Johnny Mathis was born on September 30, 1935 in Gilmer, Texas. He was the fourth of seven children born to Clem and Mildred Mathis. The family moved to San Francisco when he was young. It was there he displayed a love and aptitude for music. Johnny was 13 years old when Clem took him to see Connie Cox, a Bay Area voice teacher, who agreed to take on the youngster in exchange for his doing odd jobs around her house.
Mathis studied with a voice coach for six years. In September 1955, after Noga had found Mathis a job singing weekends at Ann Dee’s 440 Club, she contacted the jazz producer George Avakian, who she had found out was on vacation near San Francisco.
Avakian came to listen to Mathis sing, and after doing so, he sent a telegram to Columbia Records stating: Have found phenomenal 19-year-old boy who could go all the way.
In early 1956, Johnny was asked to attend the trials for the 1956 Olympic teams that would travel to Melbourne, Australia that summer. At the same time, Columbia Records requested that Johnny come to New York to start arrangements for his first recording session.
Clem helped his son decide that his future and best interests were with the recording company. So, Johnny gave up his chance to become a member of the USA Olympic Team. He went to New York to record his first album in March of 1956.
In 1958, Johnny made another motion picture appearance. This time it was for 20th Century Fox in A Certain Smile. In this movie, he sang the title song playing him in an elegant nightclub scene.
Since then, Johnny’s voice has been used in countless Hollywood movies for theme songs, background music and to enhance a particular setting or segment.
In October 1964, Mathis sued Noga to void their management arrangement, which Noga fought with a counterclaim in December 1964. Mathis purchased a mansion in Hollywood Hills, which was originally built by billionaire Howard Hughes in 1946, where he still maintains a residence.
Johnny Mathis has sold well over 350 million records worldwide as confirmed by Guinness music chart historian Paul Gambacini, this makes Mathis the 3rd most successful recording artist of the 20th century and of the last 60 years.
Although he is frequently described as a romantic singer, his discography includes jazz, traditional pop, Brazilian music, Spanish music, soul music, rhythm and blues, soft rock, Broadway theatre, Tin Pan Alley standards, some blues and country songs, and even a few disco songs for his album Mathis Magic in 1979.
In 1978, Johnny sang for the British Royal Family at A Command Performance held at The London Palladium. He performed for President and Mrs. Reagan at the State Dinner held in honour of the Prime Minister of Japan in April of 1987.
Four years later in April of 1991, he sang for President and Mrs. Bush in honour of the President of Nicaragua. In 2003 the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences presented him with its Lifetime Achievement Award.