Easy To Remember : The Rivieras©2000JCMarion


The Rivieras came along as the doo wop era was nearing the end of its hold on the record buying public in the late 1950s. In 1958 the first wave of the rock 'n roll revolution was under attack on many fronts. Alan Freed and Dr. Jive (Tommy Smalls) had been busted in the payola scandal, Elvis was army bound, and the major label front men aided and abetted by Dick Clark were turning the scene into a junior prom side show with the nodding approval of parents and citizen watchdogs. Into this atmosphere came the group that would be known as The Rivieras.


They were from Englewood, New Jersey, close enough to the big apple to be near the center of action and far enough away to do their own thing for a while at least. The members of the group were lead singer Homer Dunn (who had been a member of an obscure group called The Bob-O-Links), tenor Ronald Cook, baritone Andrew Jones, and bass Charles Allen. The vocalists were originally called the Four Arts (and sometimes the Four Artists) and cut their teeth around their home base and Newark, New Jersey, getting the act more polished and tuneful. By 1956 they changed the name of the group to the El-Rivieras, but were still without a manager and direction. With a bit of luck on their side they persevered until they came to the attention of William Fix who at that time was the manager of the pop music quartet The Ames Brothers. He thought they had potential and led them to the offices of musical entrepreneur George Paxton head of the Coed label in the Brill building in New York City. Soon a recording date was set up for the group. In one last move with the guys, Paxton dropped the "El" from their name and now they were The Rivieras on the Coed label.


In the spring of 1958 they recorded their take on a previous hit for the Ravens called "Count Every Star", and soon it was released by the label on #503 with "True Love Is Hard To Find" on the flip side. Reaction was immediate as the new arbiter of teenage America Dick Clark, featured the side on American Bandstand to great enthusiasm. Sales and extensive airplay followed and it was a new experience for Homer Dunn who tried for years for this kind of acceptance. Because of the national exposure from Clark the record was a big seller in the pop market and the Rivieras were now a "hot" commodity. They played all the big venues and did many local television spots as the record received wide acclaim. It must have been a great moment for Dunn when the Rivieras played the Apollo Theater in New York as a featured attraction, not as part of a bunch of unknowns as he did years before with the Bob-O-Links. All that fall and into the early winter of 1958 the now familiar intro " . . . count now . . . .one, two, three, four . . ." was a radio standby as the Rivieras were now pop stars.


By the end of the year as "Count" finally began to end its run, Coed released #508 - "Moonlight Serenade" the big band era standard written by Glen Miller and Mitchell Parish (which was Miller's theme song), and "Neither Rain Nor Snow" a takeoff on the post office oath. "Serenade" got off to a good start and the Rivieras were on the verge of making it two straight tunes getting heavily into pop music airplay. During the first months of 1959, the record climbed in the charts and was poised to outdo their first effort. By February "Moonlight Serenade" cracked the top fifty position on the pop charts, another big hit for the group and Coed Records. The Rivieras were on the inside track to becoming one of the premier vocal groups of the late fifties, but soon they would realize that this was a dream that was not to be. The Drifters (the Ben E. King version) had turned heads and gained attention with their unique use of a big string section (supposedly at the insistence of assistant producer Phil Spector) on the ground breaking hit for Atlantic "There Goes My Baby". Coed tried this treatment on the next release for the Rivieras on "Our Love" for #513. The original flip side was "Midnight Flyer", but because of a competing version by none other than Nat Cole, a new tune was used for subsequent releases of #513 - "True Love Is Hard To Find".


Unfortunately for the Rivieras, their third record for the label was no charm, as with either flip side, it just did not click with the record buying public. With a short passage of time, Coed Records had the group back in the studio with another try at their version of a pop tune. This time it was "11th Hour Melody" a haunting song that reached some success with a recording by former Duke Ellington vocalist, Al Hibbler for Decca in 1956. The other side of the release was a song called "Since I Made You Cry" on Coed #522. To the group's surprise the public preferred "Cry" and it did dent the pop charts top one hundred but not nearly enough to get the group further fame and fortune. Coed decided to give the formula one more try and in 1960 release #529 featured another Glen Miller song "Moonlight Cocktails" backed with "A Blessing of Love". By the new decade it seemed that the formula for success had run its short path and Coed Records had two more recordings by the Rivieras during 1960. "Great Big Eyes" and "My Friend" were on #538 and late in the year #542 featured "Easy To Remember" and "Stay In My Heart", and both did not generate any popularity.


The following year was the time that Coed Records and the Rivieras both came to the end of the line. There was one last release on #561 - "Eldorado" and "Refrigerator" which disappeared as fast as the label. So the end had come and the Rivieras faded into the history pages leaving us with two memorable tunes and a short recording history that left us with a nice collection emphasizing their version of pop music standards. There was an LP of the Coed sides and a couple of unreleased tunes that may be in print in CD format. That would make a fitting postscript for the story of The Rivieras.


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