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Mathis, Johnny (30th September 1935-Present )

He is a singer-songwriter born John Royce Mathis in Gilmer, Texas as the fourth of seven children.  The family moved to San Francisco, California where his father worked in vaudeville.

He was bought a piano when he was still young and he initially learned to sing and dance from his father.  He made his first public performances in school and church and at thirteen he studied with a voice teacher.  He studied on an athletic scholarship at the San FranciscoUniversity where he aimed to become a teacher of physical education and English, and while there he broke the University’s high jump record which was held by the basketball player, Bill Russell.

From 1955 he had a weekend job at a club and was seen by George Avakian who signed him to Columbia Records.  His first recordings were made at the cost of missing Olympic tryouts in 1956 but his career took off slowly and he played in the New York clubs.  In 1956 he recorded “It’s Not For Me To Say” and “Wonderful, Wonderful” which become two of his most successful and that same year he signed to MGM.

He appeared in two movies in small roles and sang the title song for A Certain Smile.  He founded Jon Mat Records Inc. and Rojon Productions and took on Ray Haughn as his new manager who would remain with him until he died in 1984, when he took over the running of his career.

Over the span of his career he has sang many genres of music and is often played over Christmas.  He has recorded with many artists that include Gladys Knight, Deniece Williams, Ray Charles, Natalie Cole, Barbra Streisand and Dionne Warwick as a few of the many.

It is said by the chart historian and ex-disc jockey Paul Gambaccini that he has sold over 350 million records and recorded over 110 albums which would make him the third most successful recording artist ever as well as staying the longest spell with the same record company.  Dubbed  “The Voice of Romance”, his career has carried through six decades and he has made over 300 guest appearances on television, received three Grammy Awards, and received an Academy Award nomination for the song “The Last Time I Felt Like This” from Same Time, Next Year.

He still currently appears and records but has reduced the number of concert appearances he makes.  He was the first entertainer to sing in South Africa to an integrated audience and he was the first recording artist to release a greatest hits album and with two command performances and six White House performances he has sung for more heads of state than any other performer.

Johnny Mathis recordings
The Best Days of My Life (Jack Gold/Arnold Goland/Carsten Christiansen
Gone, Gone, Gone (L. Russell Brown/Lance Hayward)

Johnny Mathis & Deniece Williams recordings
Emotions (Barry Gibb/Robin Gibb)
Too Much, Too Little, Too Late (Nat Kipner/John Vallins)