31 August 2010

Ultimate Singles Jukebox [Slot 123]

California Sun
b/w "H.B. Goose Step"
The Rivieras
Written by Henry Glover
Produced by Morris Levy
Riviera Records R-1401
Recorded and Released 1964

Since summer is now looking at us in the rear-view mirror, it seems only proper that our fourth and final jukebox single in tribute to Henry Glover would be forever associated with perpetual warmth. But in reaching that stage in the music listener's consciousness, it took some weird turns, indeed.

In 1961, Glover was essentially a free agent. Having left King Records in the late 1950s, he followed with a short stint at Roulette Records. But now he had a record to peddle to EMI called "California Sun." Oddly enough, the song was assigned to veteran New Orleans R&B singer Joe Jones, who was looking for a follow up to his Top 5 hit from 1960, "You Talk Too Much." Jones' version of "California Sun" is given the classic Crescent City arrangement popularized by such local legends as Fats Domino and Allen Touissant; the horn chart dominates the melody, and Jones certainly delivers a solid vocal.

It reached #85 on the charts and became an afterthought.

But that prelude is important to note, because most fans of the song identify "California Sun" with the Beach Boys sound, which did not become ubiquitous on the radio until well into 1962.

Enter five teenagers in 1964 from . . . South Bend Central High School in Indiana. The Rivieras took their name from the Buick automobile made in the heartland of the Midwest. The boys were part of the "frat rock" movement in the early 1960s, playing high school dances and college parties. Somehow, they created a garage rock classic that fused the California surf sound with the burgeoning British Invasion on the verge of dominating the American music scene.

The Rivieras' version of "California Sun" - released on the local Riviera label - is memorable for its cheesy organ and the monotone vocal of guitarist Marty "Bo" Fortson. Originally stocked only at the local South Bend Kreske's, it eventually got regional and national distribution, and raced all the way to #5 on the US pop chart.

Almost every decade since, this one-hit wonder has crept back into the musical lexicon, either via The Rivieras' version in movie soundtracks (Good Morning Vietnam and The Doors) or spirited new covers by artists like The Ramones, Brian Wilson and Chris Isaak.

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