Country Music’s Johnny Mathis Dead at 80
Country Johnny Mathis was labeled such early in his career to distinguish himself from the rising pop-singer of the same name. While he didn't enjoy nearly as much fame as the 'Misty' singer, he was still plenty influential until suffering a stroke in 1999. Mathis died yesterday, one day short of his 81st birthday.
According to CountryJohnnyMathis.com, Mathis died of complications from pneumonia and left behind four children and a wife of 43 years. He also left behind over 500 songs, recorded by legendary artists like George Jones, Ray Price and Tammy Wynette. His influence crossed over to rock 'n' roll as well; Elvis Costello and Wanda Jackson recorded songs Mathis had written.
As an artist, he's best known for his work in Jimmy and Johnny, a duo that charted songs like 'If You Don't Somebody Else Will' and 'Please Talk to My Heart.' His website reports that he later sold a writer's share of the the first hit for $125 in 1954, before it was recorded by 11 different artists and won BMI accolades.
His country career ended in the mid '60s when he turned to gospel music. Mathis had found his calling and turned his back on what seemed to be the success he'd been working for all of his life. Billboard Magazine had just nominated him for New Male Vocalist in Country Music, but a song he'd written called 'I'm Gonna Thank Jesus' steered him permanently toward God.