CLEARWATER — Johnny Mathis will perform some of his greatest hits and personal favorites Saturday, Jan. 18, 8 p.m., at Ruth Eckerd Hall, 1111 McMullen Booth Road, Clearwater.
Tickets start at $35. Call 727-791-7400 or visit www.rutheckerdhall.com.
Celebrating his 64th year in the music industry, the legendary singer is Columbia Records’ longest-signed artist. A sublime vocalist whose approach to pop music eclipses passing fads and trends, Mathis has performed songs in an incredible variety of styles and categories — from music composed for stage and film to Golden Era jazz standards, contemporary pop hits, and holiday music, all of which have assured his reputation as one of the most enduring vocalists in music history.
Best-known for his supremely popular hits like “Chances Are,” “It's Not for Me to Say,” and “Misty,” Mathis has recorded close to 80 albums, six Christmas albums, and has sold millions of records worldwide. During his extensive career he has had three songs inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, achieved 50 hits on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary Chart, and ranks as the all-time No. 6 album artist in the history of Billboard’s pop album charts. He has received five Grammy nominations, and in 2003 he was given the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.
According to his official website, Mathis was born John Royce Mathis in 1935 in Gilmer, Texas. The fourth of seven children, he and his family relocated to San Francisco, California, when he was very young. His interest in music developed early and when he was 8 years old, his father purchased an upright piano. His father was his first music instructor, teaching him songs and routines. Mathis sang in the church choir, at school functions and community events and in amateur shows throughout the San Francisco area.
Mathis attended San Francisco State College with the intention of becoming an English and physical education teacher. In addition to being known for his vocal talent, he was a star athlete, competing in track and field and playing basketball.
In 1955, Mathis took a job singing at a club. It was here that the head jazz talent scout at Columbia Records heard him perform. The discovery presented the 19-year-old Mathis with a dilemma: At the same time Columbia offered him a record contract, he was asked to attend the trials for the 1956 Olympic team.
Mathis chose music over athletics.
“Johnny Mathis,” his first studio album, was released by Columbia Records in July 1956. It was recorded between March and April of that year at CBS’ 30th Street Studio in New York City. The release failed to make it onto Billboard magazine's Best-Selling Pop Albums chart, which only had 15 positions available at the time. “Wonderful Wonderful,” the follow-up album released in July 1957, enjoyed more chart success. It debuted on Billboard magazine's list of the 25 Best-Selling Pop Albums Sept. 9 and peaked at No. 4. It stayed on the charts a total of 26 weeks. Its popularity was no doubt aided by Mathis’ debut on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in the summer of 1957.
Columbia Records continued to release albums featuring Mathis singing romantic ballads, classic standards and the best songs from Broadway musicals. These albums, as well as the singles he recorded, became immediate successes.
“Johnny Mathis Sings the Great New American Songbook,” Mathis’ most recent studio album, was released in September 2017. Featuring covers of recent hits by other artists, the track list includes songs such as Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” Pharrell Williams’ “Happy,” Alan Jackson’s “Remember When” and “Hello” by Adele Adkins and Greg Kurstin.
After almost 60 years as a recording artist, Mathis has no plans to settle into retirement anytime soon.
“I don’t think about retiring,” he says on his website. “I think about how I can keep singing for the rest of my life. I just have to pace myself.”