Johnny Mathis: “Wonderful, Wonderful” at Lehman Center

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The Legendary Johnny Mathis will be appearing in the Bronx at Lehman Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday, May 21 at 8:00 p.m.

“Chances Are” your chances are awfully good if you are
seeking tickets to the Johnny Mathis performance at Lehman Center for the
Performing Arts, located at 250 Bedford Park Boulevard West in the Bronx, on
Saturday, May 21st at 8:00 p.m. 
But don’t wait too long as tickets are going fast.

The very private legendary
singer, Johnny Mathis, agreed to talk to this journalist about his life, career
and upcoming May 21st engagement at Lehman Center.  Well known for his unique singing style and
balladry, Mr. Mathis can turn a tune in almost any musical genre.  Although his voice is synonymous with romance, his discography includes
jazz, pop, Spanish and Brazilian music, Soul, Broadway standards, R&B,
blues, disco numbers, Christmas songs and country and western tunes.

Born
in Gilmer, Texas, Johnny, his parents, and 7 siblings moved to San Francisco
when Mathis was 4 years old.  There, his
father did various jobs, including house painting.  Musically inclined himself, Johnny’s father
reconstructed a piano in the family home and music became Johnny’s focus; although,
Mr. Mathis was also an exceptional athlete, excelling in high jump and track
and field.  Johnny was offered the
opportunity to compete at the
Olympic trials.  However, he received at the same time a
chance to sign with Columbia Records. 
Johnny chose a music career over the Olympics and well -- the rest is
history.

“I started off on the
college tour as a high jumper and hurdler. 
Bill Russell and I went to school at the same time in San
Francisco.  We went to a lot of track
meets together and competed in the high jump. 
My dad was a good singer so I also studied voice at the same time. I
used to go to my father’s job sites when he painted houses.  My job was to scrape off the old paint.  I loved my Dad.  He was my best friend.  We came from a close knit family.  My parents were very instrumental in my becoming
a singer and I miss them to this day,” said Mathis.  “The Olympic trials had been held at the
University of California.  The day I was
supposed to compete in the trials, I got a telegram from Columbia Records
offering me a record contract.  That was
the best news because when one is involved in sports there is always pain.  I was happy to get the contract offer because
I did not feel ready to compete at the Olympic trials at the time,” pointed out
the Grammy Award winner.

“I was 19 when I went to New
York to sing for Columbia Records.  I had
no idea what to do.  I just went to the
studio and sang.  At first, they wanted
me to be a jazz singer but I wasn’t really good at improvisation.  Later, I was able to get the ear of Mitch
Miller, who was the head of the single division.  Miller saw me as a romantic singer and then I
started putting out hit singles,” stated Johnny who has had a 60 year
relationship with Columbia Records.

The
holder of gold and platinum records, Mr. Mathis has sold over 350 million records
throughout the world.  He was given the
Lifetime Achievement Award by the Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences
worldwide,
inducted into
the Grammy Hall of Fame and nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original
Song for his duet entitled “The Last Time I Felt Like This.”  Mr. Mathis has his own star in the Walk of
Fame and was also inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame.

Johnny celebrated his 50th
anniversary as a recording star in 2006 releasing “Johnny Mathis – Gold: A
50th Anniversary Celebration” and “A 50th Christmas Celebration.”   PBS
taped his “Wonderful, Wonderful,” special and he received the Society of
Singers coveted Ella Award.

“I’m
looking forward to performing at Lehman Center. 
I was 19 when I first came to New York and back then the Bronx seemed so
far away.  However, now I will be able to
see more of it,” remarked Johnny.  “I am
a private person, not a recluse exactly, but very respectful of the position
music has put me in.  So, I have been
careful with my public persona.  It’s
important to be in the public eye, yet I must maintain a semblance of
reality.  Music is kind of a make believe
world that one can get caught up in.  
Luckily my parents gave me a good foundation. I have taken unto me the
qualities of the good people I’ve met within this business of music.  It can be very difficult when you are shy to
come in front of people with all their expectations.  If you do not have a grasp or something to
fall back on you can find yourself getting involved in drug use.  I have gotten over my alcohol abuse, went to
rehab and came out on the other side. 
Show business is a very difficult kind of life.  You know your situation in the world but still
try to please people.  Sometimes you need
people you can trust to help you focus on the things that really matter. If you
are lucky enough, you learn to get back to fundamentals, so you can continue
your career and avoid some of the pitfalls. People think they know who you are
but you are the only person who knows the reality of who you are.  If you can find a place within yourself wherein
you are comfortable, only then can you be truly happy,” said the avid golfer.

Interested
parties can hear more of my interview with Johnny Mathis’ via my “Topically
Yours” radio program on Blakeradio.com, Rainbow Soul.  For tickets: call the Lehman Center box
office at 718-960-8833 or go online at LehmanCenter.org; take the #4 or D to
the Bedford Park stop or via car use the Major Deegan Expressway or the Saw
Mill River Parkway. Parking is free.

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