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 career, 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.