In 1970, Williams made a memorable television appearance on a variety show, Just Friends, which reunited regulars of the 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 is perhaps most widely known as a composer and recording artist. He 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). "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". He also wrote songs for the The Kingston Trio. For both Handmade and Sharepickers, Mason received two more Grammy nominations for "Best Album Cover Design".
In 1987, Williams teamed up with Mannheim Steamroller, of Fresh Aire fame, to release a new album on the American Gramaphone label. The album, titled Classical Gas, included a remake of the 1968 song. Another cut from this album, "Country Idyll", was a 1988 nominee for a Grammy in the country music category for "Best Instrumental Performance by a Soloist, Group or Orchestra". The album went gold in 1991. Williams' plexiglass guitar appears on the cover of this album.
Williams released an acoustic instrumental album of Christmas and holiday music, A Gift of Song, on the Real Music label, featuring arrangements of traditional carols and original compositions. In 1992, the Vanguard label released Music 1968–1971, a compilation of cuts from his five Warner Bros. albums recorded in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
In the last few years, Williams has concentrated on a variety of programs for his concert appearances. His "Concert For Bluegrass Band And Orchestra", also titled "Symphonic Bluegrass", has been performed with over 40 symphonies, including the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, Kansas City Symphony, Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, Oklahoma City Philharmonic, Louisville Orchestra, and the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra.
Williams released an album, Concert For Bluegrass Band And Orchestra, on his own Skookum label containing 14 of the approximately 35 songs performed in the concert. In 1993, the title cut from the album was used as the soundtrack for a ninety-second public service announcement (PSA) created by The American Rivers Council on the home video release of Robert Redford's film A River Runs Through It. The PSA was also on the 1995 home video release of The River Wild.
In conjunction with the release of the A Gift of Song CD in 1992, Williams has added a "Holiday Concert Program" to his repertoire, featuring music from the album as well as other traditional music of the season. In 1994, he played six sold-out concerts with the Oregon Symphony in Portland, Oregon. In the 1990s he also performed with the Eugene Symphony with friend Ken Kesey.
During 1995–1998 Williams performed all four of his concerts. In 1995, he was invited to play for Oregon governor John Kitzhaber's inauguration. In 1996, Williams received an honorary Doctorate of Music from his alma mater, Oklahoma City University.
In 1998, Broadcast Music Incorporated (BMI), the music licensing organization that tracks air play performances on radio and television, presented Williams with a Special Citation of Achievement in recognition of the great national and international popularity of "Classical Gas". It has logged over three million broadcast performances to become the all-time number-one instrumental composition for air play in BMI's repertoire, replacing the previous number-one tune, the theme from Moulin Rouge, "Where Is Your Heart" by Michel Legrand, released in 1953.
In 1999, Williams played again for the governor of Oregon's second inauguration. In February, Williams' "Bus" art piece was included in the Norton Simon Museum exhibition "Radical Past", in Pasadena, California. In the spring he played his Of Time and Rivers Flowing concert with the Oregon Children's Choral Festival, a two-day event involving 3,000 elementary school children singing water and rivers songs with Williams and his band. Williams received the Distinguished Service Award from the University of Oregon in honor of his Contribution to Oregon's arts.
He has also written music for soundtracks of movies including The Story of Us, Cheaper by the Dozen, The Dish, The Heidi Chronicles, and Heartbreakers. His compositions have been played on the television series The Sopranos as well.
In 2003, he released an EP, Music for the Epicurean Harkener, and was again nominated for a Grammy in 2004 for best instrumental album. He released an album with UK guitarist Zoe McCulloch, Electrical Gas, in 2005.
In June 2006, Williams performed at his 50th high school reunion at Northwest Classen High School in Oklahoma City. He performed as Mason Williams and Friends, the friends including Art Maddox, Mark Schneider, Thom Bergeron, Don Latarski, and Dennis Caffey, at concerts in Eugene and Springfield, Oregon and at the opening gala at the Richard E. Wildish Community Theater in Springfield. He also made special guest appearances in September with many other guitarists at Primal Twang in San Diego, California, and with Craig Einhorn and the Umpqua Symphony Orchestra in Roseburg, Oregon.
In January 2007, he was reunited with longtime friend and artist Edward Ruscha, performing at the Getty Center in Los Angeles. In October 2007, he was inducted into the Oregon Music Hall of Fame. and co-headlined a concert with Everclear and also with Paul Revere and the Raiders.
As a comedy writer, Williams has written for more than 150 hours of network television programming. Writing both music and comedy, Williams was a prime creative force for CBS' controversial Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. His extensive repertoire in folk music gave him the background for many of Tom and Dick Smothers' comedy routines, and with co-writer Nancy Ames, he also composed the show's musical theme. He also created and perpetuated the 1968 "Pat Paulsen for President" campaign, an elaborate political satire. Williams's longest running contribution to date is the launching of the career of Steve Martin. Martin was initially hired by Williams as a writer on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, for which his contributions were initially paid out of Williams' own pocket.
Other major television personalities he has written for include Andy Williams, Glen Campbell, Dinah Shore, Roger Miller, and Petula Clark. In 1980, Williams briefly served as head writer for NBC's Saturday Night Live, but left after clashing with producer Jean Doumanian. In 1988, Williams received his third Emmy nomination as a comedy writer for his work on The Smothers Brothers 20th Reunion Special on CBS. According to his book, The Mason Williams FCC Rapport, Williams also credits himself with the first concept of a VJ and for MTV. His concept included visual representations of the music and a video host announcing each piece of music on the air. CBS executives scoffed at his idea at the time. However, this didn't stop him from trying out his idea on the air, as his composition Classical Gas was played on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour against a backdrop of 2,000 Renaissance art pieces, which effectively made the composition one of the first music videos.
In February 2000, Williams participated in the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, Colorado. The sixth annual festival honored The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and its unique contribution to television. Williams performed a concert with Tom and Dick, and again on a late night show with performers that included Catherine O'Hara, Martin Short, Andrea Martin, Steve Martin, Robin Williams, and Marc Shaiman.
|July 14, 1960||Little Billy Blue Shoes/Run Come See|
|August 1960||Folk Music as Heard at The Gourd|
|April 1961||Songs of the Blue and Grey ; recorded by The Wayfarers Trio|
|April 30, 1962||Away All Boats|
|1963||The Big Hootenanny|
|March 12, 1963||I Am an American|
|August 26, 1963||More Hootenany|
|1963||The Twelve-String Story Vol. I|
|1963||The Twelve-String Story Vol. II|
|October 1963||The Banjo Story|
|October 29, 1963||Folk Baroque|
|2 April, 1964||5-String Banjo Greats|
|December 24, 1965||Introducing Jayne Heather|
|April 1965||Tour de Farce (The Smothers Brothers)|
|April 22, 1966||Love Are Wine/The Exciting Accident|
|1966||The Smothers Brothers Play It Straight|
|February 1968||The Mason Williams Phonograph Record|
|August 10, 1968||Classical Gas/Long Time Blues|
|November 1968||The Mason Williams Ear Show|
|1968||Saturday Night at the World/One-Minute Commercial|
|March 13, 1969||Music|
|March 1969||Greensleeves/$13 Stella|
|March 1969||The Mason Williams Listening Matter (Them Poems)|
|March 10, 1970||Handmade|
|1 January, 1971||Improved|
|1971||Train Ride in G/Here I Am Again|
|November 1978||Fresh Fish|
|December 1984||Of Time and Rivers Flowing|
|October 22, 1987||Classical Gas — Mason Williams and Mannheim Steamroller|
|July 13, 1992||Music 1968 – 1972|
|September 18, 1992||A Gift of Song|
|1994||Rock Instrumental Classics, Vol. 2: The Sixties|
|September 1995||Fiddle and a Song|
|Unknown||1968 Billboard Top Pop Hits (Rhino) (features "Classical Gas")|
|December 20, 1995||1995 Sony Disc Manufacturing Holiday Choir|
|9 April, 1996||Cascadia (1996 Oregon Governor's Arts Awards)|
|May 17, 1996||Of Time and Rivers Flowing (re-released)|
|December 25, 2003||Music for the Epicurean Harkener (EP)|
|September 27, 2005||Electrical Gas — Mason Williams and Zoe McCulloch|
|September 30, 2006||Classical Gas - Mason Williams, Craig Einhorn, Online at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=078N20Zxx1k|
|December 1, 2006||Classical Gas - Mason Williams at the Wildish Theater, Online at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ozAqqNZ0LHw|
|April, 2008||40th anniversary of Classical Gas - Classical Gas with Mason Williams and the original Dan McLaughlin "Classical Gas Video" as it appeared on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in 1968. Online at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AoQh7F_1mbk|
Source:http://www.masonwilliams-online.com/careerdisc.html masonwilliams-online.com and Yahoo's "Mason Williams: Discography".