Johnny Mathis (born John Royce Mathis, September 30, 1935) is an African-American singer of popular music. The family moved when he was young to San Francisco, California on Post Street, in the famous Fillmore district. His father worked for a time in Vaudeville, and when he saw the budding talent in his son, the elder Mathis bought an old upright piano for US$25 to encourage his efforts. Mathis began learning from his father songs and routines–his first song being, "My Blue Heaven." Mathis started out singing and dancing for visitors at home, and later publicly, at school and church events.
At George Washington High School, Mathis was well known not only for his singing abilities, but also as a star athlete. On the track and field team, he was a high jumper and hurdler, and on the basketball team, he earned four athletic letters. In 1954, Mathis enrolled at San Francisco State University on a scholarship with the intention of becoming an English and physical education teacher.
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, Mathis 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 1957 film Lizzie, and shortly afterward he made his second film appearance for 20th Century Fox singing the song A Certain Smile in the film of the same name. 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 seal his stardom. Critics called him the velvet voice.
Using money from Liberty Records, Noga was bought out by Spector in 1962 for around $60,000. In 1964, there was a severe downturn in sales for many artists due to The Beatles and the British invasion of the early 1960s. However, Mathis still turned out two of his biggest solo hits in the years 1962 and 1963, with "Gina" (#6) and "What Will Mary Say" (#9) charting in each year, respectively.
He has received three Grammy awards. In 1979, his hit duet "The Last Time I Felt Like This" from the film Same Time, Next Year was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song. Mathis and Jane Olivor sang the song at the Oscar ceremony televised to over two billion people around the world. This was his second performance at the Academy Awards - another historic achievement. 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. Through the years his songs (or parts of them) have been heard in 100 plus television shows and films around the globe. His appearance on the Live by Request broadcast in May 1998 on the A&E Network had the largest television viewing audience of the series. Also in 1989, Johnny sang the opening theme for the ABC daytime soap opera Loving.
One of the last in a long line of traditional male vocalists who emerged before the 1960s, Mathis concentrated on romantic jazz and pop standards for the adult contemporary audience through to the 1980s. Starting his career with a flurry of singles of standards, Mathis became more popular as an album artist, with a dozen of his albums achieving gold or platinum status, and over 60 making the Billboard charts. According to the Recording Industry Association of America, Mathis has certified sales of over 17 million units in the United States.
In 1958, Johnny’s Greatest Hits was released and was the first ever Greatest Hits album in the music industry. It began the Greatest Hits tradition copied by every record company.Johnny's Greatest Hits spent an unprecedented 490 consecutive weeks (nine and a half years) on the Billboard album chart, a feat earning him a place in the Guinness Book of World Records and not broken until the 1980s by Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon. He has had five of his albums on the Billboard charts simultaneously, an achievement equaled by only two other singers, Frank Sinatra and Barry Manilow. He released 200 singles and had 71 songs charted around the world.
Mathis now had to decide 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 achieved six 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 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.
Johnny Mathis was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, which is a special Grammy award established in 1973 to honor recordings that are at least twenty-five years old, and that have "qualitative or historical significance". [wikipedia]