The World's Most Romantic Singer was born in Gilmer, Texas September 30, 1935. Fourth of seven children, John Royce Mathis moved with his family to a tiny basement apartment in San Francisco. Father Clem Mathis, a vaudevillian when young, bought an old upright for $25 to accompany family singing. At age 13, Clem found their 'star' John an operatic voice teacher. For six years John earned lessons by doing odd jobs around her house. He also studied jazz crossover singers like Nat King Cole and Lena Horne.
In school, athletic John was popular. He sang at church, school, community functions, and amateur competitions, but track and field accomplishments earned him the title 'San Francisco's Best All-Around Athlete' and a scholarship to San Francisco State. He majored in Physical Education while preparing for Olympic try-outs, but fate intervened when a friend invited John to jam with his jazz sextet at a nightclub. His voice so impressed club owner Helen Noga, that she tracked down an executive from Columbia Records she read was in town and called him repeatedly until he came to listen. The telegram Columbia Records received is legendary: 'Have found phenomenal 19-year old boy who could go all the way. Send blank contracts.'
With parental blessings, the student left his scholarship and skipped Olympic tryouts to move to New York. The Nogas went with him and managed his career for six years. Johnny Mathis, as he was called in New York, never regretted pursuing a life in music.
His career stalled until another Columbia Executive, Mitch Miller of 'Sing-Along' fame, moved Johnny from jazz to pop. The results in 1957 were six consecutive smash hits, now considered standard ballads, including 'It's Not For Me To Say' and his first #1 hit, 'Chances Are.'
The next year Johnny Mathis' appearance on Ed Sullivan attracted screaming teens AND adults. Then, JOHNNY'S GREATEST HITS album catapulted to top seller (subsequently remaining nine years on Billboard's Top 10 album list and ultimately making the Guinness Book of Records). His movie debut was as a nightclub singer in 'A Certain Smile.' A record of the same name became a huge hit.
1959 produced the hit single 'Misty' and the album 'HEAVENLY,' which remained a Billboard's Top 10 Album five years; both it and Greatest Hits made the recent Top 10 Albums of Longevity list (Johnny Mathis, the only artist with two titles).
In 1960, voted teenagers' #1 Favorite Singer, Johnny beat out both Elvis and Ricky. He has remained a force in music almost 50 years. His recording career emphasizes albums, but he has had hit singles in every decade. Concert tickets for this living legend sell out world-wide.
Johnny Mathis lives in Hollywood and retains his athleticism with golf, daily. He sponsors fund-raising tournaments and has sponsored a Track & Field meet at San Francisco State since 1982. But it is music that has his heart. The sustained notes and heavy vibrato from opera training are still his, as are the trademark phrasing and articulation. The World's Most Romantic Singer still has that warm, velvety voice, capturing the hearts of lovers everywhere, in every time.