Paul Revere: friend, hero, mentor, and uncle to us all. January 7, 1938 — October 4, 2014
“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
I was three years old when I first learned of Paul Revere & The Raiders. I grew up in a house with a lone 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 holding Here They Come! for the first time and knowing it held something great for me.
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 still enjoy modern music, finding those key albums when I was three changed me on so 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 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 those 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 appeared.
In 1981, my parents finally got around to taking me to Disneyland. (Yep! I was a Disneyland virgin at thirteen.) First thing in the morning, we headed for the park. Naturally I was filled with excitement 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!!! Screw Mr. Toad! Could I go grab my seat for the show now?
I can’t tell you much about Disneyland back then, except that I’m glad that I got to go on a bunch of rides that I remember enough of to say I experienced them before they disappeared; however, I remember that Raider show! They played all the usual hits, like “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? “Indian Reservation” was them! That’s the same guys? Wow! Mind blown!)
Paul was in full gear and made me laugh my butt off as I watched them on the stage at Tom Sawyer’s Island. The rest of the band wore the iconic tights and boots. I over-looked that they were in vests and not jackets because they kept the hats. Still, I was in heaven! I saw them the next night too and hated that I could not stay and see them again.
When I got home, I called all the radio stations, wanting to hear them. Of course I got nowhere, except with the oldies channel. The following year Pat Benetar released Precious Time, and I was occasionally able to sweet talk (pester) a deejay into playing her version of “Just Like Me.”
Why couldn’t I get more Raiders? If they were being forgotten by time, what other bands had I missed out on? What other gems were being lost? There was so much music to be discovered!
The following year, Paul and the boys played the state fair. All I remember about that day is that 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 a lifetime, it was a ritual. My parents and I headed down as early as possible, waited in line to get inside, and then I raced to stand in line for a show they would not let us into for hours. Again, the rides meant little to me. I was there for only one reason. Well, at least I was at first, and here is where my happy memories turn teary.
When you go to the same shows, you eventually meet people. Generally, you just say hello, chat, and move on. However, sometimes those people become friends—like real friends who you become 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 bring you all together. In the early 1980s, my Raider family formed. It’s a family that is still together today and is comprised of people from all walks of life along with band members past and present. They are all not just friends for life; they are family, in the deepest sense of the word.
I’ll never forget meeting Maria. I kept seeing her and her Raider T-shirt cladded boyfriend walking through the park. A few hours later, we were sitting nearly next to each other. It’s been over thirty years since we sat on those benches while chatting about music that was made while we were in the wombs. Since then we have shared so, so many laughs, and broken hearts, and dreams. Whenever I talk to her, I’m taken back to those benches, to the times we spent on the floor of my parent’s living room, watching videos, talking about boys, and playing rock trivia games. 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 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 were 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!
That was another defining moment in my life. 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 you down. Moments like that got me through being picked on, teased, and harassed—because I was short, I listed to 60s pop and modern punk, the fashions I loved were twenty years out of date, I was over weight. The Raiders got me through it, each and every day, each and every time.
But then there were the other friends I had, 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. Amazing!
So many more friends have been made 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 to me 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 a hello in that autograph line. 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 they really are. With those guys, you are not just there to be company; you are there to get to know, to share ideas with, and to become family with.
I could go on and on about the people who were, and are still, in my life. I often think of the ones 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.
Dear, Lord, why did you take Paul? There are so many horrible people in this world—one’s who spread hate, one’s who only want to harm—yet you took away the man who brought us together, leaving us without our Uncle, without our patriarch. While I can’t fault you for wanting him in rock n roll heaven, and though I am grateful for the seventy-six years that we had him, I really wish you had kept him here a little longer. We need him. Generations to come need to see what real drive and wit are. While Paul will live on in spirit and music, the world will never be the same.
It’s so wrong. My friends and I were 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 Raiders shaped my life. They brought me friends. They introduced me to a generation that I identify with better than my own—my musical choices reflect it, as do the contents of my closet and my heart. My attitude towards how they shaped me even helped inspire Rosalyn in my third novel, Scary Modsters … and Creepy Freaks. (And yes, 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 foretold something special, I just had no idea what. Now I am left without Paul, but surrounded by a loving family. I feel like a piece of my soul has been removed. 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, 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’ll 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.
Learn why Paul Revere & The Raiders are the most under appreciated band in rock history here.