Johnny Mathis: The Man Behind the Classic Song “Misty”
Johnny Mathis is one of the most successful and enduring singers of all time. He has sold over 180 million albums worldwide and has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and the Great American Songbook Hall of Fame. He is best known for his romantic ballads, such as “Chances Are”, “It’s Not for Me to Say”, and “The Twelfth of Never”. But perhaps his most iconic song is “Misty”, a jazz standard that he recorded in 1959.
“Misty” was written by pianist Erroll Garner and lyricist Johnny Burke in 1954. It was originally an instrumental piece, but Burke added words to it later. The song became a hit for Garner and was covered by many artists, including Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, and Frank Sinatra. But it was Mathis who made it his own, with his smooth and expressive voice.
Mathis first heard “Misty” when he was performing at a nightclub in San Francisco. He liked the song so much that he asked Garner for permission to record it. Garner agreed, and Mathis recorded it with the orchestra of Glenn Osser. The song was released as a single in 1959 and reached number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It also became Mathis’ signature song and one of his favorites to perform live.
“Misty” has been featured in many movies and TV shows, such as Play Misty for Me, The Simpsons, and American Idol. It has also been recognized as one of the greatest songs of all time by various publications and organizations. In 2002, it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame as a recording of lasting quality or historical significance. In 2004, it was ranked number 12 on the American Film Institute’s list of the 100 greatest songs in American cinema.
Johnny Mathis is still active as a singer and performer today. He celebrated his 86th birthday on September 30, 2021. He continues to delight audiences with his timeless voice and songs, including “Misty”. He once said, “I love ‘Misty’ because it’s a wonderful song to sing. It has a beautiful melody and lovely lyrics. It’s a song that will never go out of style.”
Mathis was born in Gilmer, Texas, in 1935. He grew up in San Francisco, where he developed a love for music and sports. He sang in the church choir and learned to play the piano. He also excelled in track and field and was offered a scholarship to attend the University of Nevada. However, he chose to pursue a career in music instead.
He was discovered by a talent scout named George Avakian, who worked for Columbia Records. Avakian was impressed by Mathis’ voice and signed him to a contract. Mathis released his first album, Johnny Mathis: A New Sound in Popular Song, in 1956. It was a collection of jazz and blues songs that showcased his vocal range and versatility. He followed it with several more albums of different genres, such as pop, country, and Latin.
Mathis achieved his breakthrough in 1957 with the album Wonderful Wonderful, which contained his first hit single, “It’s Not for Me to Say”. The song was written for the movie Lizzie, in which Mathis made his film debut. He also sang the theme song for the movie Wild Is the Wind, which earned him his first Oscar nomination. He became one of the most popular singers of the late 1950s and early 1960s, with a string of hits that made him a household name.