The Rivieras

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The Rivieras
Also known as The Playmates (1962-1963)
Wildcat (2000-2010)[1]
Origin South Bend, Indiana, United States
Genres Rock & roll, frat rock
Years active 1962–1966, 2000-2010
Labels Riviera, Columbia, Vogue Schallplatten
Past members Marty Fortson (deceased)
Paul Dennert
Doug Gean
Otto Nuss
Joe Pennell (deceased)
Jim Boal
Willie Gaut
Bill Dobslaw
Terry McCoy
Stanley "Chip" Baginski
Jeff McKew

The Rivieras were a rock and roll group[2] formed in the early 1960s in South Bend, Indiana, United States. They are best known for their hit "California Sun", written by Henry Glover. Despite their background, they popularized their own variety of surf music, with a unique organ-lead sound. The band was also notable for being one of the last American rock and roll bands to top the charts before the British Invasion. After various line-up changes, the band folded in 1966. Since then, there have been various reunions.


The Rivieras were made up of teenagers from South Bend Central High School. (This group should not be confused with the Coed Records East coast rhythm & blues group of the same name who had hits in the late 50s and the early 60s.) Originally called the Playmates, they were forced to change their names as there was already a group playing under that name. They decided to rename themselves after the Buick Riviera.[3]

The Rivieras were one of the many groups in America that became part of the "frat rock" movement in the early 1960s. The group had their greatest hit in 1964 with "California Sun", which reached No. 5 on the main US pop music chart. In fact, "California Sun" was one of the last pure American rock-and-roll songs on the Billboard Hot 100 chart before the "British Invasion", reaching its peak chart position the same week as the Beatles topped the chart with "I Want to Hold Your Hand".[4]

In addition to their one hit, the Rivieras scored three more songs in 1964 that dipped into the Billboard Hot 100: "Let's Have a Party" (#99), "Little Donna" (#93) and "Rockin' Robin" (#96).[4] Also that year, their debut album, Let's Have a Party, peaked at No. 115 on the Billboard 200.[4]

Both personal reasons and drastic changes in pop music led to the split-up of the group in 1966.[4]

Nuss, Gean, and Fortson revived the Rivieras in 1980, and in 1987, this lineup recorded a 10-track vanity album to be sold at appearances.[5]

The band was revived in 2000 under the name Wildcat by original members Marty Fortson (vocals, rhythm guitar), Joe Pennell (lead guitar), and Paul Dennert (drums) in addition to Kevin Szucsits (keyboard, bass). The name change came as a result of original Rivieras members Otto Nuss (organ) and Doug Gean (bass) retiring from performing, and was also named after the Buick Wildcat. With the name change came a style change as well, playing a more modern, hard rock sound.[6]

Founding member Joe Pennell died on April 21, 2011, at the age of 66.[7] Marty Fortson died on September. 26, 2012.[8]


  • Marty "Bo" Fortson (born 1945): lead vocals and rhythm guitar (1962-1963)
  • Doug Gean (born 1951): bass guitar (1962-)
  • Joe Pennell: guitar (1962-1963)
  • Otto Nuss: organ (1962-1966)
  • Paul Dennert: drums (1962-1964)
  • Stanley "Chip" Baginski: drums
  • Bill Dobslaw: lead vocals (1963-)
  • Willy Gaut: vocals, rhythm guitar (1963-1965)
  • Jim Boal: lead guitar (1963-1965)
  • Bobby Wantuch: drums

Fortson and Pennell left the group for the Marine Corps shortly after recording "California Sun". They were replaced by Jim Boal (lead guitar) and Willie Gaut (vocals, rhythm guitar) and Bobby Wantuch (drums). The band's manager Bill Dobslaw took over as lead vocalist on recordings of subsequent lesser hits.[3]

Near the end of the band's life, other members left the group under parental pressure to focus on education. Various replacements were used to fill in the vacancies including Jeff McKew (vocals, guitar) and Terry McCoy (drums).



Let's Have A Party (1964)[edit]

Let's Have A Party
Rivieras LetsHaveAParty 1964.jpg
Studio album by The Rivieras
Released 1964
Genre Rock & Roll, Frat Rock, Garage Rock
Label U.S.A. 102
  1. California Sun
  2. Danny Boy
  3. Twist & Shout
  4. Little Donna
  5. Church Key
  6. Killer Joe
  7. Lets Have A Party
  8. Rockin' Robin
  9. H.B. Goose Step
  10. Keep A Knockin'
  11. Oh, Boy
  12. When The Saints
Personnel [9][edit]
  • Marty "Bo" Fortson: vocals, rhythm guitar
  • Joe Pennell: lead guitar
  • Otto Nuss: organ, piano
  • Doug Gean: bass guitar
  • Paul Denner: drums

Let's Stomp with The Rivieras (1964)[edit]

Label: Norton, CD and LP, Released 2000[10]

  1. Arizona Sun
  2. I'm Lookin' For Someone To Love LISTEN
  3. Comin' Back Home
  4. Sarah Lee
  5. Johnny B. Goode
  6. Rosie Lee
  7. When You Look At Me Like This LISTEN
  8. I've Had It LISTEN
  9. Blueberry Hill
  10. Let's Dance LISTEN
  11. Surfin' Fun
  12. What'd I Say
  13. Mama Don't Allow LISTEN
  14. Let's Stomp
  15. Peggy Sue
  16. Cherry Pie
  17. Lakeview Lane
  18. Do You Wanna Dance LISTEN
  19. Wild Weekend
  20. Money
  21. Shout
  22. Let's Stomp

Campus Party (1965)[edit]

Campus Party
Rivieras CampusParty 1965.jpg
Studio album by The Rivieras
Released 1965
Genre Rock & Roll, Frat Rock, Garage Rock
Label Riviera
  1. California Sun '65
  2. Hanky Panky
  3. Tossin' And Turnin'
  4. Somebody New
  5. Money Honey
  6. Bug Juice
  7. Fortune Teller
  8. Doctor Feelgood
  9. Comin' Back Home
  10. Church Key Pt. 2
  11. Louie Louie
  12. Farmer John
Personnel [9][edit]
  • Jeff McKew: vocals, rhythm guitar
  • Jim Boal: lead guitar
  • Otto Nuss: organ, piano
  • Doug Gean: bass guitar
  • Terry McCoy: drums
  • Willie Gaut (vocals, rhythm guitar)
  • Ray Eberhart: lead guitar / vocal (1966–1967)
  • John Swoveland: bass guitar (1966–1967)


  • "Played On / California Sun" (Riviera #1401) La Porte, Indiana.[12]
  • "California Sun / H.B. Goose Step"(Riviera #1401) South Bend, Indiana.[13] LISTEN
  • "Let's Have a Party / Little Donna" (Riviera #1402) La Porte, Indiana.[14]
  • "Rockin' Robin / Battle Line" (Riviera #1403) La Porte, Indiana.[15]
  • "Whole Lotta Shakin' / Rip It Up" (Riviera #1405) South Bend, Indiana.[16]
  • "Whole Lotta Shakin' / Whole Lotta Shakin'" (Riviera #1405 DJ) South Bend, Indiana.[17]
  • "Let's Go to Hawaii / Lakeview Lane" (Riviera #1406) South Bend, Indiana.[18]
  • "Somebody New / Somebody Asked Me" (Riviera #1407) La Porte, Indiana.[19]
  • "Never Feel the Pain / Bug Juice" (Riviera #1409) Mishawaka, Indiana.[20]
  • "California Sun / Little Donna / Back In The Sun" (Riviera #1410) South Bend, Indiana.[21]
  • "California Sun '65" LISTEN


  1. ^
  2. ^ "The Rivieras". Discogs. Retrieved 22 December 2014. 
  3. ^ a b "The Rivieras". 1964-01-25. Retrieved 2011-12-08. 
  4. ^ a b c d Koda, Cub. "The Rivieras". AllMusic. Retrieved 2011-12-08.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page). Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page). Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ - accessed April 2011
  8. ^ -- accessed October 2012
  9. ^ a b "". 2011-08-21. Retrieved 2011-12-08. 
  10. ^ Let's Stomp with The Rivieras
  11. ^ Let's Stomp with The Rivieras
  12. ^ "". Retrieved 2011-12-08. 
  13. ^ "". Retrieved 2011-12-08. 
  14. ^ "". Retrieved 2011-12-08. 
  15. ^ "". Retrieved 2011-12-08. 
  16. ^ "". Retrieved 2011-12-08. 
  17. ^ "". Retrieved 2011-12-08. 
  18. ^ "". Retrieved 2011-12-08. 
  19. ^ "". Retrieved 2011-12-08. 
  20. ^ "". Retrieved 2011-12-08. 
  21. ^ "". Retrieved 2011-12-08.