Even though Country Music Hall of Famers the Oak Ridge Boys, as well as hitmaker Neal McCoy, will be finishing their runs at the Mansion Theatre later this week, that doesn’t mean the venue is done for the year.
In addition to Home Free booked for Dec. 2, and Wynonna and the Big Noise performing a special Christmas show Dec. 9, the Mansion Theatre is hosting crooner Johnny Mathis for his annual Branson stop with shows Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. Originally from Gilmer, Texas, Mathis and his family moved to Post Street in San Francisco when he was a young man. It was there that he learned an appreciation of music from his father who taught him his first song, “My Blue Heaven.” After learning to play piano and singing in the church choir, school functions, community events and amateur shows in the San Francisco area, his father signed him up for lessons with Connie Cox, a Bay Area voice teacher, who agreed to take on the youngster in exchange for his doing odd jobs around her house.
In 1954, Mathis enrolled at San Francisco State College with the intention of being an English and Physical Education teacher, but became an athletic star instead.
During his college years, a fellow student brought Mathis in for a Sunday afternoon jam session at the Black Hawk Night Club. During that session, Helen Noga, co-owner of the club, decided that she wanted to manage his career.
After little initial success, Mathis was asked to attend the trials for the 1956 Olympic team, while at the same time, being courted by Columbia Records to New York to start arrangements for his first recording session.
Mathis gave up his chance to become a member of the USA Olympic Team and went to New York in March of 1956. While the first album had some success, his second effort yielded several of his greatest hits in “Wonderful, Wonderful,” and “It’s Not For Me To Say.”
Those two songs reached their peaks on the Billboard pop chart in July of 1957, and were followed by one of his most iconic hits, “Chances Are,” which became his first No. 1.
In late 1959, Mathis recorded another massive hit to his resume with the Erroll Garner composition, “Misty.”
“Johnny Mathis’ Greatest Hits,” which is cited as the first “Greatest Hits” album ever released, went on to become one of the most popular albums of all time and spent an unprecedented 490 continuous weeks on the Billboard Top Albums Chart.
He continued to have chart success for many years. According to record historian Joel Whitburn, Mathis was one of only five recording artists to have Top 40 Hits spanning each of his first four decades as a recording artist.
Over the past 50 years, Mathis has sold more than 350 million records worldwide, and is responsible for 73 charted tunes.
Mathis is set to take the stage at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday night. Visit themansiontheatre.com for more.