Paul Revere and the Raiders still rock ’n’ rollin’

9 Jul

I had the chance to interview Paul Dick the other day. You may know him as Paul Revere. You know, as in Paul Revere and the Raiders. Paul is a funny guy and I had little idea just how influential he and his band were. Here’s the story I wrote for the Globe’s Enjoy section.

Paul Revere and the Raiders take visitors on a trip down Memory Lane six days a week in Branson. I loved the show. The Comets are a great time, too.

BRANSON, MO. — Paul Revere doesn’t remember the exact date in 1967 when the cover art for his album “Revolution” was shot. He does remember it was in Joplin.

“We were on tour and just happened to be playing Joplin on that particular date,” the rock ’n’ roll legend said. “Columbia Records said that we needed to get a new album out, right now. We were going to be on tour quite a while, so they flew a photographer out from California.”

Revere said the photographer flew into Joplin, then drove around town looking for something to inspire him for the album cover.

The album art for "Revolution" was shot at 15th and Mississippi in Joplin in 1967.

“He spotted this house and called me up and said, ‘Get the boys in costume,’” Revere said. “‘We will pick you up and we are going to get a shot on the porch of this beautiful, old, colonial mansion.’”

Revere remembers hauling his band, the Raiders, out to the location, running up to the home in their signature colonial costumes and posing for a few pictures. After the shoot, Revere and his Raiders hopped on their tour bus and headed back to what he believes was Joplin Memorial Hall.

The home at 15th and Mississippi in Joplin, now owned by Tamko CEO David Humphreys, was featured on the cover of Paul Revere and the Raiders’ 1967 hit album. Humphreys was unavailable for comment, but a spokesperson for Humphreys confirmed Revere’s story.

Almost 40 years later, Paul Revere and the Raiders are still rocking. The faces in the band are older, a few different, but the fun-loving spirit of the self-described “Last Madman of Rock ’n’ Roll” is as strong as ever.

Six days a week, Revere takes the stage at Andy Williams’ Moon River Theater in Branson. He’s joined by longtime friends and musical inspiration, Bill Haley’s Original Comets, for a two hour trip through rock ’n’ roll’s raucous past.

First inspiration

Paul Revere Dick got his musical start in the late 1950s. Like many other kids his age, he loved the new rock ’n’ roll sound.

“I always had an interest in rock ’n’ roll,” he said.  “From the time I heard Bill Haley and the Comets, they were one of my first inspirations.”

Revere also found inspiration from Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley. Both artists relied heavily on the boogie woogie piano sound in their music. Revere, a keyboard and piano player himself, loved it.

At around 18 or 19 years old, Revere and some friends from around Boise, Idaho, put a band together and would “jam” at his house, mimicking early rockers.

“It was simple and easy to play,” he said. “It was fun and we finally decided we were so good, and we knew enough songs, that we would play a dance.”

Revere rented a hall, had some flyers printed and stuck them under the windshield wipers of cars in the parking lots of neighboring high schools.

“We packed the place,” he laughed. “There were no rock ’n’ roll bands back in Idaho in those days, so we came to the rescue.”

Originally named The Downbeats, the band and their music caught on, but the name was quickly abandoned.

“It didn’t matter if we were any good,” he said. “We were the only rock ’n’ roll band in town.  We just played everything in either (the chords of) C or E and would just knock off any of the rock ’n’ roll hits we heard on the radio.

“It was a slam dunk. The kids couldn’t get enough of it.”

‘Hit by lightning’

After a while playing dances for high schoolers, Revere decided to take a shot at the big time. He recorded a demo tape at a small, radio station recording studio for about $30. He packed up his car and drove 1,200 miles to Los Angeles in hopes of finding fame.

Once there, he started knocking on doors. Soon, he said, fame answered.

“I was just stupid enough to think I could make a record deal,” he said. “And, I did.”

Revere said Los Angeles in the early ’60s was a great place to be.

“I was definitely a hick,” he said. “I was raised on a farm and L.A. and Hollywood were kind of crazy. It was clear full of all kinds of little record labels you had never heard of. It was full of hole-in-the-wall recording studios. They were everywhere and it was kind of an exciting time with a lot going on.”

Revere thinks talent plays into musical success, but said most of it is “just plain luck.”

“Whether it’s the music business or TV or movies or whatever, it’s 95 percent luck,” he said. “You have to be in the right place at the right time. All of the stars gotta line up correctly and then, wham. You will get hit by lightning and get lucky. You take that and run with it. If your lucky, you might be able to stretch it into some more hits. Really, that first shot is luck and then you got to just be persistent.”

Revere said a second hit is great, but once you have three in a row, you have a good chance of success.

‘It’s like Mayberry’

While most 72-year-olds have settled into retirement and spend their days fishing and relaxing, Revere keeps performing. Revere and his friend of many years, Bill Medley, came to Branson more than six years ago to headline Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theatre. Two years ago he moved his show to a new venue.

“Bill and I came to Branson as a package,” he said. “Then several years later Andy Williams made us an offer we couldn’t refuse. I’ve bought a home and my wife and me stay here about six months out of the year.”

The rest of his time is split between tour dates and his home in Idaho.

“Branson’s been good to me,” he said. “The people here are friendly and really nice. It’s like Mayberry. I love it here. It’s comfortable and I’m not crazy about big cities, in the world we live in today. It’s a great place to live.”

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2 Responses to “Paul Revere and the Raiders still rock ’n’ rollin’”

  1. David Smith March 6, 2011 at 1:16 am #

    I remember Paul and the guy’s on American Band Stand
    I would run home from school Just to see the opening with
    them singing, “man that was Great”!, Glad to see the band still Rockin’ out, FOREVER YOUNG!!!…

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. freshoffthepress.org - August 2, 2010

    Channeling Paul Revere to Protect Public Gardens…

    I found your entry interesting thus I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)…

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