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Mathis, Johnny (Mathias, John Royce)

Mathis, Johnny (Mathias, John Royce)

September 30, 1935

Born John Royce Mathias in San Francisco in 1935, singer Johnny Mathis took an early interest in sports, and it was as an outstanding high jumper that he gained recognition at San Francisco State College. During that time he also began singing in a jazz sextet. In 1955 he sang in nightclubs in San Francisco and New York, where his smooth, mellow ballad style led to his first recording, "Wonderful, Wonderful" (1956), which was a huge hit. In 1957 he recorded two more million-selling records, "Chances Are" and "It's Not for Me to Say," as well as the popular "Twelfth of Never." In 1958 his album Johnny Mathis's Greatest Hits sold more than two million copies and remained on the charts for almost ten years. During this time, Mathis also appeared in two films, Lizzie (1957) and A Certain Smile (1958).

With a style derived more from popular crooning traditions than jazz or blues, Mathis was one of the great crossover singers of the 1950s and 1960s, extremely popular with both white and black audiences. In the 1960s and 1970s he toured widely and recorded prolifically ("Too Much, Too Little, Too Late," with Deniece Williams, 1978; "Friends in Love," with Dionne Warwick, 1982). Mathis has maintained his popularity with numerous successful recordings, concert tours, and radio and television appearances. In 1993 he released a compilation album, A Personal Collection, featuring a duet with Barbra Streisand, and made a triumphant appearance at Carnegie Hall. In 1998 he appeared on the A&E cable network's Live by Request. In 2005 Columbia Records released Isn't It Romantic: The Standards Album, a new album of Mathis standards produced from recording sessions directed by Grammy winner Jorge Calandrelli.

See also Music in the United States


"In Step with Johnny Mathis." Washington Post, November 15, 1992.

LaBlanc, Michael, ed. Contemporary Musicians: Profiles of the People in Music. Vol. 2. Detroit, Mich.: Gale, 1990.

james e. mumford (1996)
Updated by publisher 2005

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