James Rivers has played on some of New Orleans’ most classic hits, and continues to please crowds today with his versatile repertoire and mastery of multiple instruments. He has also penned music for six Clint Eastwood films.
Born in 1938 and raised in the historic Treme neighborhood, Rivers began playing saxophone in the early 1950s. He toured locally and across the nation with R & B greats Eddie Bo and Huey “Piano” Smith, and played on the classic recordings of Bo’s “Every Dog Got His Day,” Frankie Ford’s “Sea Cruise,” and Al “Carnival Time” Johnson’s “Carnival Time.”
He played with Deacon John and the Ivories for a decade, and began fronting his own band, now known as The James Rivers Movement. Along the way he picked up multiple instruments: the tenor, alto, and soprano sax, the flute, harmonica, and bagpipes, with which he now ends his live shows.
Rivers is also known for his work on films by Clint Eastwood. The Hollywood icon heard Rivers play in 1984 while shooting the thriller, “Tightrope,” and asked him to contribute to the soundtrack. Rivers also contributed to “Ratboy,” “Bird,” “A Perfect World,” and “The Bridges of Madison County,” in which he also has a cameo, performing on the bandstand. He also can be seen in the 1996 special, “Eastwood After Hours” recorded at Carnegie Hall.
Rivers tours and performs locally, and can be heard at festivals such as the French Quarter Fest and the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.