Johnny Rivers’ ‘Secret Agent Man’

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Johnny Rivers Album CoverThe great Johnny Rivers (born John Ramistella on November 7, 1942 in New York City) turned 75 in 2017.

Rivers enjoyed nine Top 10 singles from 1964’s “Memphis” (which reached #2) to his last, 1977’s “Swayin’ To The Music (Slow Dancin’).” In between were such classic songs as “Seventh Son” (#7 in 1965), “Baby I Need Your Lovin'” (#3 in 1967) and 1972’s “Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu” (#6).

In 1966, he scored his sole #1 hit with “Poor Side of Town.” One of his best known songs, 1967’s “Summer Rain,” stalled at #14.

Related: Rivers’ version of “Memphis” appears on our list of 17 classic Chuck Berry covers

“Secret Agent Man” peaked at #3 at a time when TV series and films about spies were all the rage. His original vocal of just a verse and a chorus were first recorded in 1964 for a short-lived TV series, Secret Agent. Additional verses – and thus the 1966 single – were recorded afterwards.

“They’ve given you a number and taken away your name….”

If you knew that Rivers started a record label – Soul City Records – and earned two Grammy Awards for producing the 5th Dimension’s “Aquarius”/”Let The Sun Shine In,” you qualify for some sort of prize. And if you also knew it was legendary disc jockey Alan Freed who advised the teenage John Ramistella to adopt the stage name he did, we’re really impressed.

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What a voice! Our Classic Video…

Rivers still tours occasionally; he’s got a handful of 2017 dates here. He also appeared at the Music Of tribute to Jimmy Webb on May 3 at New York’s Carnegie Hall.

And a bonus… Watch Rivers perform his first chart hit on American Bandstand in 1964

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  1. Jagdriver
    #1 Jagdriver 8 November, 2017, 07:12

    Johnny was also a behind-the-scenes shaper of the Monterrey Pop Festival. We saw him in concert in the late ’90s; it was one of the very best concerts we’ve ever been to. He’s quite the entertainer!

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