammy Awards for his guitar instrumental “Classical Gas“. Together with Nancy Ames he wrote Cinderella Rockefella, a 1968 number one hit forEsther and Abi Ofarim in the United Kingdom.
In 1970, Williams made a television appearance on a variety show, Just Friends, which reunited regulars of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. To create a visual element for his performance, he used a special playable classical plexiglass guitar built for him by Billy Cheatwood and a prop designer for ABC. For the performance, Williams filled the guitar with water and added a couple of goldfish. He then used the plexiglass guitar to finger-sync his hit version of “Classical Gas”.
Williams has recorded more than a dozen albums, five on the Warner Bros. label (The Mason Williams Phonograph Record, The Mason Williams Ear Show, Music, Handmade, and Sharepickers). The LP cover for the 1968 ‘Music’ was painted by Edward Ruscha. The credit reads “Sorry, Cover by Edward Ruscha.
“Classical Gas” was released as a single from The Mason Williams Phonograph Record in 1968. “Classical Gas” won three Grammys that year for “Best Instrumental (theme) Composition”, “Best Instrumental (theme) Performance”, and “Best Instrumental Orchestra Arrangement”, Mike Post, arranger. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc. He also wrote songs for The Kingston Trio. For both Handmade and Sharepickers, Mason received two more Grammy nominations for “Best Album Cover Design”.