John Gary – His Voice Dazzled   30 comments

I’ve often written about crooners, past and present, and have managed to cover quite a few — or at least mention them. But there is a guy who was not only largely unappreciated by the public, but also sort of fell through the cracks in my memory when I was writing those articles. (And those cracks are beginning to widen and approach Grand Canyon size, but enough said about that.)

John Gary was a singer with a three-octave range and amazing breath control, and was admired by many of his contemporaries, but didn’t really reach the level of fame attained by a lot of lesser singers. Although he had a fairly long jgcareer, appearing in various venues and selling a lot of records, he just never quite managed to attain star status.

The native of upstate New York had a rich musical upbringing and showed early promise, and as he reached adulthood in the 1950′s he began appearing professionally. His route to success was via radio, and he first gained notice as a vocalist on the popular Breakfast Club hosted by Don McNeill.

His smooth, warm voice and obvious talent eventually earned him a recording contract, but by then the 1960′s had arrived and a revolution was taking place. Rock and roll was growing and evolving, fueled by a combination of folk music, surf sound and the British invasion, and it didn’t leave a lot of space for crooners to do their thing.

Although John didn’t find huge success, he was nevertheless a solid fixture on the Billboard album charts throughout the decade, and had some individual songs that did well too. Best known were probably “Soon I’ll Wed My Love,” “The Nearness of You,” “Once Upon a Time,” and “A Little Bit of Heaven.”

In addition to recording, John performed for many years in stage shows, was a talented composer, and for a time had his own TV variety show. Throughout the next couple of decades he was also a frequent guest on many other programs. Even with all that going on he still found time to be a world-class archer and an expert underwater diver, setting some records along the way.

His voice and unique singing abilities made him the envy of many other singers, and although never a superstar, when he died in 1998 he left behind a solid musical legacy.

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Posted November 13, 2007 by BG in Boomers, Easy Listening, MP3, Music, Nostalgia, Retirement, Seniors

30 responses to “John Gary – His Voice Dazzled

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  1. My folks used to have an album by John Gary that had a song whose lyrics began “Thank the Lord for this Thanksgiving Day.” Does anyone know on what album it was recorded? I can’t seem to locate it. I would play that song on Thanksgiving morning as we made the final clean-ups and preps for the big dinner.

  2. Doesn’t ring a bell if that’s the title, Bj. I looked at allmusic.com, which lists dozens of songs by him and it’s not there, but you might take a look and see if any of the others might be it.

  3. When Sinatra passed away, there was a lot of mention as to naming Frank the Male Vocalist of that century. While Sinatra’s voice during his commercially successful years was tremendous, stylistic and pleasing, his voice was better in the 1940′s.
    In no particular order, I would place the following singers in my top ten of the 20th Century: Sinatra, John Gary, Sammy Davis Jr, Nat King Cole, Bob Hatfield, Gene Pitney, Jerry Vale, Marty Robbins, Jim Reeves and Eddie Fisher. John Gary had the greatest voice of them all and didn’t get the attention that he deserved – - what a great talent.

  4. I can’t disagree about Sinatra, Greg. Although he sounded smooth and polished in later years, his youthful voice was a marvel.

    Your list of singers contains some surprises, but I love the mix of styles.

  5. I too love the mix of styles. I would only disagree with Bobby Hatfield and possibly Jerry Vale being in the top 10. I also seem to be the only person on earth who thinks the last 30 years of Frank Sinatra’s singing career, he was resting on his earlier work; his voice just did not have the control, pitch and smoothness of John Gary.

    My top two singers of the 20th century would have to be John Gary and Andy Williams. Among John’s best selections, I would have to include “Unchained Melody”, “Hawaiian Wedding Song”, “The Nearness of You”, “If You Love Me”, “Danny Boy”, “My Foolish Heart”. We had the good fortune to have seen John perform live in a small club in Pasadena in the early 80′s, and we were in awe of his amazing voice.

  6. John Gary’s misfortune was just bad timing. He came along when the “crooner” era was ending and he couldn’t compete in popularity with the rock and folk singers of the time. But, boy, could he sing. At the time of the early sixties, I had a running disagreement with a friend over who was the best, Al Martino or John Gary. I noticed that Al Martino isn’t included in the list above, so I guess I win the arguement. I don’t know what brought him to my mind this Christmas season, but he was something special.

  7. Hey Roland – don’t know if you saw it, but the article I did on The Quintessential Italian Crooner included a reference to Al Martino, and his daughter wrote a comment on it.

  8. I have a sealed album of john gary. It is entitled The Big Voice of John Gary. RCA Victor 1966. Does anyone know the value or where I can sell it? I have tons of albums from a long gone relative and hate to dump them in the trash. What do you do with this music?

  9. Hi everyone!
    This is a great tribute to my lifelong friend, John Gary.
    I met him when I was 10 years old, we became lifelong friends, he was the Godfather of my son, I’ve sung in his shows and we’ve had many John Gary “All-Night” Parties – with John in attendance – when he was in town for concerts.
    Check out http://www.johngary.com – this website was put together by John’s family and MANY of John’s albums have been converted to CD – along with VHS/DVD’s his TV shows and John playing King Arthur in Camelot, just 7 months before he passed.
    The website is a loving and accurate legacy of a sweet, funny, talented in SO many ways man…my friend, John Gary!

  10. As a disc jockey in Buffalo, NY in the early 60′s, I often played the music of John Gary and I can’t agree more with the earlier writers…this was perhaps one of the most talented singers of the era. His range, phrasing and emotion were breath taking. My listeners concurred by requesting the music of John Gary almost nightly. Among my favorites was a little known composition from an obscure musical..Dora the Red Menace…”A Quiet Thing”. A Quiet Thing …was a wondeful thing.

  11. Appreciate all the comments, folks.

  12. John Gary was a singer’s singer – his breath control and range was astounding; He is always in the top 5 of the best male vocalists for those who know music.

  13. John Gary was the best! As far as Sinatra goes, I think his best work was in the 50s. In the Wee Small Hours, Only the Lonely, etc.

    That John Gary song mentioned….is a John Gary demo. There used to be some lps around of his early demos. I collected them and I have that song actually. It might be available on cd thru Amazon.

    David

  14. No one, I mean NO ONE, could hold a candle to John Gary. He was an absolutely amazing talent.

  15. Elvis Presley left off that list also. Trivia…Elvis met John Gary and told him he was one his most favorite singers. This according to John’s widow…Lee Gary. I have a copy somewhere of Thank the Lord for this Thanksgiving Day. That was I think one of a number of demos John made before the RCA contract kicked in. Probably around the same time as Soon I’ll Wed My Love….which was not a particularly well known song for John. John was also the summer replacement for Danny Kaye.

  16. As male singers go I personally think that John Gary is at the top of the list. My wife and I attended all his concerts in the Phoenix area. We have every album he ever recorded.

    Next to John I think another no less talented artist was Ed Ames.

  17. I said it all above. Nobody today can compare to Mr. Gary!

  18. John Gary was and is my favorite singer. I cry when I listen to some of his songs. With other songs of his I can’t stop smiling. I wish he was better known. He deserved much more recognition than he received. It is nice to read these comments. Thanks for the site.

    • John Gary was/is my all time favorite male singer. Grew up with him in the house and more than 40 years later, still a fan.

  19. Thanks for the nice comments. I am glad you enjoy the site.

    • I like the All Music Guide comment on John. He had the “misfortune” of timing. He appeared on the national scene just as the Beatles appeared, and the face of pop music changed. I loved the Beatles and Elivis, but JG was played a lot by my mother and I became a fan. Got the opportunity to see him in concert here in Olympia, WA and then became a huge fan in my own right. Had the opportunity to go backstage and meet him (he was in the throes of divorce from Lois (I think her name was) and yet he was very very gracious. Wonderful night.

  20. Twenty years ago I sang John Gary’s rendition of “Joy in the Morning” at the wedding of my best friend’s daughter. I made the mistake of “loaning” my music to a friend of my friend. Haven’t seen it since. Now, I have a granddaughter getting married in September and I’d like to add my contribution with the same song. I remember that the second verse began with: “I’ll buy you a gown made of lace from the willow”, but I remember nothing of the first verse. Can anyone help me out? Just the lyrics would do since my accompanist is able to “woodshed” very well for the music.

    Pretty please. I’ll be 83 next week, but I still sing and love it.

    V. DeMorrow

  21. That’s a touching story, Vivian. I’ve tried everything I can think of to come up with the lyrics for “Joy in the Morning” but online sources seem to have only a hymn of that name. I even looked to see if you could purchase the song as an MP3 (then write down the lyrics as you listen to it) but all I could find available is a full CD album that contains the song. Here a LINK to that if you want it.

    Maybe another visitor to the GMC has an idea.

  22. Vivian, go to “Joy in the Morning-Richard Chamberlain” on You Tube. He sings it and you will have all the words. Hope you check back here before the wedding. I am a big John Gary fan too. Best Wishes to you and yours. Rita Summers

  23. “Thank the Lord for this Thanksgiving Day” by Paul Cunningham and Jimmy McHugh was recorded for Fraternity Records in September, 1959. It has since been re-released on a Pickwick album.

    “Thank the Lord for this Thanksgiving Day
    As we share our pumpkin pie;
    Thanks to Him, our children laugh and play
    Underneath a peaceful sky.
    Rich or poor, He watches over us
    With a love we can’t repay;
    So for all these blessings from above,
    Thank the Lord for this Thanksgiving Day.”

  24. When John Gary Strader was starting his career in the early 60′s, I was ten years old and upon hearing his voice I became an instant fan and remained so through junior high school. After that I was caught in the rock sunami and forgot about John;Until this year when I bought a new record player, rebelling against audio compression of the digital age. I began getting records at garage sales, and at one was given a box of over 100albums. One of these was ” catch a rising star”. The first time I listened to it I was hooked again on John Gary. I have found 12 of his album ( vinyl) so far. The first, rising star, is still the best IMO. His 3.5 octave range, voice and breath control and never over-singing a song and constant pitch-perfection make him the greatest singer of the crooners. Sinatra of course the greatest entertainer/ singer.
    Anyway at age 61 I am back to John Gary albums as my fist choice for easy listening.

    • I love the Frank Sinatra of the 50s, “In the wee small hours” etc., for me however, John Gary will always be the top of my list. I have actually 18 albums not counting the cds. For some reason I seem to like That’s The Way It Was and On Broadway the best. At the John Gary website you can buy all of his recordings on pristine cds. Apparently Lee Gary and family have the masters. When I was a teen, there was a lot of John Gary played in the house, and one year my parents gave me tickets to the Governor’s Festival of the Arts (Olympia, WA) and one of the three shows was Mr. Gary. Went backstage and met him and that was great! Made me even more of a fan in fact. I was also a huge Elvis fan back then and learning that John was Elvis’s favorite singer was frosting on the cake. Elvis got Softly, As I Leave You from John. Lee told me she and John met Elvis in Las Vegas and Elvis told John he was his favorite singer. John was just simply a great singer and a super nice man.

      I agree with the comment in AllMusic Guide. John’s timing was not perfect. He showed up at the exact same time as the Beatles, and music changed. Ten years earlier and who knows?

  25. Thank the Lord for this Thanksgiving Day was on one of those lps of John Gary Demos, on the off labels. I have some of those including that song. I spent hours recording and cleaning and converting to cd many of those early demos. Must be avail at the John Gary site. Albums with The Bell Rings, Forget It, the stuff on Metro, Pickwick, etc. Let them Talk, Little People, Let them Talk, etc.

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