Johnny Mathis Biography
Johnny Mathis is an American singer and songwriter. He started his career with singles of standard music and later became popular as an album artist. Mathis has had several dozens of his albums achieving gold or platinum status and 73 making the Billboard charts to date.
According to Guinness Music Chart historian Paul Gambaccini, Mathis has had over 360 million records sold worldwide. This has made him the third biggest selling artist of the 20th century.
Moreover, he has also received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award accompanied by an induction into the Grammy Hall of Fame for three separate recordings.
Although he is often described as a romantic singer, his music entails traditional pop, Brazilian and Spanish music, soul music among many others. He even had a few disco songs for his album Mathis Magic in 1979.
Mathis has also recorded six Christmas music albums. In a 1968 interview, Johnny cited Lena Horne, Nat King Cole, and Bing Crosby as his musical influences
Johnny Mathis Age
Mathis is 85 years old as of 2021. She was born on September 30, 1935, in Gilmer, Texas, the United States of America. In addition, Johnny celebrates his birthday on September 30th every year.
Johnny Mathis Family
He is the fourth of seven children born to Clem Mathis and Mildred Boyd. The family moved to San Francisco, California, settling on 32nd Avenue in the Richmond District, where Mathis grew up.
His ethnic origin is African American and Native American. His father had worked in vaudeville, and when he saw his son’s talent, he bought an old upright piano for $25 (US$356 in 2018 dollars) and encouraged him. Mathis began learning the art of music 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, his voice coach, Connie Cox accepted him as her student in exchange for working around her house. Mathis trained with Cox for six years, learning vocal scales and exercises, voice production, classical and operatic singing.
The first band he worked with was formed by his high school friend Merl Saunders. Johnny eulogized Saunders at his funeral in 2008, thanking him for giving him the debut chance as a singer.
Johnny Mathis Education
Mathis was a renowned athlete at George Washington High School in San Francisco. He played perfectly in high jump, hurdles, and basketball. In 1954, he enrolled at San Francisco State College on an athletic scholarship, intending to become an English teacher and a physical education teacher.
While there, Mathis set a high jump record of 6′-5 1/2″. This is still one of the college’s top jump heights and was only two inches short of the Olympic record 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.
In fact, 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 meeting at the University of Nevada, Mathis beat Russell’s highest jump attempt that day.
He was often referred to as “the best all-around athlete to come out of the San Francisco Bay Area.”
Johnny Mathis Husband
Mathis has never been in marriage up to date. However, Johnny states that he has no regrets for his stand. In addition, he has no children attached to him even outside wedlock.
Johnny Mathis Hobbies
Despite missing the Olympic high-jump trials, he has never entirely abandoned his enthusiasm for sports and today is an avid golfer with nine-hole in ones.
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.
Johnny Mathis Drugs & Alcohol Addiction
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.
Johnny Mathis Homosexuality Rumors
Mathis was quoted in a 1982 Us Magazine article, stating “Homosexuality is a way of life that I’ve grown accustomed to.” Despite the rumors, Us Magazine never retracted the statement. The interviewer, Alan Petrucelli, still has the tapes.
In 2006, Mathis said that his silence had been because of death threats he received as a result of that 1982 article.
Johnny Mathis Career
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.
Soon she became Mathis’ music manager. In addition, Noga found Mathis a job singing weekends at Ann Dee’s 440 Club in September 1955. She learned that George Avakian, the head of Popular Music A&R at Columbia Records, was on his vacation near San Francisco.
After repeated calls, Noga finally convinced Avakian to come and have an ear on Mathis’s performance at the 440 Club. After hearing Mathis sing, Avakian wired his record company a telegram stating: “Have found a phenomenal 19-year-old boy who could go all the way. Send blank contracts.”
At San Francisco State, Mathis had become famous for his high jump sport. In 1956, he was asked to try out for the U.S. Olympic Team that would fly to Melbourne, Australia that November. Mathis was in a dilemma to either 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 chose to embark on a professional singing career. His LP record album was launched in late 1956 instead of waiting until the first quarter of 1957.
Mathis’s first record album, A New Sound In Popular Song, was a slow-selling jazz album. However, he stayed in New York City to sing in nightclubs.
His second record was produced by Columbia Records vice-president and record producer Mitch Miller. The renowned producer helped Mathis define his sound. Miller recommended that Mathis sing soft, romantic ballads, pairing him up with conductor and music arranger Ray Conniff. Later he also paired him with Ray Ellis, Glenn Osser, and Robert Mersey.
In late 1956, Mathis produced two of his most popular songs: “Wonderful! Wonderful!” and “It’s Not for Me to Say”. Moreover, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer signed him up to sing the latter song in the movie Lizzie (1957).
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 1 million.
In November 1957, he released Wild Is the Wind which featured in the film of the same name and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song. 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.
It held the record for the most number of weeks on the top Billboard 200 albums in the US for 15 years until Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon reached 491 weeks in October 1983.
Later in 1958, Mathis made his second film appearance for 20th Century Fox, singing the song “A Certain Smile” in the film of that title. The song was also nominated for the Academy Award for the category, 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 moved from San Francisco with the Nogas. They then sold their interest in the Black Hawk club that year and moved to Beverly Hills, California. The Nogas then bought a house where they lived with Mathis.
He appeared on ABC’s The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom on January 1, 1959.
Mathis had two of his greatest hits in 1962 and 1963, with “Gina” (#6) and “What Will Mary Say” (#9).
In 1978, Mathis recorded “Too Much, Too Little, Too Late” with singer Deniece Williams. The lyrics and music were arranged by Nat Kipner and John McIntyre Vallins.
Released as a single in 1978, it rose to number one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 pop chart. In addition, it shot to number 9 on the Canadian Singles Chart, and number 3 on the UK Singles Chart. It also topped the US R&B and adult contemporary charts.
His work, “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 song since his 1957 chart-topping “Chances Are”.
The duo released a follow-up collabo, “You’re All I Need to Get By,” rising to number 47 on the Hot 100. The success of the collabos with Williams prompted Mathis to record duets with a variety of many other musicians. This includes his collabo with Dionne Warwick, Natalie Cole, Gladys Knight, to mention but a few.
Johnny Mathis Discography
Main article: Johnny Mathis discography
Johnny Mathis Bibliography
- Mathis, Johnny; Brash, Peter; Birch, Marge (1982). Cooking for You Alone. Pasadena, CA: Tech. Educ. Co. ISBN 978-0-939402-00-7.
Johnny Mathis Net Worth
Mathis has an estimated net worth of $400 million. He made the vast majority of his fortune from his lucrative career. He has sold over 360 million albums, making him the third best-selling artist of the 20th century.