Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Johnny Rivers – "Baby I Need Your Loving" (1967)

Although you're never near
Your voice I often hear

“Memphis,” which was Johnny Rivers’ first record to make the charts, peaked at #2 in 1964.  

The story goes that Rivers decided to record “Memphis” after Elvis Presley played him a test pressing of his recording of the song, which he had not released.  Rivers loved the song so much that he recorded a similar arrangement of the song.  

According to a book by one of Elvis’s employees, Rivers was “on Elvis’s sh*t list” after that.

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Johnny Rivers – who was born John Henry Ramistella in New York City in 1942 – had a remarkable string of hit singles in the mid-1960s.  

His family moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, when Rivers was quite young.  While he was still in junior high, he joined a local band that was led by Dick Holler, who later wrote “Abraham, Martin, and John” and “Snoopy vs. the Red Baron.”  Rivers then formed his own band, cutting his first record when he only 14.

Johnny Rivers then
When he was 16, he met famed disc jockey Alan Freed, who helped him get a second recording contract and who advised him to change his name.  The Mississippi River flowed through Baton Rouge, so John Henry Ramistella became Johnny Rivers.

Rivers followed up “Memphis” with “Maybellene,” a cover of another Chuck Berry song.  Next came “Mountain of Love,” “Seventh Son,” “Secret Agent Man,” “Poor Side of Town,” “Baby I Need Your Loving,” “The Tracks of My Tears,” and “Summer Rain.”

Altogether, Rivers had seven top ten hits between 1964 and 1967, including a #1, a #2, and two #3s – not too shabby.

He had one more big hit – “Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu” – in 1972.

Johnny Rivers now
Many of those hits were covers.  Rivers also covered “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” “Fire and Rain,” “Sea Cruise,” “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Six Days on the Road,” “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” and “Help Me, Rhonda.”  (That’s a very eclectic group of songs – Chuck Berry, Motown, folk, country, and the Beach Boys.)

Several of Rivers’ covers outsold the originals.  For example, the Four Tops’ version of “Baby I Need Your Loving” made it to #11 on the Billboard “Hot 100” in 1964, but the Johnny Rivers cover that we are featuring today climbed all the way to #3 in early 1967.

Rivers was a pro – his vocals are just about flawless.  He didn't take a lot of chances musically, but he rarely disappointed you.

Here’s the Johnny Rivers cover of “Baby I Need Your Loving,” which features drummer Hal Blaine of “Wrecking Crew” fame and backup singer Darlene Love:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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