Charlotte County Florida Weekly

Johnny Mathis at 84: “I love the opportunity to sing”



MATHIS

MATHIS

When he was 19, Johnny Mathis was on his way to being signed to Columbia Records. That was in 1955.

Last September, Mathis turned 84. He’s still signed to Columbia Records, still recording and still and still touring — the legendary Voice of Romance out singing his hits for generations of fans.

So what keeps him going for more than 60 years?

“My interest has never waned,” Mathis said in a recent phone interview. “But I think a few things fell into probably have drawn it out for so long. I was an athlete as a kid so all my life I have been going to the gym and trying to stay fit, which helps a singer. I still work out five days a week with a trainer. Mentally, I’ve always kind of been open, when I started out I started studying with an opera singer, so I have lots of variations to keep my attention and just a lot of luck as far as my health is concerned.”

Any thoughts on why you’re still able to sing the vast majority of your extensive catalog and sing it well?

 

 

“I think it’s just good luck,” he said. “Over the years, I’ve admired so many singers along the way and so many of them now don’t sing or can’t sing. I’m still singing. I think it’s a bit of luck and, when I started, my voice teacher taught me some things and said ‘you do this well and you’ll be able to do this for the rest of your life.’”

And Mathis still loves to perform.

“I love the opportunity to sing in front of people,” Mathis said. “I’ve always felt that way. I’ve been singing since I was a little kid. My father was my biggest fan. He’s the reason I’m a singer.”

Clem Mathis taught young John Royce to sing his first song, “My Blue Heaven,” and bought him an old $25 piano when the boy was 8. Five years later, Clem took Johnny to meet Connie Cox, an opera singer who taught voice lessons, primarily to well-off youngsters.

“She was quite a wonderful singer herself,’ Mathis said. “Along with her paid students, she had about four other people she was teaching for free. I was fortunate to be one of them. She thought maybe I had something I could make a career of.”

While he was studying voice, Mathis was also a star athlete at San Francisco’s George Washington High School.

“I was in track and field. I was a high jumper and a hurdler,” Mathis said. “I was also on the basketball team. It was just something that kids did when they didn’t have any money. We certainly didn’t. My mom and dad raised seven kids on domestics’ wages. Everything I did then had to do with school, even the music. That was always the catalyst for my singing.”

In fact, athletics appeared to be at the heart of Mathis’ future when he enrolled at San Francisco State College (now San Francisco State University) in 1954 with the intention of being an English and physical education teacher. While there, he set a high jump record of 6 feet 5½ inches and shared headlines with his SFSC high jumper, Bill Russell, who, of course, went on to be an NBA legend.

Musical fate, however, intervened when a fellow student brought Mathis to the Black Hawk nightclub where, after hearing him, the club owner, Helen Noga, wanted to manage the young singer. In 1955, she convinced the A&R head of Columbia Records jazz division to hear Mathis — who immediately wanted to sign him.

So Mathis gave up his chance to be a high jumper on 1956 U.S. Olympic team and traveled to New York where he made his first album in 1956, beginning what is now the longest relationship between Columbia and any of its artists.

“I got with a copacetic, sympathetic record company, Columbia Records,” he said. “This is 60 years and more I’ve been with Columbia Records. Even though the hierarchy of the company has changes, I’ve been able to keep my head above water as far as sales are concerned. That’s what the company cares about.”

Mathis has consistently toured over the last 60 years. But he wasn’t always playing plush theaters.

“Years and years ago, all by myself, I sang in these tiny, tiny situations,” he said. “I’d even sing in schools. I’d go sing when they had assemblies. I’d show up. They didn’t have to pay me anything, so why not?”

Mathis, then and now, wasn’t singing rock ‘n’ roll, soul or R&B. Rather, he became a master of often romantic pop.

“Mostly I was concerned with popular songs, songs that would be popular today, tomorrow and the next day,” he said. “Fortunately, I found a lot of those songs. It’s a little different now. Kids are the ones who buy the records, their likes and dislikes change all the time. But you can find them, songs that are popular and are pertinent to an audience.”

Those songs, which date back to his second single in 1956, form the majority of Mathis’s performance — by popular demand.

“They really want those to be part of a performance,” he said. “I sing ‘Misty,’ ‘Chances Are,’ ‘It’s Not for Me to Say.’ They were all my greatest hits. I have one hit that I don’t do, I can’t do. It’s my only number one, “Too Much, Too Little, Too Late,” the duet I did with Denise Williams. She’s a wonderful singer, and she’s working all the time. I can’t bring her out, and so I can’t do the song.”

So is there one song he likes best of all? Or is that like asking a parent to pick their favorite child?

“The one song that has the most wonderful melody is ‘Misty,’” Mathis said. “It’s quite a deal, in the middle part of the song where I sing a very high note out of nowhere. But I like them all. I have to sing them.” ¦

53 responses to “Johnny Mathis at 84: “I love the opportunity to sing””

  1. Charlene Edwards says:

    Thank you for the info on one of my favorite singer’s. He goes way back as I do to in age. Thankfully he is still doing well and his music and song will go on forever.

  2. i love johnny mathis; he is the greatest the finest singer on the earth, and his voice and music willlive forever ve says:

    marcia baran

    • Lil says:

      Oh johnny im in love with you since i was
      Young lady.im.still are
      Never saw you in person
      Or never had that privilege..im in florida
      And u are all over the
      Planet..singing someday i will catch with you
      U are the greatest..
      Love still..Blessings
      Lil..

  3. Jackie Saxton says:

    I’ve ‘discovered’ Johnny Mathis very late in life…84yrs and play his CDs constantly. I like to read all I can about him and think he’s a brilliant fellow. Long may he continue.

  4. Khaled S. Mujtabaa says:

    Johnny Mathis is an incredible singer– one of my favorites. In additional to his own songs, he has done excellent covers of more songs than any other famous singer that I know. He still sounds great!

  5. S says:

    When Mr. Mathis was grand master in the Hollywood Christmas Parade in the 1973, I ran up from where we were sitting to his car, asked him to sign my album, I asked him for a kiss, which he happily agreed to, it was my first kiss. I remember standing on the step of the car which was slowly moving along. He put his right hand below my left cheek and gave me a slow kiss. I think I closed my eyes. And I remember telling him thank you. I stepped off the step and felt dizzy, made my way back to the bleachers where my friends were, and they were screaming and clapping. I was so happy. My first grown up authentic long, slow kiss. I will always hold that moment as a memory.

  6. Jim Dollison says:

    Johnny, still one of the greatest! Glad to see he is still at it!

    Johnny how about a “ZOOM CONCERT’ one of these days, since most of us can’t get out!

  7. Lourinda says:

    Pure fresh air is a precious blessing these days. And Johnny as I think of the beauty in the Psalms of Solomon, it would be a wonderful thing if many could capture the respect in the expression in singing songs with the dignity which brings true clean heartfelt thoughts to humanity. You lift us during a time when the precious air you use is golden! May every note you sing continue to lift and move humanity toward the importance of respectability in the expression of the arts. May the Lord bless you!🙌🏽🙏🏽🙌🏽🌹🥰

  8. Jose Isla says:

    Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Johnny Mathis is always a part of the landscape out here. A great, great singer and wonderful personality. He always has a very lasting persona of dignity and class.
    Whenever his name comes up, I always chime in: San Francisco’s own Jonny Mathis!

  9. Ms Leslie DeVaney says:

    Johnny has a pure tone which flows like honey; it’s such a unique voice that warms the hearts of all who listen. He sings each line with conviction, drawing us in. His diction is excellent, so you can understand the words. (Sadly lacking in today’s singers.) He’s given us many years of pleasure. I was fortunate enough to see him in person not many years ago, and he sounded as wonderful as he did on his ‘60s album. He’s one in a million.

  10. Joy Hamovitz says:

    My favorite since I was a teenager I did get to see him in Branson one year my husband and I used to put his music on for romantic interludes

  11. Geno shurick says:

    I’m 86 years old and I’ve followed John’s career for the last 60 plus years. I’ve seen him perform 3 times. I’m also a singer and actually sang in the Melody tent on cape cod where John sang. I’m a crooner and a romantic much like John. I sing Misty during every performance. His recording of Begin the Beguie is the best I ever heard. It really shows his range. Come back to the melody tent on Cape Cod I would love to see you again. Geno Shurick

  12. Bruce and Jan Roberts says:

    ALWAYS loving Johnny Mathis since “Wonderful! Wonderful..”…1957…now almost 64 years later we are still listening to Johnny’s music…and Yes, it is still “Wonderful! Wonderful!!..Thank you, Johnny!

  13. Anniefannycharles@gmail.com says:

    The creme de La Creme. Loved him since I was a kid. Even when my friends were listening to Jimmy Hendrix and the likes. I’ve seen him twice in person. His voice sounds exactly like it does on his albums. His voice instills magic. And a hope that the kind of love he’s singing about is possible for all of us. So special.

  14. SANDRA E LORKIS says:

    The very first time I heard Johnny Mathis sing I was on my way to high school and thought I had tuned into a religious program. His voice was so magnificent I was deeply moved. I will never forget that experience.. It happened 64 years ago and I have never heard another singer to match his beautiful voice!

    • CHARLEE. GREGORY says:

      In the sixties I was in high school and I got to hear him in Columbus Ohio in a large Hall then the next night I heard him at Athens University in an old small wooden floor gymnasium 4 years later I was able to hear him again a small gym in Ada Ohio as my husband was graduating from Law School we went to see him many times but those times in the gym we’re the best times ever. I was in the Palace Theater Cleveland 3 years ago and sadly that was a night he returned to the fire of his home. What I love about my evenings with Johnny Mathis is his down to earth personality I’ve actually heard him forget a word and hum and continue on kind of shake his head with a grin that wonderful wonderful grin. And I’m proud to say he had his partner with him when he was touring I’m going to guess 5 years ago in Cleveland and I really loved that. I still stopped dead in my tracks when I hear that voice that voice that no one else has ever been able to top because it also has a pure spirit in it.

  15. Pat Allums says:

    I first heard “Misty” in 1960 shortly after my 4th child was born and fell in love with his voice. I have been to three live concerts, one with my high school age daughter who said “it was the quietest concert she had ever been to”! My first record I ever had was Johnny Mathis with “The Twelfth of Never”! The songs he sings will be around long after both of us are gone! I’m 85+!

  16. David Fedigan says:

    Saw him at Wolftrap, Maryland! Sounded as good as he did in the 50’s! Grew up @ danced to his 12th of Never@ others!The very best .

  17. Dan McGettigan says:

    I just learned about the passing of Johhny Mathis, what a loss.
    My wife srprised me wirh a trip to The Fox therate in Atlanta where he was performing with his band.
    When I heard his first record,; pretty sure it was : Its Not Tor Me to Say?
    I said to my wife I heard this guy on the radio and the song was perfext for him, but his voice is so different I dont know that if they can come up with another song for him; wrong! I have followed his entire crcareer. His was the best Christmas album ever!
    Iknew he was a great athelete, but never realized He was such a great athlete.The Best ever to come out of SDSU at that time.
    ONe of my Favorite albums is Heavenly, all love songs. Moonlight Becomes you is awesome! I song I had on a 45 was Funny Your A Stranger, but the flip side rarely got played: someone Really Loves YOu?
    I know these articles are dated, but I just had to respond!

    • Paula Shrive says:

      John Royce Mathis (Johnny Mathis) is alive and well, 85 years old and touring this summer and fall. The country singer, also called Johnny Mathis, did die – I think in 2011. But, not our John of Misty fame. <3

    • Jennifer says:

      Don’t think he has passed away Johnny Mathis I havnt heard that correct me if I am wrong.. I hope not he’s one of the best a voice liken to velvet.. such a good looking man too 💌

  18. Jackie Saxton says:

    Is that really true, thatJohnny Mathis has died? The previous post began with that…Is it true? I don’t want to believe it, I really don’t.

    • Paula Shrive says:

      No. John Royce Mathis (Johnny Mathis) is alive and well, 85 years old and touring this summer and fall. The country singer, also called Johnny Mathis, did die – I think in 2011. But, not our John of Misty fame. <3

      • Rebecca Day says:

        We just heard him sing in Jacksonville, FL, and he is still incredible…at 86!

        • Kathleen Ketterhagen says:

          My husband treated me to his concert in Fort Myers last evening! His voice is still as beautiful as ever and the audience was most appreciative. If you have the opportunity to see him on this year’s tour, do it! He’s 86 now and a national icon, in my opinion.

    • Sara says:

      No he is still with us I saw that also ut his birthday is last day of September 30th. He is a wonderful singer ❤

  19. Linda C Andrews says:

    Is Johnny Mathis alive or did he die in 201

    • Paula Shrive says:

      John Royce Mathis (Johnny Mathis) is alive and well, 85 years old and touring this summer and fall. The country singer, also called Johnny Mathis, did die – I think in 2011. But, not our John of Misty fame. <3 He's still very much alive and well.

  20. Ellie Farkas says:

    Johnny,
    One of the first records I purchased when I was about 12 was Wonderful, Wonderful still love it to hear you ding it. I, too, have never been lucky enough to see you in person, but did have about 14 of your record albums & now have several CD’s of your wonderful music! I am not some young kid anymore, will be 80 on my next birthday March of 2022!
    Thank you for your talent and love to hear you sing! Be well for many more years!

  21. Francine Hunter says:

    My late aunt Lena loved Johnny Mathis’ voice. She had virtually every album he made back them. My favorite was an obscure one called “The Story our Love”. It reminded me of my first boyfriend Robert when I was 16. In high School I wrote an essay on Johnny Mathis. I said he sang as if he was singing just for you. At 73, these are my wonderful memories of Johnny Mathis.

  22. Susan Boguszewicz says:

    I have loved Johnny Mathis since I was in high school! I married my high school sweetheart, and my husband and I have seen Johnny Mathis in person several times….
    P NC Arts Center in Holmdel NJ, at the State Theater in NJ. and several times in Atlantic City. Always an incredible show!! Thanks
    for the Memories!!

  23. Marilyn Huff says:

    I think of you often and fortunately you’re still among us I LOVE IT How about doing an appearance and bring out a new OR old song I still play your music

  24. Loretta Forbes says:

    I have and still do love your music since I was only 12 years old have never seen you in person although I would really love to I have never been to America and never managed to see you here in England would love for you to come over again I have love your music for 46 years love you to bits xxx

  25. Janet Jones says:

    My Uncle Jimmy introduced me to the music of Johnny Mathis. I shall always appreciate his beautiful voice and passion with which he sings. I have one of his first Christmas albums, and it wouldn’t be Christmas without your singing. I am so glad you’re still performing and so glad Uncle Jimmy introduced me to your marvelous music
    God Bless!

  26. Sharon L. Watts says:

    I have loved you and your music since I heard your first single. Today is 07-28-21, I’m 76 and still listening and loving your angelic voice. I can see and hear you singing during track and field competition. How timely because I am also watching and celebrating the 2020 Olympics!! God bless you and all the treasures you have given us. God Bless America and Our Troops🇺🇸🇺🇸🙏🏻❤️🌈🎶🎼💃🏃‍♀️🖖👩‍👩‍👧‍👧🍀🦋🎤

  27. Sharon L. Watts says:

    I have loved you and your music since I heard your first single. Today is 07-28-21, I’m 76 and still listening and loving your angelic voice. I can see and hear you singing during track and field competition. How timely because I am also watching and celebrating the 2020 Olympics!! God bless you and all the treasures you have given us. God Bless America and Our Troops🇺🇸🇺🇸🙏🏻❤️🌈🎶🎼💃🏃‍♀️🖖👩‍👩‍👧‍👧🍀🦋🎤

  28. Christine Glover says:

    Went to see him perform at Long Island and had a great holiday in New York. He used to come regularly to Brighton but sadly doesn’t tour England now. Booked to see him in Dublin but the concert was cancelled without explanation
    We enjoyed our trip to Dublin nevertheless.

  29. Diana Marhula says:

    I have loved your music since I was 15 years old and I am now 80. I was amazed to hear that you are still touring. Thank you for all the wonderful memories.

  30. Lynda Marra says:

    I live in New Zealand,am 71 years young and am finding the angelic music and face and kind dignity is bringing tremendous light and hope into what has been a dark decade for me and my country.I knew I would find a way through and it’s a delightful path that Johnny’s music is providing. God bless his spirit for ever and ever .
    Love from Lynda Marra

  31. Linda Cristo says:

    Will Johnny be singing in upstate NY I have seen him preform 3 times and would love to see him just one more time I am 77 years of age and he has always been my favorite singer.

  32. luke b fawcett says:

    I am 80 now and to this day the only concert I have ever been to is for Johnny Mathis. I don’t remember the year or place it is so long ago but I still hope–even now–I get to go to ONE MORE.

  33. María says:

    After all comments, what can I say… He is a great singer, his voice is just pure harmony. Thanks to my mother who taught me her good taste for music.

  34. Lynn B says:

    I am a 78 year young women. I have been listening to the wonderful, heart felt singer since I was a young girl. His music never get old to me. I did go see him for the first time
    in person when he performed in Palm Springs CA. A friend bought a ticket for me and that allowed me to see him in person. He still has the charisma that he has always had.
    Johnny Mathis has a unique voice that I will never forget. You have been blessed with a wonderful voice.

  35. Valerie says:

    I too have followed John Mathis since a very young girl. He has always been my favourite. I am 82 on New Years Eve. I cried last time I saw him. I went up to the stage to shake his hand but I got pushed out of the way. I was so upset.

  36. Alice Bird says:

    Johnny Mathis picture the real Misty, Twelfth of Never, scheduled Live Aug 18 , 2022 Lancaster PA American Theatre Co .. Reports of death with his picture and singing hx and left 400 mil estate ?? What gives? What is real? Alive or deceased ? One of my favorites .Need the truth. Thanks.

    • Alice Bird says:

      it was reported he died Sept 2011, The and shows the real Johnny Mathis picture
      . The Chances Are, The Christmas Song , Misty, Twelfth of Never. ?? Seems the real truth should be out there.

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