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Black News and News Makers in History: Johnny Mathis

African American news from Pasadena - Black News and News Makers in History recognizes Johnny Mathis this week in Black history.Johnny Mathis, one of the last and most popular of traditional male vocalists who emerged before the rock era in the 1960s.

Born John Royce Mathis in Gilmer, Texas, he was raised in San Francisco. Mathis was an exceptional high-school athlete and was headed for a college track scholarship and a potential spot on the Olympic squad when he chose a career of singing.

Mathis studied with an opera coach as a young boy, and was almost lured into the profession. Other inspirations were crossover jazz vocalists of the 1940s, Nat King Cole, Billy Eckstine and Lena Horne. Mathis concentrated on romantic readings of jazz and pop standards.

He was signed to a management contract by club-owner Helen Noga, who introduced Mathis to a jazz producer for Columbia Records who signed him and used orchestras conducted by Teo Macero, Gil Evans and John Lewis to record Mathis' self-titled debut album in 1957. Despite the name talent and choice of standards, it was mostly ignored upon release.

Columbia decided to switch Mathis to Miller's brand of pop balladry and the formula worked like a charm; the album, Wonderful, Wonderful, produced a Top 20 hit later in 1957 with its title track, which was followed by the number five It's Not for Me to Say and his first number one, Chances Are. From that point on, Johnny Mathis concentrated strictly on lush ballads for adult-contemporary listeners.

Mathis moved away from show-tunes and traditional pop into soft rock during the '70s, and found his second number one single, Too Much, Too Little, Too Late, in 1978. Recorded as a duet with Deniece Williams, the single prompted Mathis to begin trying duets with a variety of partners (including Dionne Warwick, Natalie Cole, Gladys Knight and Nana Mouskouri), though none of the singles enjoyed the success of the original.

Mathis continued to release and sell albums throughout the '90s, in his fifth decade of recording for Columbia among them 1998's Because You Loved Me: Songs of Diane Warren. Mathis has more than 50 gold & platinum records and has the longest run for an album on the billboard pop charts, 480 weeks. "Wonderful, Wonderful," "Misty," "Chances Are," "It's Not For Me To Say," and "Twelfth of Never" were some of other popular songs.

Compiled from http://www.anothershadeofcolor.com.