First recorded by The Erroll Garner Trio (1954).
Also recorded by Dakota Staton (1957).
Hit versions by Sarah Vaughn (US #106 1959), Johnny Mathis (US #12/R&B #10/UK #12 1959), Lloyd Price (US #21/R&B #11 1963), The Vibrations (US #63/R&B #26 1965), “Groove” Holmes (US #44/MOR #7/R&B #12 1965), Ray Stevens (US #14/MOR #8/C&W #3/UK #2 1975).
From the wiki: “‘Misty’ was written by Errol Garner in 1954 and first recorded for his 1955 album Contrasts. The song was later paired with lyrics by Johnny Burke and would becoame the signature song of Johnny Mathis. Garner’s recording was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1991; Mathis’s version of the song was inducted in 2002.
“Lyrics to the song were written by Johnny Burke a couple of years later. According to Mary Burke Kramer:
‘[Johnny] had been working every day with his pianist, Herb Mesick, who was helping him put things down on paper. Herb had heard the melody to ‘Misty,’ and knew Erroll Garner, and was very fond of it. He told Johnny about it, but by that time, Johnny had made a decision not to collaborate anymore. After he and Jimmy Van Heusen had separated, on good terms, he had been working on his own writing both music and lyrics. Herb was very persistent. Whenever Johnny would enter the room, Herb would start playing the tune. Finally, Johnny said, ‘Alright, give me the damn music, and I’ll do it. So he went into the bedroom, and two or three hours later, he came out with the lyrics.’
– Making ‘Misty’: The Legendary Johnny Mathis Recording, by Joe Manning, 2010
“The first ‘lyric’ arrangement of ‘Misty’ was recorded by singer Dakota Staton in 1957, on her debut album The Late, Late Show. But, it wasn’t until Sarah Vaughan recorded it in 1958, for the album, Vaughan and Violins, arranged by Quincy Jones, that the song began to attract serious attention. Released as a single in 1959, ‘Misty’ made its first appearance on a pop music chart albeit ‘Bubbling Under’ the Hot 100. Among those who heard it was Mathis.
“According to Mathis, he had first came across the song when he was in his teens, frequenting a nightclub called the Black Hawk where Garner performed three or four times a year. He had always wanted to record it, remembering he once blurted out ‘Mr. Garner, I am going to record your song if I ever make a record!’ After signing to Columbia Records in 1956 and two lackluster album releases later, Mathis lobbied to do an album of iconic songs by Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughn. He was told to pick out 20 potential songs, demo them with just a guitar, and give the demos to arranger Glenn Osser. Among the songs Mathis chose was ‘Misty’.
“Covers of ‘Misty’ were later recorded with varying degrees of success by Lloyd Price (‘Lawdy Miss Clawdy‘, ‘Personality’), a dance-oriented arrangement released on his own ‘Double L’ record label in 1963; The Vibrations (‘Stranded in the Jungle‘, ‘My Girl Sloopy‘) in 1965; Wurlitzer organist ‘Groove’ Holmes’ 1965 instrumental from the album Soul Message; and a bluegrass-tinged arrangement by Ray Stevens that charted US Top-20 and UK Top-5, winning a 1975 Grammy Award in the category of Music Arrangement of the Year.”
Erroll Garner, “Misty” live Belgian TV performance (1963):
Dakota Staton, “Misty” (1957):
Sarah Vaughn, “Misty” (1958):
Johnny Mathis, “Misty” (1959):
Lloyd Price, “Misty” (1963):
The Vibrations, “Misty” (1965):
“Groove” Holmes, “Misty” (1965):
Ray Stevens, “Misty” (1975):