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Johnny Mathis

One of the last and most popular in a long line of traditional male vocalists who emerged before the rock-dominated 1960s, Johnny Mathis concentrated on romantic readings of jazz and pop standards for the ever-shrinking adult contemporary audience of the '60s and '70s. Though he debuted with a flurry of singles chart activity, Mathis later made it big in the album market, where a dozen of his LPs hit gold or platinum and over 60 made the charts. While he originally concentrated on theme-oriented albums of show tunes and traditional favorites, from the '70s onward Mathis began incorporating more varied styles of music into his recordings, including soft rock, R&B, and country. This stylistic eclecticism, combined with ubiquitous vocal chops, helped Mathis remain a popular concert attraction well into the 21st century.

Unsurprisingly, given his emphasis on long sustained notes and heavy vibrato, Mathis studied with an opera coach prior to his teenage years, and was almost lured into the profession; his other inspirations were the smoother crossover jazz vocalists of the 1940s -- Nat "King" Cole, Billy Eckstine, and Lena Horne. Mathis was an exceptional high-school athlete in San Francisco, but was wooed away from a college track scholarship and a potential spot on the Olympic squad by the chance to sing. He was signed to a management contract by club owner Helen Noga, who introduced the singer to George Avakian, jazz producer for Columbia Records. Avakian signed him and used orchestras conducted by Teo Macero, Gil Evans, and John Lewis to record Mathis' self-titled debut album in 1957. Despite the name talent and choice of standards, it was mostly ignored upon release.

Columbia A&R executive Mitch Miller -- known for his desperately pop-slanted Sing Along albums and TV show -- decided the only recourse was switching Mathis to Miller's brand of pop balladry, and the formula worked like a charm; the LP Wonderful Wonderful didn't include but was named after a Top 20 hit later in 1957, which was followed by the number five "It's Not for Me to Say" and his first number one, "Chances Are." From that point on, Johnny Mathis concentrated strictly on lush ballads for adult contemporary listeners.

Though he charted consistently, massive hit singles were rare for Johnny Mathis during the late '50s and '60s -- half of his career Top Ten output had occurred in 1957 alone -- so he chose to focus instead on the burgeoning album market, much like Frank Sinatra, his main rival during the late '50s as the most popular traditional male vocalist. Mathis moved away from show tunes and traditional pop into soft rock during the '70s, and found his second number one single, "Too Much, Too Little, Too Late," in 1978. Recorded as a duet with Deniece Williams, the single prompted Mathis to begin trying duets with a variety of partners (including Dionne Warwick, Natalie Cole, Gladys Knight, and Nana Mouskouri), though none of the singles enjoyed the success of the original.

Mathis continued to release and sell albums throughout the '90s -- his fifth decade of recording for Columbia -- and beyond, among them 1998's Because You Loved Me: Songs of Diane Warren and 2000's Mathis on Broadway. Mathis followed the Broadway album with 2002's The Christmas Album and 2005's Isn't it Romantic: The Standards Album, both of which found the iconic vocalist in fine form. In 2008, Mathis released the Walter Afanasieff-produced and arranged A Night to Remember, his first straight-ahead adult contemporary album in over a decade. Let It Be Me: Mathis in Nashville, Mathis' first full-length album of country music, appeared in September of 2010. The album ultimately garnered a Grammy Award nomination for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album. ~ John Bush, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

One of One of the best singers! I met him in person at the marina Delray and had a cocktail with him and a real special Gentlemen!!! !
jrcdesigns
Johnny Mathis stands alone He is the best I can lesson to Him over and over and never get tired of His wonderful voice
tfkojo9
I saw Johnny Mathis at the Marin Civic Auditorium last night. He still has that clear romantic sound that drew me to his sound when I was an impressionab l e 11 years old. He'll be 79 on September 30. Amazing voice and not a gray hair in sight!
God blessed Johnny Mathis with a voice from Heaven above.
Johnny is the best. I have loved his music since the 50's when I was in high school. He still has that velvet voice.
Johnny Mathis is my all time favorite male vocalist! I cannot carry a tune in a bucket with a lid on it, but sing along with everything he ever made. I saw him for the first time May 2013. The man still has it! Ohhhh, those high notes! I have been listening to him since the early 50s, and he only gets better with time. He is very shy, oh but he can communicate in song!
I saw him at theater in the round in Westbury, Long Island, NY a year ago. Part of my life - always loved him. He sang a song with New York in it. I can't remember the title or words but I loved it. It's not the obvious like New York, New York. Something else. I don't know if he ever recorded it. Does anyone know what I mean?
My favorite tune from Johnny is one of his less well known--When Sunny gets blue. Ah, the memories. My wife and I actually met him when we were courting. Lets see now, hmm, how many years ago??
Just went to a Johnny Mathis concert, he still has it.! He was Heavenly.
I agree with you hornat24. Johnny Mathis is verrrry talented and I will never forget the night I attended one of his concerts in 2002.
hornat24
saw johnny in the 60's while in the usaf stationed in porthsmith, n.h.
best voice ever and still going strong
drh6187
I am 70. Love you forever
drh6187
I have loved him forever!
linray42
No one sings Maria like Johnny
Wonderful! Wonderful!
linesco50
Johnny Mathis Christmas
SAW HIM IN CONCERT AMAZING VOICE!
One of the greatest singers ever. I've listened to his songs for over 50 years.
gonica2005
Yes, I have to admit that Johnny is one of the best ! it bring us ;lots memories of late 50's an special of 60's with Certain Smile
chichesterc
I was introduced to his music by my father in the 60s. and since that time, I have never wavered from the opinion that Johnny is the best singing voice ever. For everyone else he has to be in at least their top 5.
caroljo56
He has been my favorite vocalist since I first heard him in his early years. I used to put my kids down for a nap in the afternoon and it was such a treat to listen to his beautiful love songs and a great way to relax and get ready for round 2 when the kids woke up from their nap.
Like many , I grew up liststening to Johnny Mathis especially on weekends when it was weekend clean up time. Listen to him sing Maria from west side story, beautiful. I had expected to here it
sung the same way in the movie and play but no such luck. I loved imitating his style of singing. You can tell that Johnny Mathis was and will always be one of the best that ever sang and most unappreciate d male vocalist of our time.
My mom played Johnny all the time. So when I got older I would fall to sleep every nite with him . I bet a lot of baby's were made from his music.
Wonderful! Wonderful ! Johnny Mathis
I'm now 63 and Johnny will always be my favorite male vocalist. No one made better make -out music in the '50s and '60s than Mathis. His Greatest Hits album is a classic and one of the best of all time. Keep singing Johnny....yo u ' r e as good as ever!! RS
Johnny Mathis was my favorite as a child. I was in love with his voice not to mention his good looks! I was just a mere baby...I still love his smooth, sultry voice.
I'm 61 years old. I have loved Johnny Mathis since I was 12 years old. Thank you Ed Sullivan!!
Two words--Top Shelf.
Enjoyed his mellow tunes. Great memories
Johnny has one of the sweetest, most pure, velvet tones, and rich voices of all time. A singer like Johnny comes around about once in a lifetime. His bravura is unmatched. I rank Johnny right up there with the best there ever was including Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Vic Dimone and Nat King Cole. I often wonder how someone like Frank, Nat, Tony, or Johnny would fare if their moment was today and they competed on The Voice or American Idol. Would they be recognized or passed over? It would
Im young, just 26.This is my Father's favorite singer of all time, and he himself use to sing along side Mathis at one point in time back in New York's great days. Wow how the times have changed. In a horrible blasphemy of music raped by auto-tune and talentless fads, I feel bad for people who well never here real talent and appreciate real music. Here's to one of the true best.
Johnny Mathis version of Danny Boy is one of the BEST I HAVE HEARD. Happy St. Patrick's Day! :-) :-) :-)
I grew up with Johnny Mathis. In my opinion he his the best male vocalist!

The best male singer ever!! Under the master at Columbia records in NY during the mid and late 50s (Mitch Miller), they compiled some of the best ballad LPs every recorded (e.g. Heavenly, Warm, Faithfully and Johnny's Mood to name some). If you have never heard these albums, shame on you. As a Mathis fan, you are missing the best work he ever did (1958 to 1961).
The first song I ever remember memorizing-- - a f t e r Mary Had a Little Lamb---was Chances Are. I was 5 or 6, and still love that song.
I just love his style of singing since then up to now...awesom e !
Johnny Mathis is an icon! No one else sounds like him or can begin to compete with his magical voice. He just had hip surgery and is already back on the road again. I have loved him since I was 15 and soon I am turning 60, so it's been a long love affair. I have had the wonderful privilege of seeing him 2 times, and would love to have more opportunitie s . Two of my all time favorites are Wild is the Wind and The Sweetheart Tree....best is Brazil and 99 Miles to LA!
Johnny Mathis tops the list of my favourite artist of all time. I just love all of his songs. His music is timeless and he is so extra versatile.
i like to here him sing the best of everything movie was bad the song was good
I have been in love with johnny Mathis since I was 15 years old when I saw him in a concert in Atlantic city steel pier. I have
attended many since. At one such show I was lucky enough to receive the most precious gift from him. A kiss!!:-)
I have been in love with Johnny Mathis all of my life! Would love to go to a concert of his.
I AM NEW HERE,BUT ALREADY LOVE IT / I ADORE GOOD MUSIC/
myerspercuss i o n
JM provided an unforgettabl e soundtrack to my youth. Any time I needed to feel better I'd put on one of his albums. Didn't matter which -- he never made a clunker. Some better than others but all superb. So easy on the ears. Thank you, Johnny. You embody music and class.
shortwrite
I had the biggest crush on Johnny Mathis when I was growing up - I loved his voice, his look, the fact that he was an ahtlete... I still do - would love to see him in concert!
Johnny Mathis sings a song like no one else
There willl never be another Johnny Mathis, Johnny your music and style is timeless LOVE MISTY,
SAW JOHNNY FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 1962 NEWARK NEW JERSEY
SAW HIM LAST WEEK IN EASTON PENNA. 4/19/12 HE IS STILL GREAT A MASTER OF THE SONG.
Just saw him in NJ 4/21/12 (New Bruswick State theater) Still has that great voice.
I love everything song he he has ever sang, I grew up on hi music
I never get tirred of hearing him sing -- I can hear the same song thousands of times over the years. I feel I grew up with him. He's one of a kind - so romantic. Johnny - you're fantastic!!! !
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