In 1958, a young guitarist named John Henry Ramistella met Alan Freed, one of the biggest figures in early rock ’n’ roll. The meeting was in New York, but Ramistella was from Baton Rouge, La., and Freed suggested he change his name to Rivers after the great Mississippi that flowed through his home town. Johnny Rivers he became.
It was the first of several chance meetings that pushed Rivers along. Audrey Williams, first wife of Hank Williams, persuaded Rivers to go to Nashville, Tenn., where he recorded along with Roger Miller, among others. Ricky Nelson recorded one of Rivers’ songs, “I’ll Make Believe.” According to music industry lore, Elvis Presley played Rivers a test pressing of the Chuck Berry song “Memphis” and then Rivers bought the arrangement and recorded it himself, outselling the Berry original and upsetting Presley.
In 1963 Rivers made his first big splash. The theme song from the TV series “Secret Agent,” “Secret Agent Man,” hit No. 3 on the charts and went gold. When he then turned to ballads, Rivers achieved his only No. 1 recording, “Poor Side of Town.” More hit covers followed, such as the Miracles’ “Tracks of My Tears” and the Four Tops’ “Baby, I Need Your Lovin’.” Then came “Summer Rain.”
Never miss a local story.
Rivers has been pretty much mostly touring these past years. His latest CD is “Live at Cache Creek,” and he returns there Saturday, Nov. 19 (8 p.m.; $35-$55; cachecreek.com).
The Grand Sierra in Reno continues its impressive roster of diverse entertainment Saturday, Nov. 19, when Dream Theater, one of the country’s most progressive metal bands, makes an appearance in support of its new album “The Astonishing.” It’s Dream Theater’s 13th, a concept album dealing with a future society without music, with fights between an oppressive empire and rebels. Not an entirely unfamiliar story line. (8 p.m.; $26.69-$80.73; Ticketmaster)
Comedian Adam Carolla has never been known to hold back. The host of the podcast, “The Adam Carolla Show,” and Spike TV’s “Catch a Contractor,” can hold forth on almost any topic, from sports to dating, and there was just an election. He, along with Lewis Black,” occupies one of the top positions among in what have become known as “ranters.” He’s at the Silver Legacy on Saturday, Nov. 19. (8 p.m.; $29.50-$39.50; silverlegacy.com)