enjoyed a short (less than two years) recording career from 1954 to 1955. They formed in Jamaica Queens, NY, and at one time included actor Lou Gossett
who claims he sung with them on "A Thousand Eyes." Led by Eugene Pearson
, the Rivileers most stable lineup consisted of neighborhood and high school buds: Pearson
, Milton Edwards, Earl Lennard, Herb Crosby, and Alphonso Delaney. They cut a demo and left it as a resume in a record shop. Sol Rabinowitz
(a salesman for a record distributor) heard the multi-song demo and decided to venture into the recording business. Pearson
had previously sung with the Embers
and co-wrote "Paradise Hill" for them in 1953, a year before the Rivileers first single hit the streets.
Rabinowitz redid the songs with jazz musicians giving the tracks an upscale sound, but after futile attempts at leasing the masters (he cut four), Rabinowitz decided to go it on his own and formed Baton Records. The label's first single (1954) "A Thousand Stars" (written by Pearson) backed by "Hey Chiquita" was credited as Gene Pearson & the Rivileers. Despite limited distribution the record was Top Ten in many cities. Baton followed it up with "Forever" b/w "Darling, Farewell," a hit as well, but not as big. The first two singles bore the catalog numbers Baton 200 and 201, the Rivileers third single "Eternal Love" b/w "Carolyn" catalog number was 205, indicating Rabinowitz had issued three non-Rivileers recordings in the interim. (Buddy Tate and his Band cut Baton single #202.) Unlike their first two singles the Rivileers' third effort flopped, but Baton scored with the Buddy Tate record.
The following year (1955) saw the release of "For Sentimental Reasons" b/w "I Want to See My Baby," which chocked up some sales, trailed by "Don't Ever Leave Me" b/w "Little Girl" the same year but no more records followed and the group disbanded. Baton reissued "A Thousand Stars" in 1957 with a new flip, "Who Is That Girl," but that was the final shot for the Jamaica Queens hopefuls. Every single after the first was credited as simply the Rivileers. Some unreleased Rivileers' recordings have surfaced, including "Deep Down Inside," a yearning ballad.
Kathy Young & the Innocents had an even bigger hit with "A Thousand Stars" in 1960; Young was only 15 when she redid it, the Los Angeles native was quite familiar with the song cause the Rivileers' original was number one in L.A. in 1954. The song, which also was redone by Britain's Billy Fury (1961), has amassed more than a million performances with B.M.I. Pearson also wrote "Eternal Love" and "Don't Ever Leave Me" for the Rivileers and later sang with the Cleftones (co-writing a few of their songs including "Time Is Running out on Love"); he then replaced Dock Green in the Drifters and sang second tenor on many of their hits from 1962 to 1966. He sandwiched a two-year stint with the military between the Cleftones and Drifters stints and retired as a New York Transit Police Officer in 1987. Delaney is a Reverend but the career paths of the others are unknown.
Baton had a couple more hits with the Hearts before Zell Sanders got them, but faded from the scene before the '60s rolled in. The Rivileers regrouped June 6, 1999 for the A Great Day In Harlem event and talked about old times. Eugene Pearson passed April 6, 2000 in Silver Springs, MD, where he relocated after retiring from the New York Transit Authority. ~ Andrew Hamilton, Rovi