Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Worth Another Listen - Johnny Mathis

johnny mathis johnny mathis
johnny mathis Johnny Mathis

Johnny Mathis is impressive on just so many levels, I have nothing but admiration for the guy. He was born in 1935 in Texas. His ethnicity was mmixed, African American and Caucasian. He showed an early aptitude for music and sports, excelling at track and field as well as basketball. He was discovered at 19 by producer George Avakian. Hollywood lore says after hearing Mathis for the first time, Avakian sent a telegram to Columbia Records that read 'Have found phenomenal 19-year old boy who could go all the way. Send blank contracts.'

johnny mathis johnny mathis

Mathis released his first album in 1956. It was a collection of jazz standards, and did not sell as well as was expected. The label, however, did not give up on him. They asked him to sing softer ballads and love songs. While recording the second album, he also had the chance to appear in two successful movies as a bar singer, Lizzie and A Certain Voice. That, along with a very successful appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, raised his celebrity as he was releasing the second album. The title cut from that album was Wonderful, Wonderful, and it was his first hit.

The third single from that album was Chances Are, which was also his first song to top the charts. It truly showcased his amazing voice and wonderful vibrato. It pretty much defined the sound that kept him as an important singer in the music business for decades as a pop singer. The following clip is Chances Are.

The following is a clip from one of Johnny's first appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, in 1957. He sings It's Not For Me To Say.

Mathis stayed on the charts from 1957 to the mid 80s, both as a solo singer and singing duets. One duet I remember is Johnny singing several songs with Denise Williams. Together, they sang the theme song to the TV show Family Ties, the megahit that introduced us to Michael J. Fox. But their big hit was Too Much Too Little Too Late, as song that topped the Pop and Adult Contemporary charts in 1978.

Om 1982, Mathis came out as gay in an magazine interview, but it was immediately detracted. Seems once that revelation had hit, he received death threats. However, one of the things I think of when I hear the name Johnny Mathis is Christmas. In 1958, he released Merry Christmas, one of the best collections of seasonal music ever made. His O Holy Night is remarkable, showing both range and control of a great singer. But I will try to do a separate post next month in a series celebrating Christmas music. You can learn more about Johnny Mathis at his official website, here.


  1. Wow great post! I've loved this man's music all my life, and now knowing he's gay makes me love it even more. Thx Howard.

  2. Larry, I have loved his music as well. His Christmas album was played every year when I was a child. And I think he is very handsome.

  3. My mom had stacks of his records. I love his mellow tone.

  4. If you love Johnny Mathis and Christmas together- check out the new YouTube video of him singing "I'll be Home for Christmas". It was put up the day before yesterday. There are two that were put up (the same song- but very different videos) a day apart. I'm sure you'll find the one I mean- it is very moving.

  5. There are no other words to describe Johnny Mathis except 'WONDERFUL, WONDERFUL". As a fan from the very beginng, anything he sings is ok with me, but I found the You Tube video you mean and I agree that it is very moving.
    If you haven't done so, check out the other Mathis videos - just fantastic!!
    From a completely besotted and obsessed Mathis fan. E.B.

  6. Kyle, my mother too!

    Anon1, I am planning on doing a separate Johnny post for his holiday music once we are in the season.

    Anon2 [EB], yes, Johnny is fantastic!

  7. J.M. será eterno.
    Um dos maiores cantores do mundo, aqui no Brasil deixou muitas saudades.



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