1957 Johnny Mathis – Wonderful, Wonderful
Johnny Mathis was born in Texas but grew up in San Francisco after his family moved there. He not only demonstrated great talent as a singer at a young age he also was one of his school’s top athletes. He specialized in track and field events, especially the high jump and hurdles, but also played on the school basketball team with his classmate, Bill Russell.
In 1956, Johnny was invited to try out for the US Olympic team in preparation for the upcoming Olympics in Australia. At the same time, Columbia Records asked him to come to New York to record a few songs. Johnny faced having to choose one or the other and he took his father’s advice and headed East.
The recording sessions in New York produced his first album, Johnny Mathis: A New Sound In Popular Song. The album was primarily jazz recordings and sales were not what Columbia was hoping for. Johnny continued singing in nightclubs in the New York City area while work began on his second album. Mitch Miller was his producer for the album, and he recruited Ray Conniff as the arranger and conductor. The first song that was recorded and released as a single was Wonderful, Wonderful. It was Johnny’s first single release and peaked at #14 in 1957.
Appearances on numerous television shows helped build Johnny’s audience. His next three singles in 1957 all reached the top ten, and Chances Are made it all the way to number one. His next seven singles all reached the top 25. Columbia took his recordings and packaged two albums, Johnny’s Greatest Hits and More Johnny’s Greatest Hits. His first greatest hits album stayed on the Billboard top 200 Album chart for nine and a half years, setting a record that would not be eclipsed until Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon reached a longer streak in 1983.
Johnny recorded albums and singles for decades, with many singles doing well on the Hot 100, Adult Contemporary, and/or R&B charts. His recordings of Christmas songs were almost an entire career on their own, and many of them return to airplay every year.
His last record to reach one of the top forties that wasn’t a Christmas tune was a 1988 remake of Little Anthony and the Imperials hit single from 1964, I’m On The Outside (Looking In).
In 1963, the Tymes released their first single, So Much In Love. The song used snapping fingers as a rhythm instrument and the sweet tune reached the top of the charts. They followed that record with a remake of Johnny’s Wonderful, Wonderful that used a nearly identical background to their first single, including the snapping fingers. Their version was even more successful than Johnny’s, reaching #7 on the Hot 100.
The October 11, 1996 episode of the X-Files (Home) wanted to use Johnny’s recording of Wonderful, Wonderful as background music. Johnny was not comfortable with the content of that episode and refused permission to use his version. They used a sound-alike singer’s voice instead.
This article is now included in LOST OR FORGOTTEN OLDIES VOLUME 2: Hit Records From 1955 To 1989 That The Radio Seldom Plays