April 15, 1969:
Singer Johnny Mathis and the Craig Hundley Trio performed at the Long Center at the University of Scranton.
Two-thousand people attended the Tuesday night concert, including special guests of the university. The school treated 15 campers from the Youth Forestry Camp, a state institution for juvenile delinquents at Hickory Run State Park, to the show. James Moore handled the arrangements for the campers on behalf of the university’s student government.
Prior to his performance, Mathis told Scranton Times Entertainment Editor Sid Benjamin that he was excited to be back in the city and performing at the Long Center.
“Boy, was I delighted to see this place,” Mathis said. “When I was in Scranton three years ago, it was awful rough singing in that hall (the Catholic Youth Center). I sang so hard I got hoarse.”
Mathis was referencing his Feb. 9, 1966, performance at the CYC. He had arrived in Scranton the night before, the same evening the city was celebrating its 100th birthday at the Jermyn Motor Inn. Hearing that Mathis was in town, the celebration’s organizer dispatched Scranton Patrolman Earl Kugler to find the singer and ask if he would make a brief appearance at the dinner. Kugler found Mathis at a restaurant in the city, but the appearance did not happen. The scheduled speaker for the dinner, meanwhile, was U.S. Sen. Edward “Ted” Kennedy.
Benjamin then asked how the current tour was going for Mathis.
“Well, let’s say I’ve learned to live with it,” Mathis replied. “What I try to do is work one week and then take two weeks off. I’ve just returned from skiing in Switzerland. Before that, I was in Mexico. Then along came income tax times, and I decided a short tour wouldn’t be a bad idea.”
Mathis said he didn’t want to give people the wrong idea about why he scheduled a performance in Scranton.
“I was just kidding about the income tax,” he added. “Actually, I’ve wanted to get back here. ”
Benjamin finished the interview by asking Mathis about his setlist for the show, wondering whether it was “just an accident or is it by design that there are no protest songs in your repertoire?” Mathis laughed.
“Protest songs? I have nothing to protest,” he said. “I’m very happy with things the way they are.”
Brian Fulton has been the librarian at The Times-Tribune for the past 15 years. On his blog, Historically Hip, he writes about the great concerts, plays/musicals and celebrity happenings that have taken place throughout NEPA. He is also the co-host of the local history podcast, Historically Hip. He competed and was crowned grand champion on an episode of NPR quiz show “Ask Me Another.” Contact: email@example.com; 570-348-9140; or @TTPagesPast