Get to know some of the musicians scheduled for this year’s RiverFest

Published 12:50 am Saturday, April 29, 2023

PORT NECHES — From contemporary Christian to zydeco, this year’s Port Neches RiverFest entertainment lineup spans every genre.

And it includes a local legend, as well.

RiverFest runs along first weekend in May, so this year’s fun is planned May 3 through May 7.

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On Friday, the Pea Patch Orchestra will take the stage with Jivin’ Gene Bourgeois, a Swamp Pop star.

The Port Arthur native and Gulf Coast Museum Hall of Fame member released “Breaking Up is Hard to Do” in 1959. The song quickly became No. 1 in the country.

“Everyone wants to hear him play that song,” said Museum Director Tom Neal. “It’s funny because he was having problems with his girlfriend, and he was getting all this attention and notoriety, and she kept breaking up with him. But he later married her, so it turned out to be a good thing.”

Also that year, Jivin’ Gene released “Going Out With The Tide,” which was recorded at the KPAC radio station in Port Arthur.

“Back in the days when the radio station went off the air at midnight, they’d use the large room to record,” Neal said. “What was so crazy about Gene is they were trying to record ‘Going Out With The Tide,’ but the band was so loud, they were blowing him out.”

The only option was to separate the singer.

Jivin’ Gene recorded the vocals from the restroom.

“Gene is an amazing guy,” Neal said. “The funniest guy you’ve ever met. And he’s just huge. He never takes credit, but he’s still showing us how to do it. He’s still knocking this out.”

Jivin’ Gene occasionally plays with Southeast Texas band the Rollin’ Bones, who will take the stage Thursday.

Formed by Port Arthur optometrist Barry Davis, the group assembled of Southeast Texas business professionals has played at the Groves Pecan Festival, Port Arthur’s Taste of Gumbo, and can often be heard at the Neches River Wheelhouse.

“There is something for everyone,” RiverFest President Lance Bradley said.

And booking the entertainment is not an easy feat.

“As soon as RiverFest is over this year, we’ll start to plan next year,” Bradley said. “Most groups are lined up by November or December. We get feedback from the community about what they want and work with a promoter to book the bands. We always like to include local bands as well, and we’re doing that every night.”

And while not on the stage, a large part of RiverFest’s entertainment is Thunder on the Neches.

“We’re the first stop on the boat race circuit,” Bradley said. “They actually voted Port Neches RiverFest as their favorite event of the year.”

Boat races will take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.