Now to my mind, these gentlemen aside from the Revolutionary War gimmick, struck me as America's answer to The Dave Clark Five. Both bands played a rough-hewn, proto-hard rock with the occasional ballad, both had a rough-voiced lead singer, they even had among their ranks a guy named Mike Smith. not to mention a saxophonist in each band. I could easily imagine either band blasting out "Glad All Over" and "Kicks" with an equal amount of comfort. Fact of the matter is Paul Revere And The Raiders choice of costume and comedic antics tended to obscure the fact that they were underneath it all purveyors of no-nonsense straight up 60s-era rock and roll with quality songs to boot.
They began as an instrumental group called The Downbeats based in Boise, Idaho led by organist Paul Revere Dick, a name he early on, thankfully, shortened to simply Paul Revere. An owner of several area restaurants, Revere met up with vocalist Mark Lindsay, who worked at a bakery that supplied Revere's eateries. Lindsay joined Revere's band and just prior to their first release for Gardena Records changed their name to Paul Revere And The Raiders. Their first hit was a song entitled "Like Long Hair" which went to #38 on the Billboard charts in 1961.
When Revere was drafted soon after, he claimed conscientious objector status and performed deferred duty as a cook. On the strength of their top 40 hit Lindsay and the band toured the U.S. that summer with replacement Leon Russell ( yes, THAT Leon Russell !) on keyboards. By the summer of 1962 Revere was back with Lindsay in a band that included Mike "Smitty" Smith on drums, guitarist Drake Levin and bassist Mike "Doc" Holliday. A series of events got them noticed by KISN disc jockey Roger Hart who booked the band for one of his teen dance events.Hart subsequently became the band's manager and suggested they record "Louie,Louie". The question of whether or not The Kingsmen recorded the song first is a matter of some argument, but what is known is that both groups recorded the song at the same studio and that Paul Revere And The Raiders' version got the attention of Columbia Records who signed the band. By this time bassist Holliday was replaced by Phil "Fang" Volk. (yes, these fellas liked their nicknames,it seemed) Now with Columbia, the hits began. Garage-rock classics such as their second hit "Just Like Me" whch featured one of the earliest double-tracked guitar solos (by Levin) and "Kicks", which went to #4. Columbia in-house producer Terry Melcher, son of actress Doris Day, was instrumental in honing the band's signature recorded sound.
"Kicks" became the band's best -known song, written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil containing an anti-drug message and originally intended to be given to Eric Burdon And The Animals to record. guitarist Levin left the band at this point to be replaced by Jim "Harpo" Valley, his nickname referred to a perceived facial resemblance to the silent Marx brother. Another band trademark was choreography performed during songs, a gimmick that lasted throughout the band's heyday up until the 70s when it was gradually phased out. The band made many television appearances, most notably the Dick Clark-produced Where The Action Is, where they were regulars, and as the hosts of two later Clark-produced shows, Happening 68 and It's Happening. In between, they visited various TV variety shows. Despite the
band's success, Volk, Valley and Smith decided to leave the band. Drake Levin returned to finish the current tour and ther obigations which included an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. Revere, however was angered at the trio for quitting and blamed Levin for influencing the others' departure. Without telling anyone, Revere hired a new guitarist, one Freddy Weller, to perform on the show. Gentleman that he was, Levin stepped aside and even showed Weller the chords to the songs. He was then forced to watch from backstage while the band, including Volk and Smith, made their only appearance on Ed Sullivan's stage. It was the only time this line-up was ever seen together, as immediately after Volk and Smith were replaced by drummer Joe Correro and bassist Charlie Coe.
The band scored a couple of commercial deals during its lifetime, one was as endorsers of Vox Musical Instruments with Revere's use of the company's Continental organ and Volk's Phantom basses, while the band used Vox Super Beatle amplifiers. Another was the recording of a TV ad for Pontiac's Judge Gto muscle car with a band-performed theme song, a re-working of the 1969 band track "Time After Time" with changed lyrics.
As the 70s approached, audiences tastes changed and the band's schtick and style required reworking, The Revolutionary War drag gave way to simply matching clothes and finally no uniforms at all. The choreography went away and with Lindsay's increasing control of the band, more emphasis was put on harder rocking pop with a nod toward their RnB roots. The last major line-up change was the departure of Charlie Coe who was replaced by Paul McCartney lookalike Keith Allison. In an effort to change the band's image and direction. the band's name was shortened to simply The Raiders in 1971. this was followed by the release of the band's biggest hit, "Indian Reservation" which peaked at #1 in July of that year. Its success was mostly due to the band's self-promotion, as Columbia was beginning to put more money into newer acts such as Blue Oyster Cult and Aerosmith.
After a few more personell changes, the Raiders' fortunes dwindled an they were forced to play lounges and state fairs as a nostalgia act. While this suited Revere just fine, the same could not be said for Lindsay who quit to begin a solo career that in addition to recording, included film and commercial scoring and A&R (artists and repetoire) work. You can still catch Revere on the road with an all new band of Raiders.
Mike "Smitty" Smith passed away of natural causes in Hawaii on March 6, 2001 three weeks before his 59th birthday
Drake Levin died at his home in San Francisco after a long battle with cancer on July 4, 2009 at age 62.