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Johnny Rivers Biography

Home > Music > R > Rivers, Johnny > Biography

Birth Name: John Henry Ramistella
Born: 1942/11/07
Birth Place: New York City, New York, United States
Years Active: 1962–present
Genres: Rock And Roll

John Henry Ramistella, better known by his stage name, Johnny Rivers, was born on November 7, 1942 in New York City and is a rock and roll singer, songwriter, and guitarist. Rivers incorporates folk music, the blues, and old school rock 'n' roll into his musical style. Rivers reached the height of his success in the late 1960s with a series of hit singles, including “Poor Side of Town,” “Summer Rain,” and “Secret Agent Man.” Rivers' family moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana when he was just a boy, exposing him to a wealth of diverse music that was rich in Louisiana culture. Rivers began playing the guitar when he was eight years old after watching his father and his uncle play. By the time he was in junior high school Rivers was playing with a band called, The Rockets.

In high school, at the age of fourteen, Rivers recorded his first record on the Suede label. Over the next three years, Rivers released three more albums that failed to sell well. In 1959, Rivers met Audrey Williams, who persuaded him to go to Nashville to pursue his music career. Rivers produced two more albums in Nashville, which were also commercial failures, and began to work as a songwriter for other artists. 1960 saw Rivers met the guitar player for Ricky Nelson, James Burton, who recommended Rivers' songs to Nelson. Nelson liked what he heard and Rivers traveled to Los Angeles in 1961 to meet Nelson. Nelson decided to record one of Rivers' songs and Rivers decided to relocate to Los Angeles, and work as a songwriter and studio musician. 1963 brought Rivers the break he had been waiting for when he landed a regular gig performing at Bill Gazzarri's nightclub due to the overwhelming response from the public to continue to see him play. Later that same year, Rivers scored a #3 hit single on Billboard's Hot 100 Charts when he wrote the theme song, “Secret Agent Man” for the U.S television show of the same name. The success of the song earned Rivers a regular slot at Elmer Valentine's new nightclub, Whisky a Go Go, on Sunset Strip in Hollywood.

The 1970s were marked by moderate success for Rivers as he continued to record more songs and albums. Of note were his hits: “Rockin' Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu,” “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Help Me Rhonda,” “Swayin' to the Music (Slow Dancing)” and “Curious Mind. Despite Rivers musical decline and dwindling popularity, he continued to record and release albums during the 1980s.

Rivers continued to tour and perform at blues festivals throughout the 1990s, with 2000 marking a collaboration with Eric Clapton, Tom Petty, and Paul McCartney on a tribute album for Buddy Holly's backup band, The Crickets. 2009 saw Rivers inducted into The Louisiana Music Hall of Fame.