Friday, February 27, 2009

Johnny Mathis

Johnny Mathis

Johnny Mathis (born John Royce Mathis, September 30, 1935) is an American singer of popular music.

One of the last in a long line of traditional male vocalists who emerged before the 1960s, Mathis concentrated on romantic jazz and pop standards for the adult contemporary audience through to the 1980s. Starting his career with a standard flurry of singles, Mathis was far more popular as an album artist, with several dozen of his albums receiving gold and platinum status and seventy-three making the Billboard charts to date. Mathis has sold more than 350 million records and albums.

Mathis was born on September 30th, 1935, fourth of seven children in Gilmer, Texas to Clem and Mildred Mathis. The family moved when he was young to San Francisco, California on Post Street, in the famous Fillmore district where he was raised. His father worked for a time in vaudeville, and when he saw the budding talent in his son, the elder Mathis bought an old upright piano for US$25 to encourage his efforts. Mathis began learning from his father songs and routines–his first song being, "My Blue Heaven." Mathis started out singing and dancing for visitors at home, and later publicly, at school and church events.

At thirteen, Mathis was taken to Connie Cox, a San Francisco Bay Area voice teacher, who accepted him as a student in exchange for work he would do around her house. He studied with Cox for six years, learning vocal scales and exercises, voice production, classical and operatic skills. He remains one of the few popular singers who has received years of professional voice training that included opera.

At George Washington High School, Mathis was well known not only for his singing abilities, but also as a star athlete. On the track and field team, he was a high jumper and hurdler, and on the basketball team, he earned four athletic letters. In 1954, Mathis enrolled at San Francisco State University on a scholarship with the intention of becoming an English and physical education teacher. Mathis remains an important part of San Francisco State University's sports history—in 1954 he broke future basketball great Bill Russell's high jump record by jumping 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m).