Famed pianist Roger Williams dies at 87

October 8, 2011 - 2:40 PM

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Roger Williams, the virtuoso pianist who topped Billboard charts with his hit recording of "Autumn Leaves" in the 1950s and played for nine presidents during a long career, has died. He was 87.

His former publicist Rob Wilcox says Williams died Saturday at his home in Los Angeles of complications from pancreatic cancer.

Williams was known as an adept improviser who effortlessly switched between classical, jazz and pop styles.

His 1955 hit "Autumn Leaves" is the only piano instrumental to reach number one on the Billboard pop charts. It remains the best-selling piano record of all time.

Nicknamed the "pianist to the presidents," Williams played for every commander in chief from Harry Truman to George W. Bush.