California Sun

Album: Let's Have A Party (1964)
Charted: 5


  • "California Sun" is a cheery, straightforward song with a shadowy, convoluted history, so let's try to fill in the gaps as best we can. It was originally credited as written by Henry Glover and Morris Levy. Glover was a producer for an independent record label King Records; Levy was the founder and owner of Roulette Records, which Tommy James told Songfacts was run by the mafia. Their song ended up being recorded by the New Orleans singer Joe Jones and released by EMI, fizzling out after barely scratching the top 100.

    The Rivieras then covered it, and launched themselves into history by becoming one-hit wonders. So, were The Rivieras from Orange County, California, during this heyday of the surf rock revolution? Nope, they were from South Bend, Indiana, specifically alumni of South Bend Central High School. And they were literally a teenage garage band, in which the lead singer Marty "Bo" Fortson left shortly after this single came out to join the Marines and go off to Vietnam. The other band members dropped out one by one under pressure from their parents to go on to college and stop this rock 'n' roll nonsense at once.
  • The cover of the original album Let's Have A Party shows the Rivieras in white dress shirts and all posed around a Buick Riviera facing the camera. That's what they named their band after. Check the plates: Illinois license plate #EB8811.
  • Despite its obscure beginnings, "California Sun" has become a standard on radio, TV, film, commercials, song samples, YouTube videos, tourism advertising, and even the occasional video game. It's also been covered by The Ramones, The Beach Boys, Frankie Avalon, The Shondells, and dozens more. Some of the more notable films it was used in include Good Morning Vietnam and Jackass The Movie. And of course, any tourism-related advertising, such as ads for the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, will happily play this song over the video.
  • Where is Rivieras lead singer Marty Fortson today? According to a 1999 article by Bob Greene, he's managing a furniture store.

Comments: 9

  • Denise From The Mitten from MiYou have the chorus words backward. They go... THEY'LL WALK, AND, I'LL WALK THEY'LL TWIST AND I'LL TWIST...ETC.. Your say "I'll" and then "They". Great Song.
  • Jlizard from Indianapolis, InWe sang karaoke at the Green Onion in South Bend which Marty Fortson co owned in the nineties. Terry Klein from Cartoon Violence did the sound and Marty's rendition Warm California Sun would totally rock the place when he sang. I got the biggest kick as a DOORS fan that the song was used at the beginning of Oliver Stone's movie. Who is William J Loyer?
  • John Swoveland Bass Guitarist (the Riverias) from South Bend, In.Marty (lead singer) and Joe (lead guitarist) have passed.
  • C from ChicagoThe license plate on the album cover is not Indiana, it's Land of Lincoln, Illinois.
  • William {bill} Sheedy from IllinoisI was the drummer for Dave and the Detomics and this was our first time playing in front of such large crowds. Some others on the tour were the Kinks, Paul Peterson, and the Hollywood Argyles. Great times.
  • William {bill} Sheedy from IllinoisI toured through Illinois with these guys back in the 60s. They were a great bunch of guys. We had a lot in common because we also were a garage band from Illinois and pretty close to the same age. Have lost contact with them over the years. We toured with them in Springfield, Champaign, and Decatur. great song and great group.
  • Jennifur Sun from RamonaThis tune just ROCKS. Love love love that organ and the drums. Have heard that the drummer is now deceased?
  • Ernie from Littleton, CoI met Marty in 1986. He was working for my friend's wife on the assembly line at Bendix. My friend invited me to a benefit dance where the Rivieras were playing, the they were fantastic. Now, That night was more important to me than the time I got drunk with Tiny Tim at Roy Radin's home on Long Island so many years ago.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn February 23rd 1964, "California Sun" by the Rivieras peaked at #5 (for 1 week) on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; it had entered the chart on January 19th at position #70 and spent 10 weeks on the Top 100 (and for 4 of those 10 weeks it was on the Top 10)...
    Was originally recorded by Joe Jones in 1961; on March 28th, 1961 it entered the Top 100 for a three week stay, peaking at #89.
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