The Rivieras
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(clockwise from bottom left) Joe Pennell,  Paul Dennert, Marty Fortson, Otto Nuss, Doug Gean
A South Bend, IN, rock & roll band, the Rivieras' one big hit was one of the last great gasps of pure American rock & roll before the British Invasion took over the charts
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Original Members:
    Marty Fortson - rhythm guitar / lead vocals - replaced by Jim Boal
    Otto Nuss - organ
    Doug Gean - bass guitar
    Paul Dennert - drums
    Joe Pennell - lead guitar - replaced by Willie Gaut

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The Playmates

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 The Rivieras were made up of teenagers from South Bend Central High School and LaPorte. Originally called the Playmates, they were forced to change their name as there was already a band with that name. They renamed themselves after an automobile, the Buick Rivieras.   Original members were  lead singer/rhythm guitarist Marty Fortson, Joe Pennell lead guitar, Doug Gean bass guitar, Otto Nuss played organ and Paul Dennert  drums. provided the percussive backbeat. With help from the Bill Dobslaw they began playing a steady weekends Tipton Terrace, a dance hall in nearby La Porte, shortly after the start of the '62 school year. 

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Fortson and Pennell joined the Marines Corps shortly after recording "California Sun". They were replaced by Jim Boal (lead guitar) and Willie Gaut (vocals, rhythm guitar). and Bobby Wantuch (drums). Then the  band's manager, Bill Dobslaw, took over as lead vocalist. Other members left the group under parental pressure to concentrate on education. Replacements included Jeff McKew (vocals, guitar) and Terry McCoy (drums). Rocky Geans, cousin of Doug Gean, was also a replacement that played lead/bass for over 25 years.

As manager Dobslaw booked them into Chicago's Columbia studio in the summer of '63, where they recorded "Played On" (an original ballad by Fortson) and a remake of "California Sun"; U.S.A. Records did the distribution, creating Riviera, a "vanity" label of sorts for the band. "Played On" didn't get played but its flip was picked up by Chicago powerhouse WLS around the beginning of December and into to its top ten.

The bandmembers' relatively young ages, coupled with numerous personnel changes caused by the draft and the changing musical tastes which was partially due to the British invasion, caused the group to break up by 1966. Nuss, Gean, and Fortson reunited the Rivieras in the mid-'80s, recording and doing local shows, sounding as great as ever.   During the 1980s, Fortson, Gean, and Nuss reunited to perform again.

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Rivieras 1995
L-R: Otto Nuss, Marty Fortson, Doug Gean, Rocky Gean, Buddy Flora

The band was revived in 2000 under the name Wildcat by Fortson, Pennell, and Dennert with Kevin Szucsits on keyboard and bass. The name, from the Buick Wildcat, followed the retirement of original members Doug Gean and Otto Nuss. With the name change came a more modern, hard rock sound.

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Rivieras Today

Though their time in the spotlight was brief, their one big hit continues to define for future generations everything that's pulsatingly great about American teen-band rock & roll.

Joe Pennell died on April 21, 2011, at the age of 66.
Marty Fortson died on September 26, 2012, at age 67.

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