February 21, 1965: Johnny Mathis plays Denfeld High School Auditorium

On this day in Duluth in 1965, Johnny Mathis and the Young Americans, with a backing orchestra, performed at the Duluth Denfeld High School auditorium. The News Tribune described the event as “an enjoyable evening of toe-tapping, hand-clapping, gently swinging music.” The 1,800-seat auditorium was “packed,” and “there was music to appeal to every taste.” Indeed, Mathis’s song selection included the silly (“Five-foot Two,” “I Wanna be Loved by You) to the bittersweet (“Summertime,” his own “Misty.”). The story went on to say that Mathis performed his hits—including “Misty,” “Maria,” and “When Sunny gets Blue” “in his smooth, velvety style which has brought him popularity throughout the country.” The Young Americans were 18 “talented young people” who backed Mathis with “a refreshing vivacity which sparkled throughout the evening.” The Denfeld Auditorium has hosted many events over the years, and appearances by other celebrities, including Louis Armstrong, Johnny Cash, Ed Sullivan, and even Richard Nixon. According to Jim Heffernan, “Fully staged grand operas were presented there by the Duluth Symphony Association, beginning in the 1950s, starring leading singers of New York’s Metropolitan and City operas, backed by local choruses and regional soloists in secondary roles.…. Religious organizations frequently held services on the Denfeld stage. The touring Black Hills Passion Play was mounted on the Denfeld stage for a number of years following World War II. The company recruited singers from local church choirs to provide appropriate background music during each performance.”

Johnny Mathis and the Young Americans. (Image: Public Domain)