Golden Hits Of The 60s” 

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(Henry Glover)

Riviera 1401

No. 5    February 29, 1964




In the begininng, they were hungry teens, the Playmates, [not the Playmates of “Beep Beep” and “What is

Love” top 10 fame] with a plan to play some “frat rock” hot rock ‘n’ roll, get some mates, and make enough

moola to buy a machine like that 1963 Buick Riviera.

Bill Dobslaw was an “old man” of 21 but professed knowledgeable in the ways of the rock ‘n’ roll world.

He knew Ral Donner [the best of the Elvis-like singers], and this impressed Doug Gean (bass), Marty

Fortson (vocals, rhythm guitar),  Otto Nuss (organ) Joe Pennell (lead guitar), and Paul Dennert (drums)–

all attenders of Sout Bend Central, in South Bend, Indiana.


“It was the fall of ’62, we got together,” said Otto Nush, in an exclusive interview.   “and got a start paying

old-time country, rock’n’roll style, in this dance hall in LaPorte [Indiana]; eight dollars a night, per man.

Marty’s parents were square dancers and Bill [Dobslaw] owned this second-floor hall, the Tipton Terrace,

‘bove a bar.    It would hold about 300 kids; standing room only, after about six months. Everybody got to

requesting [JOE JONES’] ‘California Sun,’ fact it got so requested each evening that Bill came up with the

idea of going to Chicago and recording the thing.”


In June 1963, Dobslaw, as the Playmates’ manager, booked an hour of session time in Chicago’s Columbia

Recording Studios.    In three takes, the guys had “California Sun” in the can.    Also cut at the session was

“Played On,” the intended “A” side.    Only a  thousand copies were pressed on Dobslaw’s Riviera label,

and one of these found its way into the hands of  a DJ named Art Roberts.    Art liked the “California Sun”

side, and rode the tune repeatedly on Chicago’s mighty WLS radio.


After just three days of airplay, U.S.A., a small independent Chicago label, picked up national distribution

on the Playmates’ first walling.    (“Played On” was mysteriously pulled off the disk, so part of the group

returned to the studio to tape an instrumental dedicated to record promoter, Howard Bedno: “H. B. Goose

Step.”)     Considering the existence of another group named Playmates–known nationally for  square

sounds–a new moniker was needed.     “We decided to name ourselves after the Buick Riviera’ ” said Otto.

“There was about 30 names to choose from and we had to be something;  besides the Riviera was hailed as

the car of  1963…  Never got one though.    None of us did.    You’ll see our picture on the album with that

’63  Riviera; but it was just a tease, a loaner.”


Before  Dobslaw even got the deal with Jim Golden and Bob Monico’s U.S.A. for   distribution, before

“California Sun” had received much airplay and charted, Joe and Marty had enlisted in the Marines, on

the “buddy plan.”    As Marty recalled to KICKS magazme, “I was in ‘Nam getting shot at, and heard the

record.     I  thought, ‘Oh man,  you blew it.”‘    “California Sun” rocketed into the top 10.


Filling in for Joe and Marty were Jim Boal (lead guitar), Willy Gaut (vocals, rhythm guitar) and on lead

vocals, Bill Dobslaw; that’s right, Riveria Records’ label owner.     “He always wanted to be a rock star,” said

Otto.      “We were a bunch of bananas and he seized the opportunity.    We were pretty much destroyed

once Bill made himself  lead vocalist.


“When you get what you’re after, when the combination is just right, you can play on.    We woulda

probably been much hotter if Joe and Marty had stayed.”


“California  Sun” sold like hotcakes, but their debut album, Campus Party, and the follow-up, featuring

manager Bill on vocals–“Little Donna” (#93, 1964) b/w “Let’s Have  A Party” (#99)–barely cracked the         

listings.    Under parental pressure, another chunk of the Rivieras dropped out of the group to clean up

their educational act.      That left Bill, Doug, Otto and various replacements to carry on with that crude but

distinctive Mid-western surf  ‘n’  party  sound.


A cover Of BOBBY DAY’s  “Rockin’ Robin” held down the number 96 slot for a week in 1964, but later

issuances did not do well.    Let’s have A Party, a highly collectable second  album was issued.    Dobslaw

struggled to keep the “Rivieras” name alive and a functional group together.    Two singles– “Somebody

New” and “Never Felt The Pain”–even appeared under the “Rivieras” name, utilizing local legend Bobby

Whiteside and not a one; not one original member.    Finally, in June 1965–slightly more than two years

after the Playmates had come together–Doug, Otto, Jim Boal and drummer Terry McCoy shut the group



“It just wasn’t there at all,” Naus said.     “We just didn’t have that sound we use to have the sound I wanted-

the Rivieras sound.


“We got lied to throughout the whole thing.     Bill [Dobslaw] was not very honest.    We didn’t get our

money.    There was shenanigans; with Bill sending out other groups as us.      We were dumb, stupid and

naive.    If we had wised up, learned ’bout copyrights, whatnot, they woulda had to pay us writers’ fees and



Otto, Doug and Marty reformed the Rivieras in 1980.     In 1987, to commemorate their  25th anniversary

they recorded 10 tracks for a vanity album sold at appearances.