“…..Let’s move on to Corpus Christi. Papa took a job pastoring a church there, must have been around 1946, I still wasn’t totally well from the osteo, and wouldn’t be until I was 24 years old. But we moved to Corpus, I made a lot of friends. Made some Spanish American friends. They are the best people in the world. While I lived there I even worked in a Mexican restaurant and nobody in the restaurant could speak English but me. It took me about 3 weeks, I washed dishes and things like that, I wasn’t but about 16. It took me about 3 weeks to figure out what they wanted, what they ordered. If they wanted a cold drink, bowl of chili, or whatever, I could figure it out. I worked on a tug boat I was a sailor, when I was not over 17 then. That’s another story in Houston, TX.
But this Spanish American fella had a TV repair shop, radio shop. They didn’t even have TV’s in 1946. I used to go over there and do things and he had a big guitar he used to let me use. Not far from where I lived they had a little corner beer joint. That day I took my guitar in there and asked if I could sing, and naturally they said “yes”.
I sat out my hat to take collections, and I had been there about an hour and hadn’t made 50 cents. And Eddie Arnold had a song back then called “What Is Life Without Love”, had a little yodel in it. I was messing around sitting on a stool and sang a line of that and put that yodel in and several turned around and said “hey, do you know that song”, and I said “yeah, I think I can do it” and they pitched 50 cents in the hat and said “do it for us”!
So I sung that song and they wanted to hear it again. I wound up singing that song probably 7-8 times and the next hour I left there with over $16. Needless to say I found a way to get rich quick easy with no work. Made over $16 man! And that was it. That was my ruination!” – Country Johnny Mathis
Note about Johnny’s Memoirs: Prior to Johnny’s stroke in 1999, he had sat down at his typewriter and began to share stories about his life and music. We are sharing these excerpts in Johnny’s own words… just as he told them.