The fourth of seven children, John Royce Mathis was born on September 30, 1935 in Gilmer, Texas to Clem & Mildred Mathis. As a small boy, the family moved to Post Street in San Francisco. It was there that he learned an appreciation of music from his father Clem who taught him his first song, “My Blue Heaven”. At age eight, Johnny’s father purchased an old upright piano for $25, which wouldn’t fit through the front door when he brought it home. So that evening, he stayed up all night to watch his father dismantle the piano, move the pieces into the small living room of their basement apartment, and then reassemble it. Clem, who worked briefly as a musician back in Texas playing the piano and singing on stage, would continue to teach his son many songs and routines. Johnny had proven to be the most eager of the children to learn all about music. He sang in the church choir, school functions, community events, for visitors in their home, as well as amateur shows in the San Francisco area. He was also a successful track & field athlete, and was offered a chance to compete in the U.S. Olympic Trials. In the same week Columbia Records called, so he choose to go to New York to record his first album, which was released on July 16, 1956.
Best-known for his supremely popular hits like “Chances Are,” “It’s Not For Me To Say,” and “Misty”, Johnny has recorded close to 80 albums, 6 Christmas albums, and has sold millions of records worldwide. During his extensive career he has had 3 songs inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, achieved 50 Hits on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary Chart, and ranks as the all-time #6 album artist in the history of Billboard’s pop album charts. He has received 5 Grammy Nominations, and in 2003 he was given the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. And recently in May 2017 he received an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from his Alma Mater San Francisco State University.
In addition to all this Johnny & his music have appeared in numerous films & TV shows, including Lizzie, The Tonight Show, Silver Linings Playbook, Family Ties, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and Mad Men, just to name a few. In 2017 he released his 78th studio album titled “Johnny Mathis Sings The Great New American Songbook”, and debuted his “lost” 1982 album “I Love My Lady” produced by Nile Rodgers & Bernard Edwards of the pivotal group CHIC. Johnny continues to be Columbia Records longest signed recording artist!
In spite of a very busy tour schedule & many charity events, Johnny still finds time to enjoy a little free time. He was an avid tennis player until the late 1960s, when a good friend turned him on to his now life-long love of golf. He plays golf almost every day when he’s not traveling, and has even hosted his own golf tournament, The Johnny Mathis Seniors PGA Classic. He is also quite the gourmet chef thanks to his parents, who taught him how to cook at an early age.
2016 marked his 60th anniversary as a recording artist, so what’s next for Johnny?
“I don’t think about retiring. I think about how I can keep singing for the rest of my life. I just have to pace myself.”