Oh! Listen! Do you hear that beautiful music coming from House C on the other side of Memory Lane over there? Who in the world has that lovely mellow voice? Well let’s go and see!
Why it’s Johnny Mathis!
John Royce Mathis (born September 30, 1935) is an American singer of popular music. Starting his career with singles of standard music, he became highly popular as an album artist, with several dozen of his albums achieving gold or platinum status and 73 making the Billboard charts to date. Guinness world records and music charts historian Paul Gambaccini confirms Mathis record sales have surpassed well over 360 million worldwide to date. This makes Johnny Mathis the 3rd biggest selling artist of the 20th century after Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra.
Although he is frequently described as a romantic singer, his discography includes traditional pop, Brazilian, Spanish, soul, rhythm and blues, soft rock, show tunes, Tin Pan Alley, blues, country, and even a few disco songs for his album Mathis Magic in 1979. He has also recorded six albums of Christmas music. (And I bet I own all six!) In a 1968 interview, Mathis cited Lena Horne, Nat King Cole, and Bing Crosby among his musical influences.
As a side note, Mathis was a star athlete at George Washington High School in San Francisco. He was a high jumper and hurdler, and he played on the basketball team. In 1954, he enrolled at San Francisco State College on an athletic scholarship, intending to become an English teacher and a physical education teacher. By then he had become noteworthy as a high jumper, and in 1956 he was asked to try out for the U.S. Olympic Team that would travel to Melbourne, Australia, that November. Mathis had to decide whether to 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 opted to embark on a professional singing career. Despite missing the Olympic high-jump trials, he has never entirely abandoned his enthusiasm for sports and today is an avid golfer who has achieved nine holes-in-one, and has hosted several Johnny Mathis Golf Tournaments in the United Kingdom and the US
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.
In 2003, the Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences awarded Mathis the Lifetime Achievement Award. This Special Merit Award is presented by vote of the Recording Academy’s National Trustees to performers who, during their lifetimes, have made creative contributions of outstanding artist significance to the field of recording. Mathis has also been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame for three separate recordings – in 1998 for “Chances Are”, in 2002 for “Misty“, and in 2008 for “It’s Not for Me to Say”. Mathis was inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame in 2007, and the Great American Songbook Hall Of Fame in 2014. In 2017, Mathis’s alma mater San Francisco State University awarded him an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree. Mathis attended San Francisco State for three semesters before withdrawing in 1956 to pursue his music career.
“Chances Are” was Johnny’s first big hit. Now plastering him on my wall and in my scrapbook might seem to miss the mark a little. While I DO think there was SOME harmony going on in the music of the 60’s, songs from the 50’s were the first music that drew me as a teen. They were actually a great segue from the music of the 40’s that my dad played to the 60’s. And it was my best friend Karen’s sister who introduced me to Mathis on the jukebox at Keeley’s Restaurant in wonderful downtown Ogden, Utah where her soon-to-be husband made the best damn homemade french fries EVER!!! 😀 But I digress…
As I said, “Chances Are” with music by Robert Allen and lyrics by Al Stillman was published in 1957. The song was one of a large number of compositions by the Stillman-Allen team that were chart hits in the 1950s. It was listed on Billboard’s “Most Played by Jockeys” survey for Johnny Mathis, charting in 1957, and was inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998. The song reached No. 4 on Billboard’s Best Sellers in Stores survey, along with its flip “The Twelfth of Never”, which Mathis initially disliked. It became a gold record. The song was also included on the 1958 Mathis compilation Johnny’s Greatest Hits. Mathis re-recorded the song in 1996 as a duet with Liza Minnelli for her album Gently.