Imagine having a name like Johnny Mathis and not being a pop singer. Johnny Mathis the country singer was a star before the guy who sings "Chances Are," yet he was the one who put the qualifier in his name to make sure no one confused the two.
Country Johnny Mathis died Tuesday (9/27) of pneumonia at his home in Tennessee. He had suffered a massive stroke in 1999 and was totally incapacitated for the remainder of his life.
Born in Texas in 1930, Johnny Mathis learned gospel music from his Holiness preacher father. In the early 50s he teamed up with Jimmy Lee Fautheree for the duo Jimmy and Johnny. Their 1954 song "If You Don't, Somebody Else Will" was a top five smash and eventually was recorded by people ranging from Wanda Jackson to the Osborne Brothers to Ray Price to Carl Smith. The duo became regulars on the Louisiana Hayride but would never have another hit, despite some excellent music (all of which was released on a Bear Family CD).
One story on the Country Johnny Mathis web site is how he wrote "Am I That Easy to Forget" and, in a move reminiscent of Arthur Q. Smith, sold the rights to the song for enough money to buy himself a bottle of vodka. Mathis cleaned up his act and later concentrated on writing gospel songs.
Country Johnny Mathis died one day shy of what would have been his 81st birthday.