Jump to content

Misty (song)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Artwork for US 7-inch single
Single by Johnny Mathis
from the album Heavenly
B-side"The Story of Our Love"
ReleasedSeptember 14, 1959
RecordedApril 9, 1959
StudioColumbia 30th Street Studio, New York City
Songwriter(s)Johnny Burke, Erroll Garner
Producer(s)Mitch Miller, Al Ham[1]
Johnny Mathis singles chronology
"Small World"
"The Best of Everything"

"Misty" is a jazz standard written in 1954 by pianist Erroll Garner. He composed it as an instrumental in the traditional 32-bar format, and recorded it for the album Contrasts. Lyrics were added later by Johnny Burke. It appeared on Johnny Mathis' 1959 album Heavenly, and this recording reached number 12 on the U.S. Pop Singles chart later that year. It has since become Mathis’ signature song.

The song has been recorded by many other artists, including versions by Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, and Ray Stevens who released a hit country version in 1975. Recordings by both Mathis and Garner have been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.[2] It was ranked number 174 in the list of the Songs of the Century compiled by Recording Industry Association of America and National Endowment for the Arts.[3]


Erroll Garner was inspired to write "Misty" on a flight from San Francisco to Chicago which passed through a thunderstorm: as the plane descended into O'Hare, Garner looked through the window to see a rainbow glowing through a haze, and was moved to begin composing "Misty" on the spot, striking imaginary piano keys on his knees as he hummed the notes he imagined (causing his neighboring passenger to summon a flight attendant to assist the apparently ill Garner).[4]

The lyrics were added later by Johnny Burke. Burke was initially reluctant to create lyrics for the tune, but was persuaded to do so at the insistence of his pianist Herb Mesick. [2] It was said that Mesick played the tune every time Burke came into the room, until Burke said: "Alright, give me the damn music, and I'll do it." Burke wrote the lyrics in two to three hours. [5]

Early recordings[edit]

Garner first recorded his rendition of "Misty" on piano in 1954, accompanied by Wyatt Ruther on bass and Fats Heard on drums.[6] The recording was first released in October 1954 credited to Erroll Garner Trio,[7] and it was included in Garner's album Contrasts released in December 1954.[8] Garner later re-recorded the song with an orchestral arrangement by Mitch Miller for his album Other Voices in 1957.[9] Instrumental versions were also recorded by Georgie Auld and Johnny Costa in 1955.[9] Garner's original recording was ranked No. 174 in the list of the Songs of the Century compiled by RIAA and NEA.[3]

After lyrics were written for "Misty", Dakota Staton was the first to record the song in 1957.[5] A number of artists also recorded the song,[9] but it was the recording by Sarah Vaughan that drew greater attention to it. Vaughan recorded the song in a 1958 Paris session, with an arrangement by Quincy Jones for her album Vaughan and Violins.[2][5] It was released backed with "Broken Hearted Melody", and it reached No. 6 on the Bubbling Under chart in July 1959.[10] Those who recorded the song after Vaughn included Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, and most notably Johnny Mathis who created the best-known version of it. [2]

Johnny Mathis version[edit]


Mathis first heard Garner play the tune when he was a teenager, and told him that he would love to sing it if Garner had lyrics for it.[11] A few years later, having heard Vaughan's version of the song, he chose "Misty" as one of the possible songs for his 1959 album Heavenly, and informed Garner that he would record the song. However, at the recording session for the album, it was scheduled that Mathis should record a show tune rather than "Misty". Accounts differ as to whether it was Garner or Garner's business manager, Martha Glaser, who turned up unexpectedly at the recording session,[11][5] and Mathis then insisted on recording "Misty" to fulfil his promise to record the song with the unexpected guest in attendance.[5]

Glenn Osser arranged the song at short notice, with Andy Ackers playing the piano. Mathis revealed that, on the high-pitched note when he first started singing "On my own" after the instrumental break, he used a technique of standing a distance from the microphone and then walked slowly toward it to create a fade in effect. Mathis said that "Misty" was the song he was most proud of, because he recorded the song the way he wanted to, rather than relying on the producer Mitch Miller.[5]

The song was initially released as a back-to-back single together with Garner's version intended only for those in the broadcasting industry, but due to heavy demand Columbia released Mathis' recording as a commercial single in September 1959.[9] It reached No. 12 on Billboard Hot 100. Although the song is not Mathis' highest charting song, it became his signature song. Mathis received his first Grammy nomination for the song at the 3rd Annual Grammy Awards in the Best Male Pop Vocal Performance category.[12] Both Mathis' and Garner's recordings were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, Garner in 1991 and Mathis in 2002.[13]

Chart performance[edit]

Weekly singles[edit]

Chart (1959–60) Peak
UK Singles (OCC)[14] 12
US Billboard Hot 100[15] 12
US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs (Billboard)[16] 10

Play Misty for Me[edit]

Clint Eastwood used the instrumental version in his 1971 film Play Misty for Me, a low-budget film that proved to be a box-office success. Eastwood was said to have paid Garner a $25,000 fee for the right to use the tune in his film.[2]

Ray Stevens version[edit]

side-A label
Side A of the US single
Single by Ray Stevens
from the album Misty
ReleasedApril 1975
Recordedc. February 1975
Songwriter(s)Erroll Garner
Producer(s)Ray Stevens
Ray Stevens singles chronology
"Moonlight Special"
"Indian Love Call"

Background and release[edit]

In 1975, singer Ray Stevens released an up-tempo country rendition of this song. It is the title track of his twelfth studio album. Stevens recounted that the song was recorded on the second take when experimenting in the studio. His version won a Grammy in the category of Music Arrangement of the Year.[17] This version peaked at No. 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 and reached No. 2 in the United Kingdom.

Chart performance[edit]

Other notable versions[edit]


  1. ^ (1993) The Music of Johnny Mathis: A Personal Collection by Johnny Mathis [CD booklet]. New York: Columbia Records C4K-48932.
  2. ^ a b c d e Gioia, Ted (2021). The Jazz Standards: A Guide to the Repertoire. Oxford University Press. pp. 296–297. ISBN 9780190087173.
  3. ^ a b "Songs of the Century". CNN. March 7, 2001.
  4. ^ a b Brown, Mick (2007). Smoketown: the untold story of the other Black renaissance. NYC: Simon & Schuster. p. 226. ISBN 978-1-5011-2239-2.
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Making "Misty": The Legendary Johnny Mathis Recording (2010)". Morningsonmaplestreet.com. 27 November 2014. Retrieved 30 April 2021.
  6. ^ Sullivan, Steve (2017). Encyclopedia of Great Popular Song Recordings: Volume 3. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. p. 259. ISBN 9781442254497.
  7. ^ "Reviews of New Jazz Records". Billboard. October 2, 1954. p. 42.
  8. ^ "The Greatest Name in Jazz - New Releases". Billboard. December 11, 1959. p. 40.
  9. ^ a b c d "Pubber Hussle on Misty Licensing". Billboard. September 14, 1959. p. 4.
  10. ^ "Bubbling Under the Hot 100". Billboard. July 20, 1959. p. 29.
  11. ^ a b Gilliland, John. "Pop Chronicles - Show 23 - Smack Dab in the Middle on Route 66. [Part 2], The Music Men. [Part 1] - 3. Track3 - Johnny Mathis, Mitch Miller".
  12. ^ "Johnny Mathis". Grammy Awards.
  13. ^ Whorf, Michael (2014). American Popular Song Lyricists: Oral Histories, 1920s-1960s. McFarland. p. 36. ISBN 9780786490615.
  14. ^ "Johnny Mathis: Artist Chart History". Official Charts Company.
  15. ^ "Johnny Mathis Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard.
  16. ^ "Johnny Mathis Chart History (Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs)". Billboard.
  17. ^ Ray Stevens - About "Misty" and Live Performance on YouTube
  18. ^ "Ray Stevens – Misty" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40.
  19. ^ a b "National Top 100 Singles for 1975". Kent Music Report. December 29, 1975. Retrieved January 15, 2022 – via Imgur.
  20. ^ "Top RPM Country Tracks: Issue 3979." RPM. Library and Archives Canada.
  21. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 3996a." RPM. Library and Archives Canada.
  22. ^ "Top RPM Adult Contemporary: Issue 3967." RPM. Library and Archives Canada.
  23. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Misty". Irish Singles Chart.
  24. ^ "Ray Stevens – Misty". Top 40 Singles.
  25. ^ "Ray Stevens: Artist Chart History". Official Charts Company.
  26. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1993). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961–1993. Record Research. p. 229.
  27. ^ Steffen Hung. "Forum - 1970 (ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts)". Australian-charts.com. Archived from the original on 2016-06-02. Retrieved 2016-08-29.
  28. ^ "Archived copy". Library and Archives Canada. Archived from the original on 2016-10-06. Retrieved 2016-05-15.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  29. ^ "Top Selling Singles of 1975 | The Official New Zealand Music Chart". Nztop40.co.nz. 1975-12-31. Retrieved 2016-08-29.
  30. ^ "Britain's best selling records of '75". Record Mirror. London. January 10, 1976. p. 12. Retrieved June 13, 2016.
  31. ^ "Pop Singles" Billboard December 27, 1975: Talent in Action-8
  32. ^ Gioia, Ted (2012). The Jazz Standards. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 269. ISBN 978-0-19-993739-4.
  33. ^ "A Bing Crosby Discography". BING magazine. International Club Crosby. Retrieved December 8, 2017.
  34. ^ "Bing Crosby : With All My Heart". AllMusic. Retrieved December 8, 2017.
  35. ^ Rutherford, Kevin (January 11, 2024). "Lesley Gore's 'Misty' Becomes the Oldest Song to Lead TikTok Billboard Top 50". Billboard. Retrieved January 12, 2024.
  36. ^ "Aretha Franklin : Yeah!!! In Person with Her Quartet". AllMusic. Retrieved August 1, 2020.
  37. ^ "www.allmusic.com". allmusic.com. Retrieved July 13, 2022.

External links[edit]