“Well the interview started how’s Mark, and how’s Keith, and how’s Paul,
because I was part of a rock band and one time we sure had it all.
There were willing young ladies, and groupies, and screaming teenagers.
Oh, long live the legend of Paul Revere and The Raiders.”
~ Freddy Weller, The Legend of Paul Revere and The Raiders
Paul Revere: friend, hero, mentor, and uncle to us all. January 7, 1938 — October 4, 2014
I was three years old when I first learned of Paul Revere & The Raiders. The home I grew up in housed a single box of albums. (My, how things have changed!) Nestled in that box, among the Lawrence Welk and the 2001 soundtrack, were three albums that would shape my life: Beatles ’65, Best Of The Beach Boys, and Paul Revere and the Raider’s Here They Come! Today I can’t shake the image of seeing Here They Come! for the first time and knowing it held something special.
Yes, even at just three years old.
Within a year of this, “Indian Reservation” became the Raider’s all-time biggest hit. I didn’t make the connection between The Raiders and Paul Revere & The Raiders. (Remember how I said I was only three?) What I did know was that I could not go to sleep each night until I heard my song on the radio. Time went on, I enjoyed Here They Come!, and I forgot about my song. Occasionally I would catch Paul Revere & The Raiders on the oldies channel and crank them. Heaven! And yes, listening to the oldies channel was by my choosing. You see, while back in the seventies and eighties I did enjoy modern music, finding those key albums changed me on many levels. I knew what I loved, but I was too young and too broke to explore it.
Every year my family would venture to Lake Tahoe for three, one-week stints. It seemed like every time we went, Uncle Paul and the boys would be at Harrah’s. Seeing the marquee and knowing I couldn’t get into the shows was excruciating. Still, each time I had my mom call and ask if she could take me. Sadly, it wasn’t meant to be—yet.
One day, salvation sprang forth.
In 1981, my parents finally got around to taking me to Disneyland. Naturally, I was filled with anticipation in knowing that I would finally get to enjoy the likes of Mission To Mars and The Haunted Mansion, but true excitement didn’t hit until I saw the sign announcing that night’s entertainment: Paul Revere and the Raiders!!! Forget Mr. Toad! Could I grab my seat for the show now?
I can’t tell you much about Disneyland back then, except that I’m glad I got to experience many classic rides before they disappeared; however, I sure remember that Raiders show! They played all the usual suspects—“Kicks”, “Hungry”, and “Just Like Me.” They also played “Whole Lotta Love”! (Like the whole song! For reals! Raiderette honor!) Naturally, we got “Indian Reservation”, too.
(Wait. What? They did “Indian Reservation”? Wow! Mind blown!)
Paul was in full gear, and he made me laugh my butt off as I watched them perform on Tom Sawyer’s Island. The rest of the band wore the iconic tights, boots, and frilly shirts, but I over-looked how they wore vests instead of Colonial jackets because they kept the tri-cornered hats. Still, I was in heaven! I saw them the next night too, and I absolutely hated that I could not stay another night to see them again.
When I got home, I called all the radio stations, begging to hear The Raiders. Of course I got nowhere, except with the oldies channel. When Pat Benatar released Precious Time the following year, I was occasionally able to sweet talk (pester) a deejay into playing her version of “Just Like Me”. Sadly, not only did I have to take what I could get, it was one of the few ways I could share my love with the masses.
Why couldn’t I get more Raiders? If they were being forgotten by time, what other bands had I missed out on? What other musical gems were already lost? So much music was calling me, just begging to be discovered!
The following year, Uncle Paul and the boys played the state fair. All I remember about that day is it was hot as sin and I saw The Raiders—in white, with jackets and hats, and with Michael Bradley again fronting them. I also started making friends. It was just the beginning of my new life, because right after that, I learned of a magical place: Great America on the Forth of July!!! For what felt like a lifetime, I had a ritual: my parents and I headed down as early as we could stand to rise, waited to get inside, and then I raced to stand in front of amphitheater gates that would not open for hours. Again, the rides meant little to me. I was there for only one reason! Well, at least I was at first…
Here is where my happy memories turn teary.
When you go to a lot of similar shows, you eventually meet like-minded people. Generally, you just say hello, chat, and move on. However, sometimes those people become friends—like real friends who you are close to, tell your darkest secrets to, start a business with, grow with, and experience loss with. Also, you often wind up meeting the musicians who brought you all together, and if you are really lucky, you become as much a part of their life as they did yours.
In the early 1980s, my Raider family formed. This family, which is comprised of people from all walks of life along with band members past and present, is still together today. They are all not just friends for life; they are family, in the most heartfelt sense of the word.
I’ll never forget meeting Maria. I kept seeing her and her Raider T-shirt clad boyfriend walking through the park. A few hours later, we were chatting each other’s ears off—two Italian-American girls on the verge of becoming the best of friends for life. It’s been over thirty years since we sat on those benches while raving about music that was made while we were in our wombs. Since then, we have shared so many laughs, so many broken hearts, and so many dreams. Whenever I talk to her, my heart is taken back to those benches and to the times we spent on the floor of my parent’s living room, watching videos, talking about boys, and playing rock trivia games—which is not all that different than what we still do today. Times have changed—we have not.
Then there is Debbee. There is a bit of an age difference there, but she and her friends welcomed me into their world and were the perfect bad influences on me. We even formed a business together. Someone from that group, and I will not say who, gave me guidance on getting a fake I.D. so I could finally get into those Tahoe shows that had been so elusive. Deb and I have had some serious ups and downs (pun somewhat intended) together. She often reminds me of a time when she had some really bad stuff going on. We wound up at a Raider show, and I dragged her dead in front of the stage and forced her to dance. Shoot, we were seeing The Raiders, and you are absolutely not allowed to be sad or feel awkward there! Today she still tells me how she will never forget that defining moment in our lives.
When times get tough, you can always find something to pick you up. That something has often been my boys in Spandex. They will never, ever let me down. They got me through being picked on, teased, and harassed—because I was short, because I listened to 60s pop and modern punk, because the fashions I loved were twenty years out of date, and because I was over weight. The Raiders got me through it, each and every time.
But then there were my other friends—the ones I would tell about these shows, because I felt those people could be family too. Before I knew it, Raider shows became a love fest—a gathering of the tribes for practically everyone I knew. Amazing!
I have made so many more friends along the way, like Raiderette Melissa whom I casually knew for years but finally got close to when she found me on Facebook. Or Sally, who has been so generous with her photo collection. Then there are Paul and the boys. Just like you can’t repeatedly go to the likes of thirty-five shows a year and not meet other fans, with these guys you can’t go to a single show without them reaching over that autograph table to hug you like the cherished friend you are. Eventually, those hellos turn into cocktails, and those cocktails are accompanied by hours of stories and laughter. Then the real conversations begin, away from the showrooms and bars. That’s when you learn how special those guys really are. When you hang out with them after a show, you are not just there to be company; you are there to get to know, to share ideas with, and to become family.
I could reminisce for days, and I often think of the people who have passed. We lost former Raider Smitty a few years back. Then we lost former Raider Drake, along with Raiderettes Jan and MaryAnn, to cancer. Now we have lost Paul to that same beast.
There are so many horrible people in this world—one’s who spread hate, one’s who only want to harm—yet the Lord took away the man who brought us together, leaving us without our Uncle, without our patriarch. Although I am grateful for the seventy-six years we had him, I really wish he could have stayed around a little longer. While Paul will live on in spirit and in music, the world will never be the same.
It’s so wrong. My friends and I were supposed to grow old together. We were supposed to sit in the front row of Raider shows, waving our canes and walkers in the air while Paul remained youthful and spry.
I still cannot believe it is not to be. The man seemed invincible.
Paul Revere’s death hit me hard. The Raiders shaped my life. They brought me friends. They introduced me to a generation whose music and fashion grip me more so than my own. My attitude towards how they shaped me even helped inspire Rosalyn in my third novel, Scary Modsters … and Creepy Freaks. (And yes, like Rosalyn I do believe that the album Hard ‘n Heavy has some of the best fuzz guitar ever. Guitar Keith, you really are still the greatest, in so many ways.)
When I picked up that copy of Here They Come! I knew it held something special; I just had no idea what. And although we are now without Paul and feel like a piece of our collective soul has been removed, we are all still part of a loving family. There are so many more reasons why I feel that way than I have stated here. I haven’t even gotten to how the music makes me feel, or how integrated some of the band is in my life, or how Paul’s humor influenced my attitude toward living—or just how amazing Paul was—what a joy he was to talk to and to laugh with. How he was just as funny off stage as on, only a lot more endearing. If I did, I might be writing for hours. Instead, I’ll stick to how Uncle Paul affected my heart and soul. I miss him and will think about him often. How can I not? I named my daughter after one of his songs. That is how important he was to my life.