For the country music singer, see "Country" Johnny Mathis.
|Birth name||John Royce Mathis|
|Born||(1935-09-30) September 30, 1935 (age 85)
Gilmer, Texas, U.S.
|Origin||San Francisco, California, U.S|
John Royce Mathis (born September 30, 1935) is an American singer-songwriter of popular music.
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.
Although frequently described as a romantic singer, his discography includes traditional pop, Brazilian and Spanish music, soul, rhythm and blues, show tunes, Tin Pan Alley, soft rock, blues, country music, and even a few disco songs for his album Mathis Magic in 1979.
Mathis has also recorded six albums of Christmas music.
Early life and education
Mathis was born in Gilmer, Texas, on September 30, 1935, the fourth of seven children of Clem Mathis and Mildred Boyd.
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.
Mathis studied with Cox for six years, learning vocal scales and exercises, voice production, classical and operatic singing.
The first band he sang with was formed by his high school friend Merl Saunders.
Mathis eulogized Saunders at his funeral in 2008, thanking him for giving Mathis 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.
While there, Mathis set a high-jump record of 6'-5 1/2" [1.97 m].
This is still one of the college's top jump heights and was only 7 cm [two inches] short of the 1952 Olympic record of 2.04 m at the time.
Just as when he was in high school, Mathis's name was frequently mentioned in the sports sections of the Northern California newspapers.
He and future NBA star Bill Russell were featured in a 1954 sports section article of the San Francisco Chronicle demonstrating their high-jumping skills (Russell #1 & Mathis #2 in the City of San Francisco at that time).
During one meet at the University of Nevada, Mathis beat Russell's highest jump attempt that day.
Mathis was often referred to as "the best all-around athlete to come out of the San Francisco Bay Area."
While singing at a Sunday afternoon jam session with a friend's jazz sextet at the Black Hawk Club in San Francisco, Mathis attracted the attention of the club's co-founder, Helen Noga.
She became his 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.
In late 1956, Mathis recorded two of his most popular songs: "Wonderful! " Wonderful!
and "It's Not for Me to Say".
Show biz millionaire
His appearance on the popular TV program The Ed Sullivan Show in June 1957 helped increase his popularity.
Later in 1957, he released "Chances Are", which became his second single to sell a million.
He performed the song at the ceremony in March 1958.
The week before his appearance at the Academy Awards, Johnny's Greatest Hits was released.
The album spent an unprecedented 490 consecutive weeks through 1967 (nine and a half years) on the Billboard top 200 album charts, including three weeks at number one.
The song was also nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song.
By the end of the year, he was set to earn $1 million a year.
Critics called him "the velvet voice".
During the summer of 1958, Mathis left San Francisco with the Nogas, who sold their interest in the Black Hawk club that year, and moved to Beverly Hills, California, where the Nogas bought a house.
Mathis lived with the family.
In 1962, Ebony magazine listed Mathis as one of 30-35 millionaires on their list of "America's 100 Richest Negroes".
Split from Noga
In October 1964, Mathis sued Noga to void their management arrangement, which Noga fought with a counterclaim in December 1964.
After splitting from Noga, Mathis established Jon Mat Records, Inc., incorporated in California on May 11, 1967, to produce his recordings (previously, he founded Global Records, Inc. to produce his Mercury albums), and Rojon Productions, Inc., incorporated in California on September 30, 1964, to handle all of his concert, theater, showroom, and television appearances, and all promotional and charitable activities.
His new manager and business partner was Ray Haughn, who, until his death in September 1984, helped guide Mathis's career.
Since that time, Mathis has taken sole responsibility for it.
While Mathis continued to make music, the ascent of the Beatles and early 1970s album rock kept his adult contemporary recordings out of the pop singles charts, until he experienced a career renaissance in the late 1970s.
The lyrics and music were arranged by Nat Kipner and John McIntyre Vallins.
Released as a single in 1978, it reached number one on the U.S.
Billboard Hot 100 pop chart, number nine on the Canadian Singles Chart and number three on the UK Singles Chart.
It also topped the US R&B and adult contemporary charts.
"Too Much, Too Little, Too Late" was certified gold and silver in the US and in the UK by the RIAA and the British Phonographic Industry respectively.
It was his first number one hit since his 1957 chart-topping "Chances Are".
The duo released a follow-up duet, their version of "You're All I Need to Get By," peaking at number 47 on the Billboard Hot 100.
In 1982, they were credited for performing "Without Us" which became the theme song for the American sitcom television series, Family Ties, from its second season onwards.
The success of the duets with Williams prompted Mathis to record duets with a variety of partners, including Dionne Warwick, Natalie Cole, Gladys Knight, Jane Olivor, Stephanie Lawrence, and Nana Mouskouri.
A compilation album also called Too Much, Too Little, Too Late, released by Sony Music in 1995 featured the title track among other songs by Mathis and Williams.
News and recent years
During 1980–1981, Mathis recorded an album with Chic's Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers, I Love My Lady, which remained unreleased in its entirety until its 2017 appearance in the 68 disc collection The Voice of Romance: The Columbia Original Album Collection.
Mathis returned to the British Top 30 album chart in 2007 with the Sony BMG release The Very Best of Johnny Mathis in 2008 with the CD "A Night to Remember" and again in 2011 with "The Ultimate Collection"
Mathis continues to perform live, but from 2000 forward, he limited his concert performances to about fifty to sixty per year.
He is one of the last pop singers who travels with his own full orchestra (as opposed to a band).
With the exception of a four-year break to record for Mercury Records in the mid-1960s, he has been with Columbia Records throughout his career, from 1956 to 1963 and from 1968 to the present.
(Dylan spent a couple of years at Asylum Records then re-signed with Columbia; Streisand and Springsteen have never left Columbia.)
He has released 200 singles and had 71 songs charted around the world.
Pieces of music from numerous Mathis albums continue to be used in motion pictures and television.
For example, "Chances Are" was played during an extraterrestrial visit in the film Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977).
"Wonderful! " Wonderful!
was used in episode "", albeit performed by a sound-alike singer.
was also used in the conclusion to the long-running TV series Desperate Housewives as "Karen McClusky" died.
He has taped twelve of his own television specials and made over 300 television guest appearances, with 33 of them being on The Tonight Show.
Longtime Tonight Show host Johnny Carson said, "Johnny Mathis is the best ballad singer in the world."
Through the years, his songs (or parts of them) have been heard in 100 plus television shows and films around the globe.
Also in 1989, Johnny sang the theme for the ABC daytime soap opera Loving.
On January 14, 2016, Mathis performed to a sold-out audience in The Villages as part of his "60th Anniversary Concert Tour."
Despite missing the Olympic high-jump trials, he retains enthusiasm for sports.
He has hosted several Johnny Mathis Golf Tournaments in the United Kingdom and the US.
Since 1985, he has been hosting a charity golf tournament in Belfast sponsored by Shell corporation, and the annual Johnny Mathis Invitational Track & Field Meet has continued at San Francisco State University since it started in 1982.
He also enjoys cooking and in 1982, he published a cookbook called Cooking for You Alone.
Mathis has undergone rehabilitation for both alcohol and prescription drug addictions, and he has supported many organizations through the years, including the American Cancer Society, the March of Dimes, the YWCA and YMCA, the Muscular Dystrophy Association and the NAACP.
Mathis was quoted in a 1982 Us Magazine article, stating: "Homosexuality is a way of life that I've grown accustomed to."
Mathis later said that that comment was supposed to have been off the record and did not publicly discuss his sexual orientation for many years after that.
In 2006, Mathis said that his silence had been because of death threats he received as a result of that 1982 article.
On April 13, 2006, Mathis granted a podcast interview with The Strip in which he talked about the subject once again, and how some of his reluctance to speak on the subject was partially generational.
During an interview with CBS News Sunday Morning on May 14, 2017, Mathis discussed the Us Magazine article and confirmed he is gay.
"I come from San Francisco.
It's not unusual to be gay in San Francisco.
I've had some girlfriends, some boyfriends, just like most people.
But I never got married, for instance.
I knew that I was gay."
Mathis spoke to many news sources, including CBS, about his sexuality and his story about coming out.
Honors and awards
In 2003, the Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences awarded Mathis the Lifetime Achievement Award.
This Special Merit Award is presented by vote of the Recording Academy's National Trustees to performers who, during their lifetimes, have made creative contributions of outstanding artist significance to the field of recording.
Grammy Hall of Fame
|Grammy Hall of Fame Awards|
|Year Recorded||Title||Genre||Label||Year Inducted|
|1957||"It's Not for Me to Say"||Traditional Pop (Single)||Columbia||2008|
|1959||"Misty"||Traditional Pop (Single)||Columbia||2002|
|1957||"Chances Are"||Traditional Pop (Single)||Columbia||1998|
Great American Songbook Hall of Fame
On June 21, 2014, Mathis was inducted into the Great American Songbook Hall Of Fame along with Linda Ronstadt, Shirley Jones, and Nat King Cole (whose daughter Natalie Cole accepted the award on his behalf).
The awards were presented by the Center for the Performing Arts artistic director Michael Feinstein.
Defined on their website, "Conceived as an enduring testament to the Great American Songbook, the Hall of Fame honors performers and composers responsible for creating America's soundtrack."
Mathis and Jane Olivor sang the song at the Academy Awards ceremony, in his second performance at the Oscars.
He was also awarded the Society of Singers Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006.
In 2007, Mathis was inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame.
Mathis attended San Francisco State for three semesters before withdrawing in 1956 to pursue his music career.
Main article: Johnny Mathis discography
Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnny Mathis.