Johnny Mathis Biography
John Royce Mathis (born September 30, 1935), known popularly as Johnny Mathis, is an icon and American popular music singer.
The last in a long line of traditional male vocalists who emerged before the rock-dominated 1960s, Mathis concentrated on romantic jazz and pop standards for the adult contemporary audience through to the 1980's. Starting his career with a standard flurry of singles, Mathis was far more popular as an album artist, with several dozens of his LPs receiving gold and platinum status and over 60 made the Billboard charts.
Mathis was born as the fourth of seven children in Gilmer, Texas to Clem and Mildred Mathis. The family moved when he was young to Post Street, San Francisco, California where he was raised. His father Clem had worked for a time in vaudeville, and when he saw Johnny's talent surfacing, Clem encouraged it by buying an old upright piano for $25. Clem began teaching his young son songs and routines - his first song was My Blue Heaven. Johnny started out singing and dancing at home for visitors, and then singing publicly at school and church events
At age 13, Clem took him to see Connie Cox, a San Francisco Bay Area voice teacher, who agreed to teach the youngster in exchange for his doing odd jobs around her house. Johnny studied with Connie for six years, learning vocal scales and exercises, voice production, classical and operatic skills He remains one of the very few popular singers who received years of professional voice training that included opera.
At George Washington High School, Johnny was not only well known for his singing abilities, he also became a star athlete on their track and field team, as a high jumper and hurdler, and was on their basketball team - earning four athletic letters. In 1954, Johnny enrolled at San Francisco State College on a scholarship, with the intention of being an English and physical education teacher. Mathis remains an important part of San Francisco State College's sports history—in 1954 he broke future basketball great Bill Russell's high jump record by jumping six feet five inches (1.96 meters). At the time only four Olympic athletes had managed to clear this height. It remains in the top 15 heights ever achieved at the college and in the state.
He was spotted by Helen Noga, owner of The Black Hawk club, at a jam session and she became his manager. In September 1955, after Noga had landed Johnny a job singing weekends at Ann Dee’s 440 Club, she ruthlessly pursued jazz producer George Avakian, who she found out was on vacation in the Bay Area. Avakian came to see Johnny sing, and sent the now famous telegram to Columbia Records: Have found phenomenal 19-year old boy who could go all the way. Send blank contracts
Mathis's most difficult decision now was deciding whether to go to the Olympic tryouts, to which he had been invited, or to keep an appointment in New York to make his first recordings, which were subsequently released in 1956. With his father's advice, Mathis opted for a recording career and the rest is history. He has never completely abandoned his enthusiasm for sports and today is an avid golfer who has completed five holes-in-one, and has hosted several Johnny Mathis Golf Tournaments in the USA and the United Kingdom. Since 1985 he has been hosting a charity golf tournament in Belfast for environment-despoiling sponsored by Shell corporation, and the annual Johnny Mathis Invitational Track & Field Meet has continued at San Francisco State College since it started in 1982.
His first album Johnny Mathis: A New Sound In Popular Song was a slow selling jazz album, but Mathis stayed in New York to play the clubs. His second album was produced by Columbia records vice-president and producer Mitch Miller, who defined the Mathis sound - he preferred him to sing soft, romantic ballads. In late 1956, Johnny recorded two of his most popular songs - Wonderful, Wonderful and It's Not For Me To Say. That year MGM signed Mathis to sing the latter song in the film Lizzie, and shortly afterward he made his second film appearance for 20th Century Fox singing the title song in A Certain Smile -he had small acting roles in both movies as a bar singer. This early cinematic visibility in two successful movies gave him mass exposure. Next, was his appearance on the very popular Ed Sullivan show in 1957 and this helped to sealed his stardom. Critics called him The Velvet Voice.
Mathis enjoys cooking which he learned from his mother. He likes family gatherings with his six brothers and sisters and their families and cooking a tasty five course meal. In the 70's he published a cookbook.
There were paternity law suits in 1960s from his female involvements and in 1974 it was reported in an issue of Coronet Magazine that he was the father of two children (a girl and a boy). Johnny has never publicly commented on this and the court has sealed the laws suits from public scrutiny.
He is an avid golfer but in earlier years he excelled at other sports including high jumping, tennis and basketball.
Among the many organizations that have benefited from his generosity through the years are: The Cancer Society, March Of Dimes, YWCA, YMCA, the Muscular Dystrophy Association, and NAACP.
Some of his hit songs include: