LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — After 58 years in the music industry, Johnny Mathis has recorded 80 original albums, six original Christmas albums and has received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
And at 79, he’s still melting hearts with his velvety voice on tour.
“People say, ‘Do you still sing?’ and I’m really surprised because yes that’s what I do! You know I don’t do anything else,” Mathis said.
Mr. Mathis’ illustrious career began at home in San Francisco. At Mathis’ request, his dad signed him up for singing classes and dropped him off at local jazz clubs in the afternoon.
He was given the opportunity to perform and to learn from the best.
“People like Oscar Peterson and Dizzy Gillespie and Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and all these people who came through, and that’s the way I grew up,” he said.
In March of 1956, at the age of 19, Mathis recorded his first album.
“One performance on Ed Sullivan,” he said of an appearance on the late night show in 1957, “And I was off to the races!”
In 1958, Mathis released, “Johnny’s Greatest Hits.” “Chances Are,” one of the cuts from that album, was also Mathis’ first number one hit.
In 1960, Mathis released “Heavenly” with the hit song “Misty,” which earned him his first Grammy nomination.
“When I was a kid going to the Black Hawk Jazz Club and I heard Errol Garner at the age of 13 rehearsing this song but there were no words to it at the time … Johnny Burke wrote a lyric and I was one of many many people that recorded ‘Misty’ but fortunately it stuck with me,” he said.
After Mathis had recorded several hits, executives at Columbia Records asked him what he would like to work on next.
The answer was simple.
“I want to record some Christmas music for my mom and my dad,'” he recalls telling them.
Fifty-eight years after recording his first album, Mathis still loves to perform on tour today.
He also enjoys cooking every day in the Los Angeles home he’s lived in for the past 50 years. And it still thrills him when he notices people perk up to the sound of his music.
“I notice and my heart starts to beat and I think it’s the greatest thing in the world,” he said.
For more information about Johnny Mathis’ tour dates, visit his website.