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Johnny Mathis

An outstanding college high-jumper, Johnny Mathis was on course for an Olympic medal before being distracted in the mid-50s by the opportunity to sing for a living instead.

Mathis 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.

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My Love For You (1960) was a massive hit in the UK, but barely made an impression in America.

Despite the fact that he has recorded over 100 albums, you have to wonder if music’s gain was really leaping-over-a-very-high-bar’s loss.

That Mathis is an accomplished crooner cannot be doubted, and if Engelbert Humperdinck can be at least partially rehabilitated than there’s hope for Mathis yet.

But string-drenched ballads like Bye Bye Barbara and the faux-disco of Gone, Gone, Gone are so relentlessly anodyne that maybe – just maybe – Mathis should have stuck with the jumping thang . . .