Songs with Earlier Histories Than the Hit Version

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Tagged: Johnny Mathis

Winter Wonderland

First recorded by Richard Himber & His Ritz-Carlton Orchestra (1934).
Popular versions by Guy Lomabardo’s Royal Canadians (US #2 1934), Ted Weems & His Orchestra (US #13 1934), Johnny Mercer & The Pied Pipers (US #4 1946), Perry Como & the Satisfiers (US #10 1946), Johnny Mathis (UK #17 1958), Darlene Love (1963), Ramsey Lewis (US #27 1966).

From the wiki: “‘Winter Wonderland’, a winter song, is popularly regarded as a Christmas song even though the holiday itself is never mentioned in the lyrics. It was written in 1934 by Felix Bernard (music) and Richard B. Smith (lyricist). Smith, a native of Honesdale, Pennsylvania, was reportedly inspired to write the song after seeing Honesdale’s Central Park covered in snow. Smith had written the lyrics while in the West Mountain Sanitarium, being treated for tuberculosis.

“The original recording was by Richard Himber and his Hotel Ritz-Carlton Orchestra on RCA Bluebird in 1934. At the end of a recording session with time to spare, it was suggested that this new tune be tried with an arrangement provided by the publisher. This ‘studio’ orchestra included many great New York studio musicians including the legendary Artie Shaw.

“The biggest chart hit rendition of ‘Winter Wonderland’ at the time of introduction in 1934 was performed by Guy Lombardo’s orchestra, a Top-10 hit, its popularity propelled by the song’s inclusion in that year’s Ziegfield Follies stage revue in New York City.

“Singer-songwriter Johnny Mercer took the song back onto the charts, in 1946, to #4 on the Hit Parade. The same season, Perry Como hit the retail Top-10 with his recording. (Como would also record a new version for his 1959 Christmas album, Season’s Greetings.)

“Through the decades it has been recorded by over 200 different artists, among them Johnny Mathis (1958), Darlene Love (1963), and Ramsey Lewis whose 1961 recording from the Sounds of Christmas album would chart in 1966 as the B-side to ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’.”

So Nice (Summer Samba)

First recorded (as “Samba De Verão”) by Eumir Deodato (1964).
First vocal recording (as “Samba De Verão”) by Marcos Valle (1965).
Hit versions (in English) by The Walter Wanderley Trio (US #26/MOR #3 1966), Johnny Mathis (MOR #17 1966), Connie Francis (MOR #17 1966), Vicki Carr (MOR #32 1966).

From the wiki: “‘Summer Samba’ (also known as ‘So Nice’ or its original Portuguese title, ‘Samba de Verão’) is a 1964 Bossa nova song by Brazilian composer Marcos Valle

“Brazilian musician, arranger and producer Eumir Deodato, a musical autodidact, starting with the accordion at age 12, first recorded the song in 1964 as an instrumental. Co-writer Valle recorded the first vocal version of ‘Samba De Verão’ in 1965, with the original Portuguese lyrics coming from Paulo Sérgio Valle, Marcos’ brother.

Gina

First recorded by Johnny Janis (1960).
Hit version by Johnny Mathis (US #6/MOR #2 1962).

From the wiki: “Paul Vance and Leon Carr wrote ‘Gina’ in 1960 and it was first recorded that same year by singer-guitarist Johnny Janis specifically for an episode (titled ‘Gina’) of the CBS TV series Diagnosis: Unknown in which Janis had a small role. In 1962, a cover recording by Johnny Mathis became Mathis’ highest-charting song since 1957’s ‘Chances Are’.”

Misty

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

Show and Tell

First recorded by Johnny Mathis (MOR #36 1972).
Other hit versions by Al Wilson (US #1/R&B #10/UK #51 1973), Peabo Bryson (R&B #1 1989).

From the wiki: “‘Show and Tell’ was written by Jerry Fuller (‘Travelin’ Man’, originally written for Sam Cooke but recorded by Ricky Nelson; ‘Young Girl’, ‘Lady Willpower’ and ‘Over You’ for Gary Puckett & the Union Gap). The song was first recorded by Johnny Mathis in 1972. Released as a single, it peaked at #36 on Billboard’s easy-listening music chart.

“A 1973 cover of the song by Al Wilson reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in January 1974 and was also named a Cashbox Magazine Number One Single of the Year.

“Peabo Bryson had a #1 R&B hit with his version of the song in 1989, but it did not chart on the Billboard Hot 100.”

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