Paul Revere & The Raiders: America’s Answer To The British Invasion
- They were the first rock group to be singed to Columbia Records.
- The group has sold nearly 50 million records over the course of their career.
- They have had 15 consecutive hit singles, 6 of which were top 10.
- Beginning at their inception and continuing through their peak years of fame (1961 to 1972), they recorded 15 studio albums and released 3 greatest hits packages. Many of these albums went gold.
- In the first four months of 1967 they received four gold records for the albums, Here They Come, Just Like Us!, Midnight Ride, and The Spirit of 67. Not even The Beatles can top that.
- Their second major national hit, “Just Like Me” (1965 – #11) was one of the first rock records to feature a distinctive, double-tracked guitar solo (by guitarist Drake Levin).
- “Kicks” (1966) (ranked #400 on the Rolling Stone magazine’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
- The Raiders appeared on 520 episodes of Where the Action Is on ABC. After that, they were the hosts of It’s Happening (a.k.a Happening ’68 and Happening ’69), also on ABC. Meanwhile, they appeared on numerous other TV shows including Ed Sullivan, The Smothers Brothers, The Hollywood Palace, and Batman, giving the Raiders over 720 network appearances and making them the most televised musical group in the world.
- In the summer of 1971, The Raider’s recording of “Indian Reservation” sold nearly 4 million singles, making it the biggest selling record for Columbia Records in 10 years.
- Additionally, Paul Revere and The Raiders have withstood the test of time and various incarnations. Their stamina and longevity have proven them to be one of the greatest American rock and roll bands of all time.
THE EARLY YEARS
The history of Paul Revere and the Raiders is a long and sometimes complicated one. While this overview may not appear to be brief, it really is a quick summary of the incredible history that makes up this amazing band.
Paul Revere’s parents were victims of the Great Depression and moved to Idaho from Nebraska to obtain free homesteading. They lived on a farm that was not capable of producing crops and did not have an indoor bathroom. When Revere inherited $500 from a long-lost relative, he decided to go into business for himself and opened a barbershop. Eventually he turned one into two shops and quickly opened a small chain. It was just after this that he opened his own diner, the Reed and Bell, where his band, The Downbeats, would play regularly.
It was at the Reed and Bell where he met bun delivery boy Mark Lindsay and brought him into The Downbeats. The crowds quickly began to grow and before Revere knew it, he was clearing $600 a night, which was a substantial amount of money in Idaho at the beginning of the 1960s. The Downbeats were becoming huge within their region and decided to record a single. At the urging of the record label’s owner, The Downbeats became Paul Revere and the Raiders. “Beatnik Sticks” was released, followed by the album Like, Long Hair.
Just as things were taking off, Revere was drafted. His conscientious objector status placed him working as a cook in a mental institution in Portland for two years. Meanwhile, Lindsay went to Hollywood where the biggest chunk of success he had was as the wine bottle clinker on the Hollywood Argyle’s “Alley Oop.”
When Revere had finished with his service at the mental hospital, he teamed again with Lindsay and they reformed Paul Revere and the Raiders. It was at this time that they became known for their outrageous on stage antics, and gained a reputation for being rowdy and naughty, jumping on speakers, climbing into rafters, and breaking a piano every night on stage.
Revere met disc jockey Roger Hart, out of Portland, who became the band’s manager and helped them to release the Lp Paul Revere and the Raiders on their own Sande label. And then along came “a thing called Louie, Louie.”
LOUIE AND DICK CLARK
The debate over if the Raiders or the Kingsmen recorded the song first has been a hot subject for decades. Some members of The Raiders say it was them, while others claim it was The Kingsmen. The story the Kingsmen tell is similar. The known reality is that both bands recorded the same song, in the same studio, within a few days of each other. The short version of the story is that, possibly due to Columbia’s negligence in marketing, the Raiders had a big regional hit with “Louie, Louie” selling over 15,000 copies in Portland alone, while the Kingsmen had the national hit. (For more information about The Raiders vs. The Kingsmen, the recording of the song, and the marketing involved, read Dave Marsh’s book Louie, Louie available from Hyperion.)
Around this time, Revere happened to walk passed a costume shop in Portland and decided to stop in to find some gag items to pull on the band while on stage. It was here that he first saw “the idiot costumes”, as he came to refer to them. The Raider’s signature Revolutionary War uniforms began as a gag when the band first appeared in them after the intermission of one of their shows. The band found that the costumes brought about so much fun that they began renting them every weekend for their gigs.
When Dick Clark brought his Caravan of Stars to Salem, Oregon, he had a hard time getting an audience. Upon hearing that the local youth were at another show across town, he sent his reps over to see what was going on. Dick got reports of a wildly visual band that was just about literally tearing down the house. Eventually, Dick decided to put The Raiders on a new TV show called Where the Action Is, and the popularity of The Raiders skyrocketed. But while the idiot costumes and the TV show made them famous, it would take a lot more to keep them in the public eye if they wanted to be an on going success.
Fortunately, their talent won out over the potential of being a flash in the glittery pan. Columbia signed The Raiders as their first rock band and string of hits followed. In 1965, The Raiders, who were dubbed America’s Answer to the British Invasion, were a force to be reckoned with—not just in the teen idol money machine way either. Their second major national hit, “Just Like Me” (1965 – #11) was one of the first rock records to feature a distinctive, double-tracked guitar solo as done by guitarist Drake Levin. When you look back on those early hits from today’s perspective, it is clear to see how the music of The Raiders and other Northwest bands of the time were heavily influential on the Northwest grunge sound of the 1990’s. In the mid-60s, music was changing, and with songs like “Kicks”, “Hungry”, and “Just Like Me”, the Raiders were obviously a large part of how and why it was changing.
In the first four months of 1967, The Raiders received four gold records for the albums, Here They Come!, Just Like Us!, Midnight Ride, and The Spirit of ’67. They had made over 500 television appearances and had numerous hit singles. By the end of 1967, the Raider’s had struck gold several times over in the recording business and on television.
Meanwhile, Drake Levin had been drafted and was replaced first by Jim Valley and then by Freddie Weller. Phil Volk and Mike Smith also parted ways with The Raiders and eventually formed The Brotherhood with Levin. Volk was replaced by a former Raider from the early days named Charlie Coe and Smith was replaced by Joe Correro, Jr. Although they kept the colonial uniforms, the costumes became more glittery and almost more showman like. Weller and Correro’s southern roots had a heavy influence on the band. Revere insisted to Columbia that Lindsay take over as producer, which made them one of the first rock acts to be self-produced. Lastly, The Raiders starred in two more TV series, the daily It’s Happening, and a weekend version of the show called Happening ’68 (later to appropriately become Happening ’69.)
The Revere, Lindsay, Weller, Coe, and Correro version of the group released four albums together (Revolution! (Which was recorded with the previous line up.), A Christmas Present … and Past, Goin’ to Memphis, and Something Happening) before Charlie Coe left the band. Former Where The Action Is star and long time musician Keith Allison replaced Coe.
After the fairly disappointing release of Hard n’ Heavy (with Marshmallow), it was obvious to the band that they were not being taken seriously and that it was time to get rid of the costumes. Lindsay told Hit Parader Magazine that in an effort to show that it was the reputation of the bands quirkiness and not the music that was the problem, they slipped the underground rock stations in Los Angeles an advance copy of an album by a hot new group called Pink Puzz. The tracks received a lot of favorable attention until the disk jockeys learned that Pink Puzz was really The Raiders and stopped playing the tracks. The Raiders album Alias Pink Puzz was later released to less than desired results. Meanwhile, the Happening TV shows had ended and things were looking bleak.
Lindsay and the band, deciding to hit back harder then ever, went into the studio with producer John d’Andrea, along with a group of hot session artists, and produced the critically acclaimed album Collage. It was in these sessions that Lindsay set out to create sounds like no other band had created. One example of this was the song “Dr. Fine” which boasted “rubber” sounding drums, created by an effect called tape slap. (Tape slap is a delay effect that is created when you monitor off of the playback and record heads of two machines simultaneously. The distance of these two heads and the speed at which the tape goes through them cause the delay.) But Lindsay wanted something faster and more interesting than the 30 inches per second that the machines in the studio had to offer. As a result, he had the engineers run tape through the studio and crank up the voltage to the tape machines until some were approaching 100 inches per second. In order to get the desired effects, he did this with multiple sets of machines running tapes at different speeds.
His system became so complicated that he eventually had tie lines running from three other studios into the one in which he was mixing. The giant load on the electrical system actually blew the circuit breakers a few times, heralding the arrival of the CBS Chief Maintenance Engineer, who would come running into the studio screaming caustic comments about rock and roll producers and their asinine experiments.
Rolling Stone critic Lenny Kaye commented about Collage, “…This is a great album from the moment it takes off” and went on to say “Mark Lindsay never fails to give the impression that he knows what he’s doing. Almost single-handedly, he’s brought the Raiders to a stronger position than they’ve occupied in years.” However, despite its brilliance, Collage went mostly unheard and it’s single, “Just Seventeen” peaked at a mere #70 on the charts.
The Raiders seemed to disappear after Collage and were not heard from for over a year when they suddenly found themselves with not only a huge hit record, but also their first number 1 single, “Indian Reservation.”
“Indian Reservation” did not get famous overnight. It was the drive of Paul Revere that made that record a hit. In an unprecedented move, Revere and his friend, Mike Allen, drove their motorcycles cross-country and stopped off at Top 40 radio stations and convinced them to play “Indian Reservation.” The result was pure gold and the biggest hit ever for the Raiders. Suddenly they were back on TV and performing and while their shows were no longer in huge stadiums, people knew who they were again. However, the follow-up album, Country Wine, failed to get the attention it deserved and The Raiders again began to fade.
Even with numerous personnel changes, Revere kept the band going through the 70’s with the release of a few, unsuccessful, singles. However, the band played on, and on, and on. Fast-forward a decade, and by the early 80’s Paul Revere and the Raiders, featuring the line up of Omar Martinez, Doug Heath, Ron Foos, Danny Krause, and Carl Driggs (most of which had already been with Revere for almost a decade), were America’s premiere show rock band. Although there have been a few changes since (Martinez was replaced by Matt Fasekas, and then by Tommy Scheckel. Driggs was replaced by Darrin Medley, and then by Darren Dowler.), these Raiders often played hundreds of times a year. Revere still ran the show with his unique and outrageous sense of humor that rivaled the best and most popular comics of our time.
We have now lost our uncle, and while our hearts bleed, we rejoice in knowing he has taken care of us. He has blessed us with Paul Revere’s Raiders, comprised of the remaining members and headed by his son, Jamie, who has joined them off and on throughout the years. As much as I already miss Paul, I can’t wait to see what the future holds!
For a taste of why this band is so important to me, click here.