Happy Monday, Everyone. This week, we’re featuring the music of Mr. Johnny Mathis.
By MCA-Music Corporation of America (management) – eBay itemphoto frontphoto back, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16940493
Wiki: John Royce “Johnny” Mathis (born September 30, 1935) is an American singer of popular music and jazz. Starting his career with singles of standard music, he became highly popular as an album artist, with several dozen of his albums achieving gold or platinum status and 73 making the Billboard charts to date. Johnny Mathis has sold well over 350 million records worldwide,according to Guinness Book of World Records writer and charts music historian Paul Gambaccini and other sources. This makes Mathis the third biggest selling artist of the 20th century.
Although he is frequently described as a romantic singer, his discography includes jazz, traditional pop, Brazilian music, Spanish music, soul music, rhythm and blues, soft rock, Broadway theatre, Tin Pan Alley standards, some blues and country songs, and even a few disco songs for his album Mathis Magic in 1979. Mathis also recorded six albums of Christmas music. In a 1968 interview, Mathis cited Lena Horne, Nat King Cole, and Bing Crosby among his musical influences.
Mathis was born in Gilmer, Texas, United States, in 1935,the fourth of seven children of Clem Mathis and his wife, Mildred Boyd.The family moved to San Francisco, California, settling on 32nd Ave. in the Richmond District, where Johnny grew up. His father had worked in vaudeville, and when he saw his son’s talent, he bought an old upright piano for $25 and encouraged him. Mathis began learning songs and routines from his father. His first song was “My Blue Heaven.” Mathis started singing and dancing for visitors at home, at school, and at church functions.
When he was 13, voice teacher Connie Cox accepted him as her student in exchange for work around her house. Johnny studied with Cox for six years, learning vocal scales and exercises, voice production, classical, and operatic singing. He is one of the relatively few popular singers who received years of professional voice training that included opera. The first band he sang with was formed by his high school friend Merl Saunders. Mathis eulogized him at his funeral in 2008, thanking him for giving him his first chance as a singer.
Mathis was a star athlete at George Washington High School in San Francisco. He was a high jumper and hurdler, and he played on the basketball team. In 1954, he enrolled at San Francisco State University on an athletic scholarship, intending to become an English teacher and a physical education teacher.[
In San Francisco while singing at a Sunday afternoon jam session with a friend’s jazz sextet at the Black Hawk Club, Mathis attracted the attention of the club’s co-founder, Helen Noga. She became Mathis’ music manager, and in September 1955, after Noga had found Mathis a job singing weekends at Ann Dee’s 440 Club, she learned that George Avakian, head of Popular Music A&R at Columbia Records, was on vacation near San Francisco. After repeated calls, Noga finally persuaded Avakian to come hear Mathis at the 440 Club. After hearing Mathis sing, Avakian sent his record company a telegram stating: “Have found phenomenal 19-year-old boy who could go all the way. Send blank contracts.”
At San Francisco State, Mathis had become noteworthy as a high jumper, and in 1956 he was asked to try out for the U.S. Olympic Team that would travel to Melbourne, Australia, that November. Mathis had to decide whether to go to the Olympic trials or to keep his appointment in New York City to make his first recordings. On his father’s advice, Mathis opted to embark on a professional singing career. His LP record album was released in late 1956 instead of waiting until the first quarter of 1957.
Mathis’s first record album, Johnny Mathis: A New Sound In Popular Song, was a slow-selling jazz album, but Mathis stayed in New York City to sing in nightclubs. His second album was produced by Columbia Records vice-president and record producer Mitch Miller, who helped to define the Mathis sound. Miller preferred that Mathis sing soft, romantic ballads, pairing him up with conductor and music arranger Ray Conniff, and later, Ray Ellis, Glenn Osser, and Robert Mersey. In late 1956, Mathis recorded two of his most popular songs: “Wonderful! Wonderful!” and “It’s Not For Me To Say”.
Also that year, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer signed him up to sing the latter song in the movie Lizzie (1957). Shortly afterwards, Mathis made his second film appearance for 20th Century Fox, singing the song “A Certain Smile” in the film of that title. He had small acting roles in both movies as a bar singer. This early visibility in two successful movies gave him mass exposure. His appearance on the popular TV program The Ed Sullivan Show in 1957 also helped increase his popularity. Critics called him “the velvet voice”. Mathis also appeared during this period on ABC’s The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom, as did fellow African-American entertainers Ella Fitzgerald and Pearl Bailey.