Johnny Rivers (b. November 7, 1942) is a singer, songwriter, guitarist, and record producer who became famous during the mid-late 1960s. He is a highly versatile performer with a long string of hits through 1980 covering a wide variety of genres that include early rock and roll, rockabilly, R&B, blues, folk, pop, blue-eyed soul, and soft rock.
Born John Henry Ramistella in New York City and raised in Baton Rouge, LA, he began playing the guitar at age eight. By junior high, he was sitting in with various local bands, including one known as The Rockets led by Dick Holler (who later wrote "Abraham, Martin And John"). At 14, he formed his own band, The Spades, and made his first recordings. They performed throughout their home state of Louisiana and also toured Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Texas. In 1957, he met Alan Freed who helped him land several record contracts and also advised him to change his name to Johnny Rivers. He relocated to Los Angeles in 1961 where he worked as a songwriter and studio musician. In 1964, he began performing at the Whisky a Go Go as the legendary nightclub's opening act and developed his signature "go go" sound. He recorded his debut album live at this venue, the Lou Adler-produced "Johnny Rivers At The Whisky A Go Go," which reached #13 on the Billboard 200 and included his first chart hit, a cover of Chuck Berry's "Memphis."
Rivers made his debut on the Pop/Rock charts in 1964 with "Memphis," which became a Top 5 hit. This was followed by a string of early rock and roll, R&B, and blues covers that also included "Maybellene" (1964), "Mountain Of Love" (1964), "Midnight Special" (1965), "Cupid" (1965), and "Seventh Son" (1965). Other early hits included "Secret Agent Man" (1966), the theme song to the popular TV series, and his covers of the Pete Seeger-penned folk anthem, "Where Have All The Flowers Gone" (1965), and the country classic, "(I Washed My Hands In) Muddy Water" (1966). Rivers then topped the charts in 1966 with his self-penned ballad, "Poor Side Of Town," which would become his biggest hit and only #1 record. Other top hits followed that included the Motown covers, "Baby I Need Your Lovin'" (1967) and "The Tracks Of My Tears" (1967), the introspective, self-penned "Look To Your Soul" (1968), "Summer Rain" (1967), "Rockin' Pneumonia - Boogie Woogie Flu" (1972), and "Swayin' To The Music (Slow Dancin')" (1977).
Rivers' many awards and accolades include being inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame in 2009. He continues to tour and perform actively.
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Johnny Rivers And Friends
- Fire And Rain 1970
(This song also became a hit in 1970 for both James Taylor and R.B. Greaves.)
- Baby I Need Your Lovin' 1967
(This song was previously a hit for the Four Tops (1964) and later also became a hit for O.C. Smith (1970) and Eric Carmen (1979).)
- Blue Suede Shoes 1973
(Carl Perkins originally wrote and, along with Elvis Presley, made this song a huge hit in 1956. Carl Perkin's version was the first to hit the charts that year, and Elvis Presley's and Boyd Bennett's versions both followed shortly thereafter.)
- Cupid 1965
(This song was previously a hit for Sam Cooke (1961) and later also became a hit for Johnny Nash (1970), Dawn (1976), and the Spinners (1980, as a medley).)
- Help Me Rhonda 1975
(This song was previously a hit for the Beach Boys (1965).)
- Look To Your Soul 1968
- Maybellene 1964
(This song was previously a hit for Chuck Berry (1955).)
- Memphis 1964
(This song was written and first recorded by Chuck Berry in 1959. Lonnie Mack also had a hit with an instrumental version in 1963.)
- Midnight Special 1965
(This song was previously a hit for Paul Evans (1960).)
- Mountain Of Love 1964
(This song was previously a hit for Harold Dorman (1960) and later also became a hit for Ronnie Dove (1968).)
- Muddy River 1969
- (I Washed My Hands In) Muddy Water 1966
- Poor Side Of Town 1966
(This song topped the charts and later also became a hit for Al Wilson (1969).)
- Rockin' Pneumonia - Boogie Woogie Flu 1972
(This song was previously a hit for Huey "Piano" Smith & the Clowns (1957).)
- Sea Cruise 1971
(This song was previously a hit for Frankie Ford (1959).)
- Secret Agent Man 1966
(This song, which is the title theme for the TV spy series from 1964-1966 which starred Patrick McGoohan, also became a hit for the Ventures (1966).)
- Seventh Son 1965
- Summer Rain 1967
(This song makes reference to the Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" album and briefly works in a guitar riff from the album's title song.)
- These Are Not My People 1969
- The Tracks Of My Tears 1967
(This song was previously a hit for the Miracles (1965) and later also became a hit for Aretha Franklin (1969) and Linda Ronstadt (1976).)
- Under Your Spell Again 1965
- Where Have All The Flowers Gone 1965
(This classic protest song against war, which was written by Pete Seeger, was previously a hit for the Kingston Trio (1962).)
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