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About Paul Revere
He wasn't the frontman, the lead singer, or the key musician in the group that bore his name, but Paul Revere, who led Paul Revere & the Raiders from 1960 until his death in 2014, was the idea man who built the act from just another band on the Pacific Northwest teen scene into one of the great rock & roll show bands of their day, with their own TV show and a long string of hit records. And while the Raiders' days as stars were over by the mid-'70s, Revere tirelessly (and successfully) dedicated himself to keeping the band alive on the oldies circuit, and he was barnstorming with his latest incarnation of the Raiders until just a few months before he passed on.
Revere was born Paul Revere Dick in Harvard, Nebraska on January 7, 1938. Having to deal with the inevitable jokes that came with his last name gave young Paul a sense of humor, and after seeing Spike Jones & His City Slickers as a kid, he was convinced that music and comedy were a combination that made a show something special. Growing up in Boise, Idaho, Paul took piano lessons, and as a teenager in the mid-'50s, he had a passion for boogie-woogie and early rock & roll, especially the pumpin' piano of Jerry Lee Lewis. Paul also had a keen business sense; after finishing high school, he attended barber college, and within a few years he was running his own barber shop, as well as a drive-in restaurant. Revere's entrepreneurial bent didn't dampen his enthusiasm for music, and using the stage name Paul Revere, he formed a group called the Downbeats, with Revere playing piano and keeping his bandmates in shape on-stage. While playing a show at a local Elks Club hall, Revere met a 16-year-old named Mark Lindsay, who asked to sing a song with the group. Revere was impressed with Lindsay, and he soon became the Downbeats' new singer and sax player as they played a steady stream of dances and teen club appearances. Hoping to move up the ladder, the Downbeats wanted to put out a record, and after cutting a demo tape, the group began shopping it to labels. Gardena Records, a small outfit in Los Angeles, liked the group's sound but hated their name, and soon the group had a new handle: Paul Revere & the Raiders.
Paul Revere & the Raiders would in time relocate to Portland, Oregon, and their swaggering R&B-based sound won them a growing following. Under Revere's leadership, showmanship was the order of the day, and the group would regularly work comic business into the act and do unison dance steps, while Revere would sometimes set fire to the cheap pianos he played on-stage. Revere also got the idea of renting the band matching Revolutionary War-era uniforms for a frat house gig, and the gimmick went over so well the costumes became a permanent part of the act. In 1961, the Raiders skimmed the lower reaches of the Top 40 with the single "Like, Long Hair," and in 1963, the group's version of "Louie, Louie" (which Revere and company released shortly before the Kingsmen cut their sloppier but inspired version that became a smash hit) fared well enough that they were signed to a deal with Columbia Records. While the group did well regionally with a handful of R&B-leaning frat rockers, it was when Columbia paired the Raiders with producer Terry Melcher and the group retooled their sound into a fuzzier proto-punk attack, with Revere taking turns between piano and organ, that Paul Revere & the Raiders finally broke through nationally, scoring singles like "Steppin' Out," "Hungry," "Kicks," "Just Like Me," "Good Thing," and many more. The band had gone over well as guests on the pop music show American Bandstand, and so in 1965, when Bandstand host and producer Dick Clark launched a spinoff show called Where the Action Is, Revere & the Raiders became regulars on the show, and Revere's blend of comedy, showmanship, and tight, danceable rock & roll helped make the show a hit -- which in turn solidified the Raiders' status as one of the leading rock & roll bands of the day.
During the height of their fame, Revere guided the Raiders through a number of lineup changes, and after leaving Where the Action Is in 1966, Revere and Lindsay became hosts of Happening '68, and the full group was a regular feature on It's Happening from 1968 to 1969. But as tastes changed and the teen scene gave way to the Woodstock Nation, the group was at odds on how to move with the times. The band pared its name down to simply the Raiders, and in 1970 they released an ambitious psychedelic-influenced album called Collage, but by the end of the year Lindsay left the band for a solo career, and quickly scored a Top Ten hit with the song "Arizona." In 1971, the Raiders, with Lindsay back on vocals, came roaring back with a number one single, "Indian Reservation (The Lament of the Cherokee Reservation Indian)," but the album that followed was a disappointment, and after a number of forgettable releases, in 1976 Columbia dropped what had once been their first successful rock band.
In late 1976, Revere announced his retirement from music, but by 1978 he was back on the road with a new lineup of Raiders. Through the '80s, Revere & the Raiders maintained a steady touring schedule, and as the garage rock revival scene spread, many rock writers began celebrating the Raiders' great hits of the '60s as some of the best, toughest rock & roll of the era. By the '90s, much of the band's catalog was being reissued, and Revere was occasionally joined on stage by Lindsay and the classic Raiders lineup for special events, while Revere's regular touring lineup continued to do brisk business. In October 2013, it was revealed that Revere was battling cancer in the brain, but he continued to perform despite the diagnosis until April 2014. In August 2014, Revere announced that he was officially retiring from the group, though they could continue to tour as "Paul Revere's Raiders," led by his son, Jamie Revere. On October 4, 2014, Paul Revere died peacefully at his home in Caldwell, Idaho at the age of 76. ~ Mark Deming
- Harvard, NE
- 7 Jan 1938