1962: Drought ends for Johnny Mathis

Here’s another entry from the unpublished book The Top 1,000 Hits of the 1960s, based on the weekly Billboard Hot 100 charts from late 1959 to early 1970. Any hit song that reached its peak position from the first of January 1960 to the end of December 1969 was eligible for consideration.

Here’s one that made the top 10 from 1962 that time seems to have forgotten.

# 739
Gina / Johnny Mathis /
Columbia 4-42582
(Total points: 1,016  /  Chart debut: 9/22/1962 / Chart peak: 6 / Weeks on chart: 12)

When “Gina,” a song co-written by Paul Vance and Leon Carr, entered the top 10 of the Billboard singles chart in the October 27, 1962 edition, it ended a long dry spell for its singer.

Johnny Mathis, who had three Top 10 songs in 1957, hadn’t had one since. He came close in 1959 with one of his best-known hits, “Misty,” which peaked at #12. Meanwhile, he was selling a lot of albums for his label, Columbia; at one point, 12 consecutive Mathis LPs made the top 10, and his first collection of greatest hits spent 490 straight weeks on the chart. But his romantic ballad style, though popular with middle-of-the-road listeners and the adults who were the largest group of LP buyers, was out of favor with singles purchasers and pop radio.

Then came “Gina,” which, though firmly in line with Mathis’ usual material, sounded contemporary next to other balladeers who had begun to have hit singles in the second half of 1962.

Columbia thought from the start that it had a winner, so it pulled out the promotional stops. Unusually for its era, the single was released on a Tuesday (September 4, 1962), and Columbia chose to release no other singles that week so that it would have the undivided attention of both radio and retail.

The focus worked, as more than 100,000 copies of the 45 shipped the first week it was released. Its eventual #6 peak was Mathis’ best since “Chances Are” made the top 5, including a #1 mark on the Most Played by Disc Jockeys chart, in 1957.

“Gina” is the second and final Johnny Mathis song in the Top 1,000 Hits of the 1960s.

Collector’s notes: Copies of “Gina” came from all three Columbia pressing plants, with slightly different typefaces and print sizes. All original editions have orange labels. A picture sleeve was also issued with some stock copies.

Two promotional 45s were released to radio. The first edition was a regular black record with white labels and red print. Several weeks after that, Columbia pressed some copies on red vinyl with “Gina” on both sides; those came inside a special sleeve with a message from Bob Thompson, Columbia’s national promotion manager for pop music.

Fast fact: Paul Vance, the co-composer of “Gina,” had his first hit song in 1958 with “Catch a Falling Star,” one of the last big hits for Perry Como.

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