Sixties pop giant Mark Lindsay's back where his musical tale began
Mark Lindsay remembers the pain.
His band, Paul Revere and the Raiders, had become a regional powerhouse by the early '60s, drawing enthusiastic crowds to its rambunctious rock shows all over the Pacific Northwest.
The group also was feeling good about a single it had recorded in a Portland studio, a cover version of a doo wop-era single named 'Louie, Louie.' The big time, it appeared, was within reach.
'We were ready to take over the world,' Lindsay says. It hardly seemed to matter that a Southeast Portland band called the Kingsmen had recorded the same song, in the same studio, one day earlier.
The Raiders' single became the big hit locally, but disc jockeys elsewhere got their hands on the other version, one whose indistinct vocals gave rise to rumors that the song contained profane lyrics.
The song was banned from the airwaves in places, triggering investigations by the Federal Communications Commission and the FBI. It also rocketed to No. 2 on the Billboard chart.
'We were very disappointed,' Lindsay says. 'That was our big shot. That was the record we had hung our hats on.'
As it turned out, Paul Revere and the Raiders soon would be able to hang their tricorn hats just about any place they wanted.
In trademark Continental Army garb, the group would become one of the most vibrant and visible successes in rock music in the '60s, opening for acts like the Rolling Stones and the Beach Boys.
Lindsay can still trade on that popularity. A Portland-area resident for the last year and a half, he has a radio show on K-Hits (106.7 FM) and soon will open a Hollywood District restaurant honoring the city's rock and roll past.
'I always wanted to be a disc jockey,' says Lindsay, who turned 65 this month. 'We came here to open the restaurant and get on the radio.'
Lindsay is an authentic Northwest product.
Born in Eugene, he grew up in Boise, Idaho, where his father was both a teacher and a farmer. It was there that, despite poor eyesight and no formal music education, his journey began.
'I always wanted to sing,' he says.
At a dance that featured a popular local rockabilly outfit, Lindsay talked his way onto the stage, making an impression as a singer and frontman that stayed with the band's keyboard player, Revere Dick.
Dick, a high school dropout who had become a restaurant owner, was still talking about the show the next day as he retrieved an order of hamburger buns from a local bakery. The young employee listening to the story from behind a pair of thick glasses was Lindsay.
After Hot Nuts, the real deal
Lindsay and Dick, whose full name was Paul Revere Dick, formed a musical partnership. They scored a minor Top 40 hit with the instrumental 'Like, Long Hair,' in 1961. After Dick spent a year and a half working at an Oregon mental institution in lieu of military service, the band began to build a following in earnest.
'Paul Revere and the Raiders was the raunchiest band in the world,' Lindsay says. The band once played a gig in Corvallis, he recalls, where the Raiders were told they'd have trouble matching the audacity of the act that had played previously, a band called Doug Clark and the Hot Nuts. They had performed in gold lamé jockstraps.
'OK, guys, let's go,' Lindsay says he told his bandmates, and the Raiders played the gig in their underwear.'
'They'd come into Portland once in a while,' says Jack Ely, the vocalist on the Kingsmen's version of 'Louie, Louie.' 'The first time I ever saw them was when we played together at the Coaster in Cannon Beach.
'To tell you the truth, I kind of thought of them as an adults' band,' Ely says. 'We were the house band at a teen club in those days. It was pretty obvious to everybody that we were kids and they weren't.'
While it was the Kingsmen who had enjoyed national prominence first, it wouldn't be long before the Raiders would get another opportunity. Lindsay says Dick Clark's Caravan of Stars, a rock-and-roll bus tour that featured some of the biggest acts of the day, came to Portland but failed to attract the audience promoters had hoped for.
'Nobody came because we had 3,000 kids at the Salem Armory,' Lindsay says.
Clark's people took notice, and the Raiders soon had a 13-week contract with the tour.
By the end of 1965, the band had signed with CBS Records, the first rock band to do so, and was on the charts with the single 'Just Like Me.' The Raiders scored six more Top 40 hits in the next year and a half, including four that reached the Top 10.
Telegenic with their rakish outfits, energetic charm and Lindsay's boyish good looks, the band was tabbed to host an afternoon TV show, 'Where the Action Is,' and Lindsay jockeyed for space on the covers of teen magazines like 16 and Tiger Beat with Peter Noone of Herman's Hermits and Davy Jones of the Monkees.
The Raiders were everywhere. 'We had more television appearances than any other group in history, because of the five-day-a-week thing,' Lindsay says.
The ups came with downs
In time, the Raiders grew apart.
Lindsay, who did a lot of songwriting and producing, says he tried to take the band in a new direction. When the group wasn't touring, he was in the studio looking for new sounds.
'I saw the Raiders going forward. They saw the Raiders as status quo,' he says. 'You can't stay at the zenith - that's the whole tricky part of it. I went in to cut an album that was going to have nothing to do with the Raiders.'
Lindsay had begun to score chart hits as a solo act ('Arizona,' 'Silver Bird') when the Raiders album 'Collage' was released in 1970. It went nowhere.
'The public didn't like the album,' Lindsay says. 'That kind of broke my spirit. I kind of dropped out.'
Lindsay did create one last triumph for the Raiders, a somber single called 'Indian Reservation (The Lament of the Cherokee Reservation Indian)' that spent 15 weeks on the charts in 1971. It became the Raiders' only No. 1 hit.
A quarter-century later, with Revere making a living in Branson, Mo., Lindsay is confident that history will judge the band fairly.
'There are some music historians that give us credit,' he says. ' 'Just Like Me' was listed by Rhino Records as one of the best punk records of all time. We could've traded places with the Kinks or the Animals in a lot of ways.
'But it was a little hard to live down the image of the tights and the ruffled collars,' he says. 'That's the image that stuck.'
Lindsay has his memories, too. Like the time Janis Joplin, who'd been working in an adjacent studio at CBS, barged through his door with a powerful thirst.
'She comes in and says, 'Lindsay, got anything to drink?' ' he remembers, affecting the singer's gravelly voice. 'I say, 'Janis, I just got this Blue Nun.' ' He says the rock goddess hoisted the bottle and took a huge slug.
'She was just too dangerous,' Lindsay says. 'She scared the s- out of me.'
Rock cafe gets Northwest spin
Lindsay, who has never stopped recording and performing, is now comfortably immersed in two Portland projects that soon will morph into one.
Kent Hartman is one of his partners in Mark Lindsay's Rock and Roll Cafe, which is due to open in mid-May at the corner of Northeast 42nd Avenue and Sandy Boulevard.
Hartman, a longtime friend and music merchandiser, says the enterprise will revive and unite a number of Portland legends.
Lindsay will do his Saturday- night oldies show from the restaurant's 'K-Hits Corner' much as the old KISN (910 AM) once broadcast on West Burnside Street - in full view of passers-by.
And the restaurant's fare will include menu items from Yaw's, a legendary Hollywood District burger joint that was a Portland institution.
'The Raiders and Yaw's dominated my childhood,' Hartman says. 'It was a long-burning desire to bring them back.'
He says the restaurant will be decorated with paraphernalia from the careers of Lindsay and other stars from the Northwest. 'This is the Northwest's answer to the Hard Rock Cafe, except we're going to try to do them one better,' he says. 'There's no Hard Rock Cafe with a radio station.'
Lindsay is fully on board. He and his wife, Deb, who is like a walking encyclopedia of her husband's career, are moving from east of the city into Portland proper to be closer to the restaurant.
And Lindsay, as he always has, is finding his comfort level in Portland.
'I said, 'You know what, it's time to get back to my roots and just kick back,' ' he says. 'I'm home again and liking it.'
'Mark After Dark'
When: 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Saturdays
Where: K-Hits (106.7 FM)