MICHAEL "SMITTY" SMITH
By Neal Skok
Mike "Smitty" Smith, drummer for Paul Revere and the Raiders
from 1962-1967 and 1971-1972, died March 6 in Kailua Kona, Hawaii. Smitty
was an integral part of the Raiders' massive mid-'60s successes and
he had his own fan base which continues to the present.
Smitty was born in Portland, Ore., on March 27, 1941. Enjoying all
types of music, he became proficient on keyboards, guitar and drums.
By his late teens, he and two friends (Al Dardis and Ross Allemang)
formed a Portland teen nightclub, the Headless Horseman, which was loosely
inspired by the successful Los Angeles Cinnamon Cinder club. Smitty
was guitarist in the Headless Horseman's house band and the club rapidly
Meanwhile, Paul Revere and Mark Lindsay decided to put the Raiders
(who had been on hiatus due to the military, after their 1961 national
hit Like Long Hair) back together in Portland. Smitty was convinced
to play drums, his first instrument, and in October, 1962, he became
a Raider. Huge Northwest success was rapid and the band's white-hot,
hard-rocking rhythm and blues and fast paced dynamic stage show made
them the number one band in the Washington, Oregon, Idaho area.
Smitty was the perfect drummer for the Raiders - his infectious grin,
loopy sense of humor and his pure love of music made him an on and off
Opening with Smitty's wonderful ad lib, "Grab your woman, it's
Louie Louie time!" the Raiders recorded the Northwest standard
on April 25, 1963. It scored a huge regional hit; through hot-shot manager
Roger Hart's efforts, Louie Louie would be the Raiders' first
single on Columbia Records.
National success came quickly and the next four years were a blur.
Their daily television show Where The Action Is, magazine covers
and a hard-edged string of top national hits followed. The mid '60s
Raiders (Revere, Lindsay, Phil "Fang" Volk, Drake Levin, Jim
"Harpo" Valley and Smitty) all had their own fan clubs and
Described by Dick Clark as "tough little Smitty," Smith's
antics in the Raiders overshadowed his musical abilities. He loved playing
honky tonk piano and was quite a melodic player. In a band bursting
with original talent, Smitty still came up with some gems. His take
on Barbara George's 1961 hit I Know (from the Raiders' Just
Like Us album) was a hilarious rollicking interpretation. His There's
Always Tomorrow (co-written with Levin) from the Midnight Ride
album was a 1966 anthem of hope. Smitty's crowning achievement was Our
Candidate, from the Raiders' landmark Spirit of '67 album,
was an aggressive folk-rock Dylan send up.
Smitty left the Raiders in May, 1967 (after a triumphant Ed Sullivan
appearance) to form Brotherhood with Volk and Levin. They released
three albums for RCA, but contractual obligations with Columbia caused
problems which led to Brotherhood's obscurity. Smitty was very involved
in both the financial and creative aspects of Brotherhood; he co-wrote
nearly every song on the first two albums.
After leaving Brotherhood, Smitty again became a Raider from early
1971 until December, 1972. They had their only Number One hit (Indian
Reservation) during this era and he also participated on their last
Columbia album, the hard rocking Country Wine. Smitty reunited
a few times with the mid '60s era Raiders, most notable on a 1978 Dick
Clark network television special and more recently on September 19,
1997 in Portland, Ore., at a "homecoming" concert which drew
around 10,000 rabid fans.
Smitty's life and philosophies reflected his introspective spirituality.
He loved the outdoors and nature. His last few years were spent in Hawaii,
where he was enamored with the jungles, mountains and ocean. Smitty
and the Raiders still mean a lot to a lot of people. How can anyone
hear his Louie Louie intro "Grab your woman, it's Louie
Louie time" and not smile.