Johnny Rivers’ ‘Secret Agent Man’

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Johnny Rivers Album CoverThe great Johnny Rivers (born John Ramistella in 1942 in New York City) turned 78 on November 7, 2020.

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,” written by P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri, 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. Rivers’ single peaked at #3 on April 23, 1966.

“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,” raise your hand. 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.

What a voice! Our Classic Video…

Related: Our career-spanning feature on Rivers

Rivers still tours occasionally; check here for dates.

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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  2. JCB
    #2 JCB 8 November, 2019, 07:32

    To think this guy is not in the R+R Hall of Fame is sickening. A true legend in music is so many different ways.

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  3. Zenguy1213
    #3 Zenguy1213 11 April, 2021, 15:31

    Realization is still one of my all-time favorite albums!

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