“I fell in love music. I must have been every bit of 4 years old. I saw my brother, well both of my brothers Edward and Raymond. They were coming down an old dirt road we lived on where papa pastored a church. I remember that old church well. One old fella used to sit in the same seat every Sunday he came to church. I found later the reason why he did that. There was a great big old crack where he was sitting. He could spit his snuff out that crack. But I saw my brother coming down the road, I was about 4 years old and he had a guitar he had bought somewhere, an old cheap guitar. Course that was all they made back then was old cheap guitars except a Martin, but he had that guitar up over his head and the wind was blowing. The wind whistling through those strings and making a sound I had never heard in my life and I fell in love with that sound. They only time they would let me mess with that old guitar was when I would crawl up in the bed and they would put the guitar up there in the bed with me, cause I wasn’t big enough to hold it and I would sit and strum on that thing, hour after hour.
We had a lot of guitar picking in the churches back then. They didn’t bar nobody. People that might drink, smoke or cuss a little on the outside, there was always welcome to pick music. Well a lot of them old folks got saved that way. If they had barred them from doing that they might be lost today. But that’s how I learned to pick my guitar, going to church. And it started at a very, very early age, probably 7 or 8 years old. I would watch the other pickers, I’d watch the position they made with their hands on the guitar neck and when I got home I’d practice that chord and I got where I could pick that chord, but I didn’t know what that chord was.” – 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.