Johnny Mathis was born in September 1935 in Gilmer, Texas, and grew up in San Francisco.
The son of a former Vaudeville star, Mathis was an outstanding college high jumper on course for an Olympic medal before being discovered singing in the 440 Club above the Old Barbary Coast district in the mid-50s and given the opportunity to sing for a living instead.
He released his first album, A New Sound In Popular Song, in 1955 but it was slow-selling and contained jazz standards. He followed it with a project produced by Columbia Records’ vice president, Mitch Miller, who defined the Mathis sound.
In late 1956 he recorded two of his most popular songs, Wonderful Wonderful and It’s Not For Me To Say followed by a constant stream of hit records.
My Love For You (1960) was a massive hit in the UK, but barely made an impression in America.
Although frequently described as a romantic singer, his discography includes traditional pop, Brazilian and Spanish music, soul, rhythm and blues, show tunes, Tin Pan Alley, soft rock, blues, country music, and even a few disco songs for his album Mathis Magic in 1979.
During an interview with CBS News Sunday Morning in 2017, Mathis confirmed he is gay: “I come from San Francisco. It’s not unusual to be gay in San Francisco.”