Shreveport a Go-Go

Johnny Rivers playing the historic Strand Theatre in Shreveport last month.

Johnny Rivers playing the historic Strand Theatre in Shreveport last month.

My mother loved Johnny Rivers, the rock and roll singer famous for such hits as “Secret Agent Man,” “Summer Rain,” “Memphis,” “Baby, I Need Your Loving” and “Poor Side of Town.”

We lived in Rome, Georgia, until I was in sixth grade and Mother always listened to a Chattanooga radio station, WFLI — 1070 on the AM radio dial. “Jet Fly, WFLI!” the deejays would say. The reception came in better at night, I remember.

We owned an electric typewriter that typed in four different colors – red, black, blue and green. We also had a half-dozen ballpoint pens that wrote in those same four colors. Mother would buy stacks of blank postcards and various kinds of stationery and she, my brother and I would spend countless hours at the kitchen table writing and typing notes to radio stations — especially WFLI — requesting they play Johnny Rivers songs. We used fake names and all those different colors of ink and paper to make it seem as if there were legions of Johnny Rivers fans out there in radio land. (Which, I’m pretty sure there actually were. They just might not have been as prolific with the correspondence as we were.)

We’d also take turns calling the radio station, which was long distance, to request Johnny Rivers songs.

The Strand Theatre is much like our Tennessee Theatre -- only smaller.

The Strand Theatre is much like our Tennessee Theatre — only smaller.

We moved to Columbus, Georgia, when I was in sixth grade, and we continued this same routine with Mother’s new favorite radio station, WCLS. The legendary disc jockey Scott Shannon was there at the time, I recall.

Of course, Mother also bought every Johnny Rivers record as soon as it came out. She spent hours alone in the living room listening to them over and over. Sometimes she would put her ear right against the stereo speaker so she could literally hear every breath he drew.

Dad took Mother to see Johnny Rivers at the famous Whisky A Go Go nightclub on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood. They sat at a front table every night for a week, they told us. Finally, Johnny Rivers invited them back to his dressing room one night. Mother promptly lost her contact lens and everyone, including Johnny Rivers, got down on their hands and knees and tried unsuccessfully to find it. They went to Detroit to see him, too.

In 1969, when I was in eighth grade, Mom and Dad took my brother and me to the Atlanta International Pop Festival because Johnny Rivers was playing there. The car overheated on the backed-up interstate, I remember, and we had to stop and let it cool off. But we made it to the Atlanta International Raceway and the music festival in time to be standing by a fence near the stage when Johnny Rivers’ helicopter touched down in a nearby grassy area. He ran right beside us to get to the stage. (This was a month before the much more famous Woodstock festival, and I could not believe my luck to get to go to the one in Atlanta. None of my friends’ parents were taking them to rock festivals, I can guarantee!)

Johnny Rivers in Shreveport.

Johnny Rivers in Shreveport.

I tell you all this to explain why it was important to me to see Johnny Rivers last month. He was playing in Shreveport, of all places, and Alan and I got tickets on the seventh row in the historic Strand Theatre.

Now, Shreveport, as a city, does not have much to recommend it unless you like to go to casinos. Its downtown is like Knoxville’s was 20 years ago. Other than around the casinos, it’s pretty dead. The downtown Hilton where we stayed was very dated. Uber doesn’t even operate there. We took taxis, which were old and rundown. Every young person we met told us there is nothing to do in Shreveport if you don’t want to gamble. The young folks said they spend their off time driving three hours back and forth to Houston for fun.

We flew into Shreveport on Saturday and flew back home on Sunday. And, let me tell you, it was worth it. Johnny Rivers is 73 now. I was concerned that he might be losing his voice or his stage presence. He’s not. He’s still got “it,” whatever “it” is that Mother responded to so passionately.

He played all his hits. He was engaging. The audience was large and enthusiastic, although I do have to admit to seeing one person pulling along an oxygen tank.

Mother passed away several years ago. But I felt that she was with us that night, listening to his every breath.

Yep. We're at the Shreveport airport.

Yep. We’re at the Shreveport airport.

Interior of the Strand Theatre.

Interior of the Strand Theatre.

Thanks to a Shreveport resident we met at the airport, we ended up at Bistro Byronz. If you find yourself in Shreveport, go there.

Thanks to a Shreveport resident we met at the airport, we ended up at Bistro Byronz. If you find yourself in Shreveport, go there as quickly as possible.

The margaritas and martinis were delicious.

The margaritas and martinis were delicious. So was the pinot grigio.

We split a crawfish tartine: wonderful homemade bread covered with sauteed crawfish, creamed spinach and cheese and broiled to tasty gooeyness.

We split a crawfish tartine: wonderful homemade bread covered with sauteed crawfish, creamed spinach and cheese and broiled to tasty gooeyness.

A very fresh and delicious salad came with Alan's meal. He raved about the white balsamic vinaigrette that topped it.

A very fresh and delicious salad came with Alan’s meal. He raved about the white balsamic vinaigrette that topped it. And there’s some more of that bread.

Alan loved his fish of the day - redfish - and the zucchini and squash "noodles" covered with marinara that came with it.

Alan loved his fish of the day – redfish – and the zucchini and squash “noodles” covered with marinara that came with it.

My blackened shrimp salad with fabulous orange rosemary vinaigrette was a tangy treat.

My blackened shrimp salad with fabulous orange rosemary vinaigrette was a tangy treat.

We loved the "birthday cake" bread pudding we split for dessert. (The bread pudding changes frequently.)

We loved the “birthday cake” bread pudding we split for dessert. (The bread pudding changes frequently.)

Here’s the good stuff. Snippets of Johnny Rivers singing “Mountain of Love” and then “Memphis” and “Secret Agent Man.”

A video posted by @cmmoxley on

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A video posted by @cmmoxley on

A video posted by @cmmoxley on

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20 Responses to Shreveport a Go-Go

  1. Maria Cornelius, on May 5th, 2016 at 10:02 am said:

    Heartwarming and tender story. Love this Blue Streak. (My grandmother was smitten with Tom Jones.)

  2. Phyllis Nichols, on May 5th, 2016 at 10:09 am said:

    What a great tribute to your mom! Her enthusiasm for Johnny Rivers was the training grounds for one fantastic journalist!

  3. Sara Pinnell, on May 5th, 2016 at 10:17 am said:

    what a great story!! Thank you for sharing this!!

  4. Cynthia Moxley, on May 5th, 2016 at 10:18 am said:

    Thanks, Maria. Yes, Tom Jones certainly had his share of ardent admirers!

  5. Cynthia Moxley, on May 5th, 2016 at 10:24 am said:

    Thanks, Phyllis and Sara. I was a little nervous about writing this one.

  6. Pat Ball, on May 5th, 2016 at 11:22 am said:

    What a beautiful memory of your Mother and I am a Johnny Rivers fan too. I am sure your Mom was dancing in the aisles with you Saturday night. Cynthia, your Mom instilled a love of music in you at an early age.

  7. Cynthia Moxley, on May 5th, 2016 at 11:55 am said:

    Pat: Thanks. I have discovered that once you start listening to any of his songs, they get stuck in your head for hours or days!

  8. Linda Underwood, on May 5th, 2016 at 12:06 pm said:

    Johnny Rivers is a favorite of mine too. Since I grew up listening to WFLI, I snickered when reading your sweet story of listening with your Mom. Good times, good memories…

  9. Alan Carmichael, on May 5th, 2016 at 2:11 pm said:

    Another highlight is that Rivers and his regular band were joined on stage for several numbers by rock and roll greats James Burton and Joe Osborn, both from Louisiana. Burton, known as the “master of the telecaster,” is a guitar legend who is in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, introduced at his induction by Keith Richards. Joe Osborn is top bassist. Both have played with rock royalty. It was a special treat.

  10. Sara Rose, on May 5th, 2016 at 2:15 pm said:

    Mox, I think you just wrote my third favorite Blue Streak of all time. (My favorites are your 2 columns about Jack.) Such a touching story!

  11. Cindy Hassil, on May 5th, 2016 at 2:23 pm said:

    I love this story! Thanks for sharing!

  12. Cynthia Moxley, on May 5th, 2016 at 3:04 pm said:

    Linda: Wow, another WFLI fan! That’s great!

    Alan: Thanks for mentioning those guys. They were fantastic, too.

    Sara and Cindy: Thanks so much for your comments.

  13. Carol Bradley, on May 5th, 2016 at 3:18 pm said:

    Love, love, love this, Mox! I was crazy about Johnny Rivers’ songs too, but never realized the same person was singing them all. I laughed out loud at the thought of you using four different colors of pens to fool the deejays. You absolutely must send this to Johnny Rivers.

  14. Carol Bradley, on May 5th, 2016 at 3:21 pm said:

    P.S. I just got on Amazon and ordered his greatest hits CD for $4.99. I’ll wear that thing out!

  15. Gina Buffum, on May 5th, 2016 at 4:11 pm said:

    This was wonderful! Made me go to YouTube and play “Baby I Need Your Loving”…loved it, still do. That theatre is lovely! Nice Post.

  16. Cynthia Moxley, on May 5th, 2016 at 9:20 pm said:

    Carol: You got a deal on that! Actually, his covers of other people’s songs usually sold more than the originals. He has that voice.

    Gina: You will be hearing that in your head all night! Thanks for your comment.

  17. Marsha Grieve, on May 6th, 2016 at 2:04 pm said:

    I loved reading the stories of your early memories with your Mom. We should all get together sometime and write a story or two about our Moms! Funny thing is I have always been a Johnny Rivers fan; in fact, I have one of his Greatest hits CD’s in my car! Has he ever played in Knoxville? Since he’s doing these nostalgia tours, how about we find out how to get him booked in Knoxville — maybe 2017?

  18. Cynthia Moxley, on May 6th, 2016 at 8:30 pm said:

    Marsha: I am with you, girlfriend! Already talked to Rachel Ford, executive director of the Knoxville Symphony (Johnny Rivers sometimes plays Pops shows), and my friend Ashley Capps. You weighing in could only help! (And anybody else!)

  19. Deborah Sams, on May 6th, 2016 at 10:08 pm said:

    I was enchanted reading these childhood memories. I, too, like Johnny Rivers. Love his songs ” Slow Dancing” and “Poor Side of Town.”

  20. Melynda Whetsel, on May 10th, 2016 at 9:29 pm said:

    Thanks so much for sharing this story!!
    My mother took a nap on the living room sofa most afternoons listing to Andy Williams (Moon River) and the like–no where near as cool as Johnny Rivers –but great memories and history–thanks for the remembering.

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