Johnny Mathis celebrated two major milestones in 2005 and 2006:
He turned 70 on September 30th, 2005, and in 2006 he had been in the music business for 50 years, and showed no signs of stopping or even slowing down!
Texas Born, California-Bred
Mathis was born in 1935, in Texas, but grew up in San Francisco. His father, Clem, encouraged his musical talents, buying an old piano for the family when Johnny was 8 years old.
The biography on the singer’s official Web site, JohnnyMathis.com says Clem Mathis had been a musician in Texas. When Johnny was 13, Clem helped arrange a job for Johnny with a voice teacher. She gavem him lessons and he did odd jobs around her house. That partnership continued for six years.
Dad Knows Best
The biography also says that if not for his father’s influence, you might be reading about Johnny Mathis, Olympic athlete. He was a track star in high school and later at San Francisco State College, where he set a high jump record that’s still on the college record books.
He was invited to try out for the 1956 Olympic team, about the same time that he was offered a chance to record for Columbia records. It was his father who suggested that Johnny head to New York, and that’s what he did. That first album had a jazz flavor and it didn’t do all that well on the charts.
Enter Mitch Miller
As head of Columbia’s A&R department, Mitch Miller already had a reputation for matching singers with songs and song-styles. He decided that Johnny’s voice was perfect for romantic ballads like "Wonderful, Wonderful" and "It’s Not For Me To Say".
Those two releases were followed by Johnny’s first Number 1 hit, "Chances Are", in June, 1957. During this period, the official biography says, Johnny frequently had as many as four albums on the charts at any one time.
Sing "Misty" for Me….
In late 1959, he recorded another classic, Erroll Garner’s "Misty", which won him a Grammy nomination in 1960. He was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998 and again in 2002. In 2003, the Academy of Recording Arts and Science gave him its Lifetime Achievement Award.
A Hit in Every Decade
Mathis has the distinction of being one of only a few recording artists to have Top 40 Hits in each of the last five decades, the 1950’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. Among those hits, "The Twelfth of Never", "When Sunny Gets Blue", and "Too Much, Too Little, Too Late" (recorded with Deniece Williams). That song hit #1 about 21 years after his first #1 hit.
And he may add this decade to that list. He’s recorded this CD of standards, titled "Isn’t it Romantic?" available at amazon.com.
Still on the Road
Mathis continues to tour, and you will find his current schedule on his Website along with more information about the upcoming CD.