Sex, hot rods and rock and roll, one begets another. Welcome to Rockin’ Rod Authority, where we take a closer look at the machines, music, and culture surrounding America’s car scene.
We can’t imagine hot rods and custom cars without MC5, Elvis, Zeppelin, Eddie Cochran, Dickies, Florsheim Imperials, Chuck Taylors, or hot rod “Bettys” like Ann-Margaret and Linda Vaughn.
With that in mind, Rod Authority brings you a column focusing not only on cars, but spotlights the music and fashion surrounding the American automotive scene from post-WWII to the present day.
In this installment, we take a look at one of the biggest bands of the ’60s, who dominated America on TV and radio. They wore wigs and tights in the twilight of an innocent America, before the Summer of Love exploded in 1967. They even had a George Barris-designed hot rod coach. We bring you the magical backstory of a Pacific Northwest band who paved the way for Jimi Hendrix, Heart, and Nirvana, among others.
Paul Revere and the Raiders were a big deal back in the day. Not only were they true pop-music trailblazers, they were one of only a few American bands who thrived during the “occupation” of the U.S. music industry by the “British Invasion” of the Beatles, Stones, The Who, et al. Though still (outrageously) spurned by the dopey Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, Paul Revere and the Raiders garnered multiple hit singles, gold records, and toured tirelessly around the country until its founding member Paul Revere died in 2014.
Keyboardist Paul Revere Dick built local notoriety in the late-’50s selling R&B and rock records across the Northwest U.S. out of the trunk of his car, primarily on old two-lane highways before Dwight Eisenhower’s Interstate system connected the country.
Selling cool records was just one side-gig for Paul. He had several successful burger-joint restaurants near Boise, Idaho, by his late-teens. You’d think he’d be busier than a long-tail cat in a room full of rocking chairs, but he still found time to form a successful R&B-styled band on the side with 16-year-old Mark Lindsay, whom he met at a bakery where he worked making buns for Revere’s aforementioned restaurants.
That first band of Revere and Lindsay’s, evolved from the Caldwell, Idaho high school dance bands of Dick McGarvin from 1955-58. In ’58, McGarvin hired Paul on vocals, organ, piano and bass. Before the end of the year, Revere took over the helm and brought in Mark on lead vocals, sax and rhythm guitar and changed the name to the The Downbeats.
That name didn’t last long, and at the behest their management, they changed their name to Paul Revere and the Raiders. Newly christened, they hit the road with an itinerary including Seattle, Portland, Spokane, Billings, Missoula, Boise, Pocatello, and all points in-between. The first regional rock stars in the Pacific Northwest, they landed one Top-40 hit with “Like Long Hair” in 1961 (#38) for the California-based label, Gardena Records.
Check out the dance steps here…
After touring with a young Leon Russell (sitting-in on keyboards while Revere did a stint in the military), the Raiders became the first rock band signed to Columbia Records in 1963. When Dick Clark noticed their showmanship and danceable numbers, he hired them as the house band for the ABC weekday teen dance and variety show, Where the Action Is in 1965.
In this clip, check out the old-school Corvette, Porsches, Cobras, and Sunbeams loaded up to go skiing. The Raiders open the show with their version of “Money, (That’s What I Want).”
Clark, already the Svengali of the fledgling American teen-music market, was buoyed by the success of his Saturday morning dance show American Bandstand. He sought to engage the baby-boom teen market after school, and Action battled it out in the mid-week ratings wars.
The Raiders were willing pupils. Lindsay adopted long hair with a pony-tail, which Revere also employed. It was long-rumored both wore various hair pieces to enhance the look. The capper to all this was the over-the-top colonial army costumes and three-pointed hats — an obvious counterpoint to the au currant British Invasion.
In this “Hullabaloo” clip, dig a very young, parrot wielding Michael Landon — hot from “Bonanza” fame — intros the song. The band is surrounded by go-go chicks in “Mondrian” mini-skirts. The height of ‘60s cool.
With the group in heavy rotation across the airwaves on both radio and TV, they also gained adoration with teen fan magazines who constantly reported on them, accompanied by pin-up photo spreads.
Where The Action Is was a perfect springboard, building the band as a huge live attraction across the nation. Remember rock arena tours weren’t commonplace, so the TV show really helped launch their career. They did tour incessantly, albeit in small venues, in-between Action filming schedules.
This clip of “Kicks” is a catchy ditty that would come back and haunt them as anti-drug songs in the late ’60s were considered the epitome of square. Nonetheless, very rockin’.
Revere’s vast exposure (plus multiple major TV appearances like Batman) saw the Raider’s “Washington’s Army” outfits and well-crafted rock beamed across the U.S. and Canada. A good natured, tongue-in-cheek Yankee response to the British Invasion, while pre-dating and in the end resisting, the more cerebral and cacophonous “Summer of Love” of San Francisco.
It was clear the band had a deep reverence for British pop acts like the Kinks, Beatles, Yardbirds, Rolling Stones, Hollies, and Who. All of whom could be heard as influences in their records. They also showed proper respect for then-current American pop peers like Columbia label-mates the Byrds, plus the Rascals, Beach Boys, Sonny and Cher, and Tommy James.
This next clip, “Just Like Me,” is the Raiders at the height of their sound, look and popularity.
The Raiders never strayed from their American musical roots. They were heavily influenced by Detroit’s early Motown Sound as well as Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels. They were also big fans of “Down South” artists like Elvis Presley, Ike and Tina Turner, Otis Redding, Tommy Roe, and Wilson Pickett. In an era where Seattle area music begins and ends with Grunge Rock, Paul Revere and the Raiders were the first Pacific Northwest band to break nationally, paving the way for other local talent.
Over time, contemporaries like the Sonics, Wailers, Kingsmen, Ventures, Merrilee Rush, and ultimately Jimi Hendrix owe something to the Raiders. Later, Northwest Rock mega-successes like Heart, Alice in Chains, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden have been revered (pun intended) as important to the arc of rock music history. In their day, the Raiders were the greatest pop success and first major Northwest rockstars by a long margin.
This clip of “Him or Me” and again captures the band at the peak of their popularity, look and sound.
They were a relentless touring band and gained notoriety indulging in the rock and roll lifestyle. The swinging pop culture of the ‘60s was in full-swing, upon which Mark in particular, made his, well . . . mark. One urban legend intimates he had a vast band of groupies, who’d follow him to an L.A. studio where they were summoned to pleasure him between recording vocal tracks.
After Action, Lindsay and Revere went on to host off-shoot shows, It’s Happening and Happening ‘68, for Clark and ABC. Cancelled in ‘69, they lasted four full years with the network. A string of radio hits like “Just Like Me,” “Kicks,” “Hungry,” “Good Thing,” “Him or Me,” and “Ups and Downs” led to major national teen stardom, big TV ratings, and abundant record sales.
Like many rock acts (The Monkees, Sonny and Cher) and TV shows (Batman, Green Hornet), the Raiders had their very own kustom-themed car dubbed “The Raider Coach.”
Designed and built in 1968 by the ubiquitous George Barris, it mimicked a hot rod stagecoach pulled by a Goat-faced, separately suspended, articulated team of 428 Pontiac mills replacing its equine equivalent. A keen eye will notice signature-themed Barris tricks like amps and a Vox organ built into the back of the rod.
Sadly, the Raider Coach was horribly altered and now lives in Europe. According to a Facebook fansite for the Raider Coach, “As far as we know, the Raiders Coach whereabouts throughout the 70’s is not clear. At some point in the 1980’s, customizer Jay Ohrberg purchased the car and cut it up to make what he called “The Las Vegas Dice Car.”
And the cross media blitz continued full tilt. Check out these car ads done Raider style. We love the “Judge” commercial featuring the entire band in Barrister wigs…
First, their ‘67 Columbia/Chevrolet promo 45 single “SS 396” bw “Corvair Baby”, followed in ’69 by the Pontiac GTO “Judge” commercial.
As the dawn of the ‘’70s entered a darker, more-serious phase of drug abuse, civil unrest, and a heavier music scene, the band struggled for rock relevance. The Raiders continued playing the music circuit until late in Revere’s life (with various lineups), but gradually dropped off the charts after their TV career ended.
Mixed recording successes like “Too Much Talk” (though good) were viewed as plastic neo-awareness. But, the overtly sexual, stripped down “Let Me” from this period was still undeniable “Backseat Rock” and was the band’s biggest chart splash during this dive from pop stardom. 16 Magazine readers soon flipped the pages of Rolling Stone, while AM listeners on transistor radios graduated to headphones and FM-Stereo. The Raiders appeared to miss the cut.
In this video, the band has ditched the colonial army outfits for Nehru jackets to good effect.
Revere and Lindsay started to part ways, mainly because they differed on how to go forward after their TV deal was not renewed. Revere saw the road as the answer, playing the fairs, car shows and casinos and living off the memory of their catalog of hit records and the schtick that endeared them to national television audiences for most of five years.
Lindsay saw the route of continued hit making to be the better road and focused his efforts on carving out a further career as a songwriter, singer and producer, primarily in Hollywood and with a decided bend away from rock and more towards the pop sound.
Mark scored Easy Listening solo hits including the pitch perfect hippie ditty, “Arizona,” which made the American Top-10 in 1969. Lindsay also had Top-10 hits on the Easy Listening charts with “Silver Bird” and “The Grass Won’t Pay No Mind” in 1970, but both only grazed the American Top-40. He also attempted to maintain a presence on television, teaming often with the Carpenters (in retrospect, timeless icons of pop perfection) and Dionne Warwick.
This clip is from 1990 and shows Mark’s voice still in fine form. If you thought colonial army outfits were corny, check out the oversized, unconstructed ’90s suit he’s wearing, with a mullet to boot.
But in 1971, the band rallied for one more major smash together, “Indian Reservation,” a #1 hit and their biggest-seller ever. Lindsay initially thought to release it as another solo record, but in the end he and Paul finally decided to compromise and call the act “The Raiders.”
This clip of “Indian Reservation” captures the band at the end of their popularity. The song would be a political hot-potato today, as Caucasians singing about Native Americans might be deemed “appropriation,” even though Lindsay is one-eighth Cherokee.
Put all the current-day PC malarky aside and dig Mark’s killer vocals and Paul’s incredible Hammond B3 organ sound, especially at the beginning and end of the song.
After “Reservation,” the hits stopped. The Raider team persisted though, touring and making records together until 1975. That’s when Paul and the band finally moved on with the roadshow minus Mark, who decided to center his efforts on Hollywood. Both continued to make records and concert appearances separately. For Revere, this consisted mostly of repackaging old hits, while playing gigs consistently across America on the “Oldie-Circuit” and Vegas.
This Dick Clark reunion clip is interesting montage of a live performance from 1979 interspersed with archival footage from the ’60’s.
For Mark, it was primarily MOR rock and Hollywood centered efforts like soundtrack work, producing, and writing material for other acts. He landed an A&R job at United Artists records, where he signed, guided, and contributed musically to Kenny Rogers and Gerry Rafferty among others. He still performs occasionally.
Paul and Mark and the rest of the band left at least a dozen years of great Rock and Roll and littered the American landscape with scores of records (many of them huge hits), worthy of far greater recognition in retrospect. Paul Revere and The Raiders were the epitome of “Rockin’ Good Fun” and their tracks still deliver a timeless beat.
Paul died in 2014. his survivors include his wife of 35 years, Sydney, and a son, Jamie. Two other longtime Raiders have also died: the drummer Mike Smith in 2001, and the guitarist Drake Levin in 2009.