Johnny Rivers comes home for the first time in years

He is about to turn 70, but he says the emphasis should be on his all-star band.

It's a homecoming show 25 years in the making. Johnny Rivers, singer, songwriter, guitarist, producer and record label head plays B.B. King's this weekend.


"I was born in the Bronx, it really feels special to be playing Manhattan, to be playing the island where I was born," says Rivers from his longtime home of Los Angeles. "This is my homecoming show."


Despite 17 gold records, 29 chart hits, two Grammys and more than 30 million in sales, it's "Secret Agent Man," which was originally recorded as the theme for the 1960s TV show of that name, that's crossed generational divides.


"That's because of 'Austin Powers,' that brought it back to life," says Rivers. "It's been used in so many other films ... and advertisements."


A nice little paycheck then? Rivers laughs. He's always had a good business head and hasn't suffered from the vagaries of the music business.

"What makes any great song endure is what we call the hook, the guitar riff," he says. "That one's really just a take on the 'James Bond' theme. ... There was all that spy stuff popular at that time. That's the thing I'm really proud of, my guitar playing, which gets overlooked. When I first met Eddie Van Halen he said, 'Wow, Johnny Rivers! I learned to play guitar listening to you.'"

Hits of the 70s

This show precedes Rivers’ 70th birthday in November.

“I don’t even think about it,” he says. He’s concentrating on something else. “I’m looking forward to playing with these guys,” he says of his band: Will Lee, Jimmy Vi-vino and Rich Pagano. The trio also play in a Beatles tribute called The Fab Faux.

“They knock those Beatles songs out of the park,” exclaims Rivers, who can claim to have partied with the original Fab Four.

If you go

Johnny Rivers ‘A 70th Birthday Celebration’

Friday, 8 p.m.

B.B. King Blues Club

237 W. 42nd St.

$38, 212-997-4144

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