Johnny Mathis on WSRS

Tony Bristol of WSRS spoke with Johnny Mathis before his June 16 concert. Listen to the full interview below, or read on for highlights. Then visit TheHanoverTheatre.org for tickets!

Johnny MathisTony: When I think of the greatest male voice of our lifetime, I think of Frank, Tony and Johnny. So unique and instantly recognizable. Did you ever feel like you were competing with them?

Johnny: Oh my gosh, no! There was always somebody that I looked up to. People like Tony Bennett, Billy Eckstein and Frank Sinatra. To be mentioned in the same breath is quite flattering. My dad was the one that I really listened to. He sang too. He’s the reason that I sing today. Of course, nobody ever heard him except us kids.

Tony: Do you think of him when you sing these great songs?

Johnny: Absolutely!

Tony: Did you ever try to write lyrics or melody yourself?

Johnny: I can’t tell you how much respect I have for people who write and perform. No. It all comes from a higher power.

Tony: Tell me about your band for the songs for the “Great New American Songbook.”

Johnny: I have my core musicians. My guitar player and I have been together for 45 years. I have a wonderful drummer and bass player that have been with me for 20 to 30 years. We’re a team. They know a lot about my music.

Tony: How do you choose 11 songs for the New American Songbook?

Johnny: I have a pal, Clive Davis, and he was a big fan of mine. He called me a few years ago and he was the genesis of that album. He suggested the songs. I’m very grateful to him.

Tony: So many great songs. Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” “Hello” … all great songs. Do you get to do them all in your show?

Johnny: We’re working on it. I love those songs. I love the new techniques in recording.

Tony: But nothing ever gets in the way of your voice. It’s so pure. 

Johnny: I had a lot of good voice teachers early on.

Tony: You really had to be a good singer. Now there are all these fancy electronic technology things that can make someone sound good.

Johnny: Eventually you have to go on stage and repeat it. So when I choose to sing some of my recordings, it takes me a little time to figure out how to reproduce it. I’ve been working on it.

Tony: You had a lot of practice with 68 Albums! We’re so happy that you’re coming to Worcester. You’re such an icon. I bought a ticket for my mom. We’re in the second row!

Johnny: Hot dog! I love it!

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