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Sound Circuit

62 years of touring

5/2/2018

Johnny Mathis a classic act

The Who, Rolling Stones, Neil Diamond and Johnny Mathis all have something in common — they’ve toured for 50 years.

Johnny Mathis, 82, surpasses that by a decade. He’s in his 62nd year of touring and brings his “Voice of Romance” tour to the Des Moines Civic Center on May 13 at 7 p.m.

Mathis began touring in his 20s, as a way to promote his new record. He hasn’t stopped since and hopes to continue performing for as long as possible.

“I don’t think about it (stopping) unless I can’t do it. I love to sing. I have the opportunity to sing after all these years,” says Mathis, talking from his home in Burbank, California.

He keeps his singing fresh by learning new and interesting songs. However, each show consists of crowd favorites, such as “Misty” and “It’s Not Fair For Me to Say.”

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Mathis has recorded 78 albums, including his latest, “Johnny Mathis Sings The Great New American Songbook.” He says of the album, “I guess people like to listen to me sing other people’s songs, too.”

Mathis’ concerts don’t have an opening act, but that wasn’t always the case. Years ago at a concert, the promoters wanted an opening act, over which he had no control. One time, the audience got anxious and rowdy.

“The audience had a conniption and started rioting, throwing chairs at the opener,” he explains. “From then on, I decided I would come right up front first and start singing without any fanfare.”

He’ll sing for about 40 minutes, and then a second act entertainer, “usually a comedian to lighten the mood,” will perform, followed by an intermission and then a return to the stage.

Mathis used to ask the audience what they wanted to hear, but after listening to fans shouting out hundreds of requests, he refrains from doing that.

“Big mistake,” he says. “I learned my lesson. Now I try to find out ahead of time what their requests are.”

Mathis credits his musicians adapting to impromptu set changes. His guitar player, a “good pal,” strummed with him for 40 years.

“It’s nice to have the support of my pals — such wonderful musicians. They can play anything I’ve ever recorded,” he says. “I’m amazed I can remember everything I recorded after all these years.”

Mathis is modest when it comes to being a star celebrity whom fans adore.

“Basically I’m just a singer,” he says. “To have the support and acceptance of the musical world is quite flattering.” ♦

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