Saturday Night Solid Gold – Johnny Rivers

Saturday Night Solid Gold - Johnny Rivers

 02/25/17 – “Johnny Rivers” on Saturday Night Solid Gold!

It’s “Saturday Night Solid Gold” on 100.9 The Eagle! Every Saturday evening from 6:00-10:00 pm, 100.9 The Eagle features 4 hours of your favorite Classic Hits from the 1960s and ’70s, plus your requests! We call it “Saturday Night Solid Gold” and we think you’ll really enjoy it!  You can call-in your requests (or text them to us) at (806) 350-1009!

In addition to all those great songs from radio’s rock ‘n’ roll heyday, we shine our spotlight on a different featured artist each week.  We’ll play their biggest hits and even some not-so-big ones, and share some information about the artist that you might not know. It’s a LOT of fun, and if you long for the golden age of rock radio, this is the show for you! Solid Gold Classic Hits, they way you remember them, on Saturday Night Solid Gold!

Johnny Rivers

Johnny Rivers was born John Henry Ramistella on November 7, 1942. Johnny is an American rock ‘n’ roll singer, songwriter, guitarist, and record producer. His repertoire includes pop, folk, blues, and old-time rock ‘n’ roll. Rivers charted during the 1960s and 1970s but remains best known for a string of hit singles between 1964 and 1968, among them “Memphis” (a Chuck Berry cover), “Mountain of Love,” “The Seventh Son,” “Secret Agent Man,” “Poor Side of Town,” (a US #1) “Baby I Need Your Lovin” (a Motown cover), “Summer Rain,” and, in 1977, “Slow Dancing“.

In 1958, Rivers met fellow Louisianan, James Burton, a guitarist in a band led by Ricky Nelson. Burton later recommended one of Rivers’ songs, “I’ll Make Believe”, to Nelson who recorded it. They met in Los Angeles in 1961, where Rivers subsequently found work as a songwriter and studio musician. His big break came in 1963, when he filled in for a jazz combo at Gazzarri’s, a nightclub in Hollywood, where his instant popularity drew large crowds.

In 1964, Elmer Valentine gave Rivers a one-year contract to open at the Whisky a Go Go, on Sunset Strip in West Hollywood. The Whisky had been in business just three days when the Beatles song “I Want to Hold Your Hand” entered the Billboard Hot 100.  The subsequent British Invasion knocked almost every American artist off the top of the charts, but Rivers was so popular that record producer Lou Adler decided to issue Johnny Rivers Live at the Whisky A Go Go,which reached #12. Rivers recalled that his most requested live song then was “Memphis”,which reached #2 on the US Hit Parade in July 1964. It sold over one million copies and was awarded a gold disc. According to Elvis Presley’s friend and employee, Alan Fortas, Presley played a test pressing of “Memphis” for Rivers that Presley had made but not released. Rivers was impressed and, much to Presley’s chagrin, Rivers recorded and released it, even copying the arrangement (Fortas writes: “After that, Johnny was on Elvis’s shit list” and was persona non grata from then on). Rivers’ version far outsold the Chuck Berry original from August 1959, which stalled at #87 in the US.

Rivers continued to record mostly live performances throughout 1964 and 1965, including Go-Go-style records with songs featuring folk music and blues rock influences including “Maybellene” (another Berry cover), after which came “Mountain of Love”, “Midnight Special”, “Seventh Son” (written by Willie Dixon), plus Pete Seeger’s” Where Have All the Flowers Gone?”, all of which were hits.

  In 1963, Rivers began working with writers P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri on a theme song for the American broadcast of a British television series Danger Man, starring Patrick McGoohan. At first Rivers balked at the idea but eventually changed his mind. The American version of the show, titled Secret Agent, went on the air in the spring of 1965. The theme song was very popular and created public demand for a longer single version. Rivers’ recording of “Secret Agent Man” reached #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1966. It sold one million copies, also winning gold disc status.

By 1966, Rivers had switched gears and began to record ballads that mixed his soulful voice with smooth-sounding backing vocalists. He produced several successful hits including his own “Poor Side of Town”, which would be his biggest chart hit and his only #1 record. He also started his own record company, Soul City Records and won two Grammy Awards in 1967, as the producer of the 5th Dimension’s “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” from the rock musical Hair. Their recording of “Wedding Bell Blues” was another #1 hit for the Soul City label. In addition, Rivers is credited with giving songwriter Jimmy Webb a major break when the 5th Dimension recorded his song “Up, Up, and Away”.Rivers also recorded Webb’s “By the Time I Get to Phoenix”. It was covered by Glen Campbell, who had a major hit with it.

Rivers continued to record more hits covering other artists, including “Baby I Need Your Lovin'” released by the Four Tops, and “The Tracks of My Tears” by the Miracles, both going Top 10 in 1967. In 1968, Rivers put out Realization, a #5 album that included the #14 pop chart single “Summer Rain”, written by a former member of the Mugwumps, James Hendricks. The album included some of the psychedelic influences of the time and marked a subtle change in Rivers’ musical direction, with more introspective songs including “Look To Your Soul” and “Going Back to Big Sur”.

In the 1970s Rivers continued to record more songs and albums that were successes with music critics, but did not sell well. L.A. Reggae (1972), reached the LP chart as a result of the #6 hit “Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu,” a cover version of the Huey “Piano” Smith and the Clowns song. The track became Rivers’ third million seller, which was acknowledged with the presentation of a gold disc by the Recording Industry Association of America (R.I.A.A.) on January 29, 1973. Other hits from that time period were 1973’s “Blue Suede Shoes,” (recorded in 1955 by Carl Perkins), that would reach the top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100, and “Help Me Rhonda” in 1975, (originally a #1 hit for the Beach Boys), on which Brian Wilson sang back-up vocals.

Rivers’ last Top 10 entry was his 1977 recording of “Swayin’ to the Music (Slow Dancing)” originally released by Funky Kings and written by Jack Tempchin. Rivers’ last Hot 100 entry, also in 1977, was “Curious Mind (Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um),” originally released by Major Lance and written by Curtis Mayfield. In addition, Rivers recorded the title song for the late night concert-influenced TV show The Midnight Special.

By the 1980s, the hits began to dry up and gigs became fewer and farther between. However, Johnny continues to play all over the world and stays booked year ’round.  It’s hard to believe that Johnny Rivers is NOT a member of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame!  his name has been brought up many, many times but he’s yet to be inducted,

So, we’re gonna pay tribute to Johnny Rivers and play a dozen of his greatest hit, this Saturday Night, 6-10!

Don’t forget to call-in your requests or text them to 350-1009! It all happens this Saturday evening from 6:00 pm until 10:00 on 100.9 The Eagle!

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