Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Passings: Joe Rivers of Johnnie and Joe (1935 - 2016)

Update (2/4/16, 10:05 AM) - We are thrilled to announce, despite the many reports we received yesterday, that Joe Rivers is alive and well.

Joe Rivers, one half of the duo Johnnie and Joe, has died at the age of 78.
Rivers was working as solo artist with pianist, writer and arranger Rex Garvin who had a working relationship with R&B entrepreneur Zell Sanders. When Garvin played Joe's music for Sanders, she felt there was something missing and suggested a duet with her daughter Johnnie Richardson.

The new duos first single, I'll Be Spinning / Feel Alright, was initially released on Sanders' J&S Records but, as its popularity grew, a wider distribution deal was needed. Chess Records came to the rescue and I'll Be Spinning rose to number 10 on the R&B Singles chart in 1957.

Johnnie and Joe's second single, It Was There / There Goes My Heart, was also picked up by Chess but did not chart. Their next release was the one that would push them into the mainstream, Over the Mountain. Recorded as a trio with Rex Garvin, the record shot to number 3 on the R&B and 8 on the Pop charts on the strength of national exposure through shows like American Bandstand.

The flip side of Over the Mountain also became a hit with My Baby's Gone On, On peaking at 15 on the R&B Singles.

Johnnie and Joe continued to record but never had another charting hit. In 1958, their records were released on J&S, Chess, Gone and ABC-Paramount and even started their own label, Dice Records, but to no avail.

Although they had no further chart success, the duo did continue to perform in the 70's and 80's on the oldies circuit and recorded an album in 1982, Kingdom of Love. Johnnie died in 1958 after suffering a stroke at the age of 53. Rivers continued to perform with new partner Barbara Parrett Toomer of the Toys.