• Robert Scovill

Johnny Rivers "At The Whisky a Go-Go"

Recorded during the grand opening of an iconic night club that would become the epicenter of the Hollywood music scene.

"There is so much cool history surrounding this record and time in music. Let’s start it with Johnny himself."

December 11th, Hello everybody and welcome to “Way-Back-When-sday” where we jump in the time machine and head back to an earlier time in the history of both the rock and the roll.

Today’s selection is a pretty cool little diddy and frankly so much fun to talk about; Johnny Rivers “At The Whisky’ a Go-Go” And let’s be clear, it’s not just “live”. According to the album cover it is “very live”. Pure awesomeness right there. Hahaha!.

There is so much cool history surrounding this record and time in music. Let’s start it with Johnny himself. Like many new artists who come into the ranks of the music business, a name change was called for. And in the case of Johnny, his actual last name is “Ramistella”. So you can see the challenge already. Legend has it that it only took one meeting with none other than Alan Freed to convince him to change it to “Rivers”. Alan Freed; as deft as ever.

Also, this record was recorded during the grand opening of “The Whiskey A Go Go” in Hollywood. Man, now that is something you can hang your hat on. And Johnny did just that by releasing 4 more records recorded at the Whisky over the coming years. But a warning to you record buyers out there, don’t fall into the trap of buying “Johnny Rivers Live At The Whisky A Go-Go” … that’s an entirely different performance and time. I know right? ... I know …

But this recording from the grand opening is a real treasure. It actually sounds great, and I know I harp on this at times about these live recordings, but it just sounds so authentic and the audience capture is REALLY fun. The people in attendance are totally into this performance of Johnny’s excellent collection of songs. So, I’ll add this; if this recording is a “canned” audience (added after the fact in the studio) then the engineers deserve a Grammy for their efforts because it’s totally believable!

Johnny Rivers is accurately credited as being a pioneer of the “Go-Go” sound and the collection of songs on this record is fantastic, including a cover of Chuck Berry’s “Memphis” which was a signature of Johnny’s. Side one concludes with a song composed by Johnny himself called … wait for it … “Whisky A Go-Go”. I mean, ya gotta give him credit, he was committed and consistent.

Also, I LOVE the array of “stars” that they list on the back cover to endorse Johnny’s work; Sammy Davis Jr., Ann Margret, Yogi Bear (yes, it’s spelled that way) Shelly Fabares and a wide variety of others. The whole package is just fantastic.

So, all good hearted ribbing aside, I truly love this record. The performances and vibe of it is totally infectious. This is a GREAT album to throw on at parties or while digging in on some office work. Johnny at the age of 76 is still active and playing today. To that I say BRAVO sir! In fact, I think Johnny River’s should open for the Stones on next years tour! Who’s with me on this?

This record was produced by the great Lou Adler and recorded by Wally Heider assisted by “Bones” Howe and “Lanky” Linstrot. I think the endorsement of Gina Lollobrigida on the back cover summed it up best. “Terrific” (spoken in Italian) Yes, it’s actually listed that way … Fantastic!

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