Gary James' Interview With
Paul Revere






Paul Revere and The Raiders were formed in the early 1960s in Portland, Oregon. They were the first rock group to be signed by Columbia Records. They recorded 33 albums, 5 of which were Gold. The group enjoyed great success with such hits as "Just Like Me" (#11), "Kicks" (#4), "Hungry" (#6) and "Good Thing" (#4). Paul Revere and The Raiders were certainly one of the most televised groups of the 60s, appearing on Dick Clark's Where The Action Is and Happening. These days, the group is still quite active, performing some 200 gigs a year. We are proud to present an interview with "The Last Madman Of Rock 'n Roll", Mr. Paul Revere.

Q - Paul, I was going to start off the interview by asking you what you're doing in Idaho. Then, using the various reference books at my disposal, I see you were born in Idaho. So, how did you get from Idaho to Oregon?

A - First of all, I was actually born in Nebraska. If you got your information from any of these so called "rock and roll encyclopedias", I've never seen one that's right yet. Nobody that ever wrote any of these so called "rock 'n roll know-everything books", has ever interviewed me. So, I have no clue where the hell they get their information.

Q - Rolling Stone is where I got my information.

A - That means shit. Billboard and Rolling Stone have never interviewed me personally, so they can't possibly have ever gotten it right. I was born in Nebraska, raised in Idaho and moved to Portland because I thought my band needed to get the chance to play bigger cities. We'd already done as much as we could around the Idaho market, so, we moved up there...Vancouver, British Columbia, Washington, Portland and Seattle. All the coast cities down to Northern California. That was my stompin' ground. Playin' all the dances. There was a lot of colleges. We were the "hot" fraternity dance party band. We also did a lot of armories and ballrooms. There were a lot of ballrooms in the old days, in the early 60s, before they got torn down and turned into shopping centers. There used to be ballrooms all over America, but, they've all just been scraped off the planet in the last 30 years.

Q - You're right about that. Bands would play those ballrooms from coast to coast.

A - Absolutely. All the ballrooms that Harry James, Glen Miller, Louis Armstrong and the big bands (performed in). That was the only place you could see and dance to the big bands from the 40s. Then, those dance halls sat pretty stagnant for a while. Then, rock 'n roll and teenage dancing revived it. They were hot. That was the place to play. Any town that didn't have a big ballroom...then you rented the armory. Those were the old days. Now, the world is totally different. (laughs)

Q - Before you were known as Paul Revere and The Raiders, were you known as the Raiders?

A - No. (laughs) For about 10 minutes when I started the band in 1959 or 1960, I called 'em The Downbeats. Then I went to California in my car, with a tape under my arm and talked a small record company into putting us out on the label. When they found our my real name was Paul Revere, they said "you gotta use that as a gimick." And so they came up with Paul Revere and The Raiders. So, we've always been Paul Revere and The Raiders. It was maybe another 10 minutes in the late 1960s that we thought we'd be hip and refer to the group as The Raiders. We put out a group I think as the Raiders and it confused people, 'cause they didn't know if The Raiders and Paul Revere and The Raiders were the same group. They though maybe I'd left the group. So, that was a stupid idea. So, we went back to being Paul Revere and The Raiders. It was just one of those things where it was like everybody referred to The Rolling Stones as The Stones and everybody referred to Paul Revere and The Raiders as The Raiders, just because it's easier to say. So, we've been called Paul Revere and The Raiders all but maybe for a year or something.

Q - Where did you get the idea to wear those Revolutionary War costumes?

A - We were the party band that played all these parties for the fraternities. We were always an off the wall, crazy kind of group. We loved to do the bizarre onstage. We were a fun band. I was walking down the street with, I think Smitty (drummer Mike Smith) and Mark (lead singer Mark Lindsay), a couple of guys in my band if I remember right. It was in Portland, Oregon and we just happened to go past a costume shop and saw this Revolutionary War costume in the window. I went in and said "Hey, you got five of those?" And the lady said "yeah." I said I'd like to rent five coats for the night. So, I rented the jackets and I think I got a couple of hats. I just rented 'em for the hell of it. Paul Revere and The Raiders...why not? So, that night at the dance, we took an intermission half way through it and put on the Revolutionary coats and the outfits. We came out and it just added another element of craziness to the show. I started renting 'em for a couple of weekends and I said this is stupid. I might as well have 'em made. So, I had some costumes made, just the coats. I bought some hats. Then we added the ruffled shirts. We already had the tight pants with flamenco boots. Then we had these tall boots. It was the kind of thing that just grew because of the name. It just seemed like a way to get attention.

Q - And you actually had a stage act together to go along with the costumes and music at a time when most groups just stood there on stage. Did you have a choreographer teach you those dance steps?

A - No. I saw a group, and I don't remember who the hell it was...it might've been the Ventures when they first came out, they just did some steps together. They moved alike. I thought, well, that's cool. So, we just put that into our act where we had kind of routines that we had. We started out with a simple side-to-side move. Then, pretty soon, some kicks. It just grew. I wanted the band to be fun to watch, not just a jukebox with legs...the costumes, the steps, just all the off-the-wall stuff. I wanted the band to be interesting to watch. I was a big Jerry Lee Lewis fan. So, beatin' the hell out the piano and standing up...anything crazy. I remember Jerry Lee kicking his stool across the stage. I thought hey...kids like to see activity. They need some energy on that stage...anything crazy. So, I always encouraged the band or the lead singer to be crazy. Don't feel like you're tied down. I was always the emcee of the show, even though I wasn't the lead singer. I was the cheer leader. I was the coach of the football team. (laughs) I mean, so to speak. I kind of instigated anything and everything to cause trouble on stage. I liked anything that would be controversial. A lot of time I would say things into the microphone that I probably shouldn't have. We would just do things that weren't the normal thing to do. That was the reputation we had up the Northwest. We were the Bad Boys of Rock and Roll. We had long hair. Some people referred to us as "greasers" because we looked like a teenage gang up there with Raider costumes. (laughs) We weren't like any of the other bands. Then we recorded "Louie Louie", which was the party song up the Northwest. Then, it was a couple of years later that we got a chance to be on Where The Action Is with Dick Clark. Then, we had to totally clean up our image. All of a sudden, we got a press agent that said "you gotta be cute to appeal to 14 year olds."

Q - Who was your press agent?

A - The first press agent I had was Derek Taylor. He was the press agent that came to America for The Beatles.

Q - Mark Lindsay was co-writing most of the band's hits. Were you the other co-writer?

A - Yeah, in the early years. When we got Columbia Records, producer Terry Melcher, who was our producer, was very much a Beach Boy kind of guy. He liked the Californian surf sound. We were always a white R&B band. That was one thing. Somewhere in between, when we got in the studio, it was kind of a merging of his stuff and what we liked to do. It ended up the material that appealed to him for us to record was stuff that was written by outsiders, not written within the group. Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil wrote great stuff. Boyce and Hart sent a lot of stuff over to us. We just started using outside writers more often, and when we did, that's when we got lucky! Our biggest hits were with outside writers. When we tried to do it within the group, we had hits, but they didn't seem to connect as big. But, I can't complain 'cause we had a lot of hits.

Q - Now, how many records did Paul Revere and The Raiders sell?

A - I don't know. I've heard a lot of versions. I guess somewhere in the neighbourhood of 50 million over the last 40 years, which is a lot.

Q - According to The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock 'n Roll...

A - Which never interviewed me. (laughs)

Q - Sometime in 1964, Mark Lindsay left the group and returned in early 1965. Why did he leave the group?

A - He was recording his own stuff and wanted to go out and do his own thing like a lot of lead singers do. They want to leave the group they start with, like Lionel Richie wanted to leave The Commodores. I could go on and on. You can't blame them if they see the opportunity to go out on their own and they want to do that and don't want to work with the group. He recorded some songs and had a couple of hit songs on his own and then came back for a period of time and then went off on his own again. It seemed like in the early 70s or mid 70s, he just wanted to go out totally and do his own thing. He's been out on his own the last 27 years, something like that.

Q - In the mid-60s, at the height of your success, did you go out and tour?

A - Oh man, that probably was another mistake looking back. We probably should've spent twice as much time in the studio and half as much time on the road. But, I'm an animal. I love the road. I'm on the road 200 days a year and have been for the last 42 years. It's kind of crazy I guess, but, I'm a road dog. I love personal appearances. I love that personal contact with an audience. I actually very much dislike the studio because it's not fun. It's not nearly as much fun as performing before a live audience. In the early years when you recorded, you walked in, you set up, you play "Louie Louie", "Steppin' Out", "Just Like Me"...those were songs that were simple. It was easier to play. Then, they invented the multi-track recording studios and then you had to use all the tracks. You over-dubbed this. You over-dubbed that. You change this. You re-mix that. And it's like, things that used to be simple got more and more complicated. I was just never a big fan of being in the studio. I guess I should've had the band spend more time in the studio, more time working on material rather than relying on stuff within the group, and have a good variety of material to pick from. There were so many great songs that were written during the 60s that I would've loved to have snagged a few more of 'em. I think we could've been much more established in the recording world than we probably were at that time. I was looking at it as a live band. I enjoyed doing television 'cause it was fun and crazy and we got to do whatever we felt like. I liked doing the tours because you get instant rapport with an audience. I like hearing the music slam me in the back of the head.

Q - Did you go out as a headlining act or as a support act and who did you tour with?

A - We did a lot of Dick Clark packages. We were the stars. We'd have maybe two or three opening acts. Usually we'd have an opening band and that band would stay onstage and would back single acts. We'd have Tommy Roe come on and do his set. Then you'd have Billy Joe Royal come on and do his set. Then you'd have Merrilee Rush come on and do her set. I can't even remember all the acts we had. We usually tried to pick acts that were single artists so that we didn't have to re-set the stage all the time. So, we'd set the stage so the opening band would either play on our stuff and some of their stuff in front. They would back the acts. And then, we'd take an intermission and we'd re-set the stage just exactly like we wanted it and then we would do the last half of the show. That was just how it was done in those days. (laughs)

Q - Did you perform on The Ed Sullivan Show?

A - Yeah

Q - What was that like?

A - I got a lot of memories of that. I remember that when you were actually in the studio, it looked half as big as it did on TV. It was a little bitty place. It was just a little, small theater. I remember because it was a live show. I just remember the unbelievable mass confusion of re-setting everything, constantly doing commercial breaks. It was very stressful because there was no real time for anything. You just went on and winged it. It was quick.

Q - Did you appear on Ed Sullivan just once or more than once?

A - Once as I recall.

Q - Do you remember the year?

A - It was the very first gig Freddy Weller ever played with the band. That was his debut. That poor guy. His knees were knockin' big time. So, that had to be about 1967 I would think. That sounds about right.

Q - How did you land that Dick Clark Where The Action Is TV gig, 'cause that was on quite a long time.

A - Yeah. It was on for two years, five days a week, summer and winter. It was on year round.

Q - According to author Irwin Stambler, 30 different musicians passed in and out of The Raiders during the 60s and 70s. Why did you have such a high turn over in personnel? Being a Raider, seems to me anyway, to be a great gig.

A - (laughs) It is a great gig! The guys that have been in my band now, most of 'em have been in 25, 30 years. The newest guy in my band has been in 22 years. He's the kid. My drummer, Omar, has been with me 33 years. My lead guitar player has been with me 32 years. My bass player has been with me 29 years. My keyboard player has been with me 27 years. The band that was on Where The Action Is in 1965, that was Mike Smith - my drummer, Mark (Lindsay) - lead singer, Phil Volk - bass player and Drake Levin was on guitar. Phil had only been in the band 6 months I think, when we got Where The Action Is. So, he was a new guy. Drake had only been in the band for a year. So, those guys were pretty new. Then, within I guess two years, Phil, Drake and Smitty decided to take off and start their own group. Because of all the popularity and fame of the group, they thought they'd use that as a springboard. Jim "Harpo" Valley came into the group in 1966. He was in the group I think one year. But, he got a lot of exposure 'cause we were on television every day. And Phil, like a year and a half...two years. They were replaced by Freddy Weller and Charlie Coe on bass. Charlie, after about a year and a half, couldn't keep up the pace. We were on the road all the time. We were a hard working band. It's easy to keep a band together if you're not working. What is there to keep a band together? But, when you're on the road 200 days a year, bustin' your ass every day, it takes its toll, especially if you get married. The wife couldn't handle having the husband out on the road constantly. I would probably say that was one of the reasons for the turn-over during that one period there. The guys were lasting two, three, four years at a time. There was about four years there where it seemed like somebody was coming or leaving every couple years. Then, it stopped. Then it settled down and that was that.

Q - Did you ever figure you'd be working this hard or this much, all these years later?

A - No. When I started the band, I guess I was like twenty. So, I wasn't even a teenager anymore. So, I already thought I was old. And, the guys in my band were in their teens. I was the old man. So that was almost forty-seven years ago. I thought if I put a lot of energy and work in this for a few years, maybe we'll roll the dice and luck out and maybe have a hit record. If we have a hit record, maybe we can make a lot of money for a couple of years and go back to Idaho and be a normal person. I never would've dreamed it would last more than a couple, three years at the most.

Q - Have you ever been nominated for a place in Cleveland's Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame?

A - I have no idea if we've ever been nominated or not. We're not in The Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame. I'm not concerned about it. The people that I know that are in the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame aren't that excited about it. (laughs) There's some definite opinions about that. I don't know how they pick who they pick. I don't know how that thing operates. It's not important to me. The most flattering tribute that I've seen Paul Revere and The Raiders get is called The Experience Music Project. Paul Allen, the second richest person on the planet and co-founder of Microsoft, built this $500 million, incredible building in Seattle and it's all dedicated to music. He wanted to do something special for Jimi Hendrix and he ended up making a big thing that has to do with all of the Northwest music. It's an incredible thing to go through, but, it is fabulous. They have a really nice big thing on Paul Revere and The Raiders. They have my original Vox organ, Fang's bass and some of the original costumes. We're right next to The Kingsmen. That's our old stompin' ground. That's our home. The fact that we're getting that recognition up there feels good. That's fun. When I see some of the people being nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame, I go "who the hell is that?" I can't believe that some of the people who should be in there, aren't. So, when I look and see the amount of people that I think should be in there and they aren't, it sure as hell doesn't make me feel bad not to be in there.


© Gary James. All rights reserved.


* Between 1961 and 1971, Paul Revere and The Raiders had 15 Top 40 hits on the Billboard Hot 100. Five of them were Top Ten


 MORE INTERVIEWS