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Then & Now
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A ‘Revolutionary’ Approach
Spectrum staff writer
Walking past a storefront window in downtown Portland, Ore., on a
late October afternoon in 1963, Paul Revere and the Raiders collectively
noticed a display of vintage Revolutionary War uniforms. What followed
was a flash of promotional inspiration that would alter the course
of the band’s career.
Always looking for a new twist for their wild stage shows, the Raiders unanimously
agreed that, as singer Mark Lindsay explained, “It would be great fun for
us to look like the name sounded.”
Originally, this wardrobe of three-corner hats, colonial army jackets, white
lace shirts, black slacks and flamenco boots was intended as a one-time-only
gimmick. However, the Raiders soon realized they’d found a distinct trademark
no other band could duplicate.
“As I recall, we were playing in Portland for a costume-type ball. It was
around Halloween,” Michael “Doc” Holladay, the Raiders’ bassist
from September 1963 to January 1965, said in 1998. “It seems to me most
of us were there when we passed this costume shop and there was Revolutionary
outfits up there in the corner. And one of us said, ‘Hey, I wonder if they’ve
got five of those we could rent.’
“We rented them the first night and the crowd loved it so much when we
came out at halftime in the Revolutionary outfits,” Holladay continued. “The
crowd decided for us that it would be part of the act from that time on.”
Drummer Mike “Smitty” Smith, who passed away March 6, 2001, explained
in a 1997 interview how the uniforms were introduced with the usual dash of Raiders
“We were going to take a picture of the band,” Smith said. “We
went inside this costume store and saw those uniforms. They were actually the
real, authentic antique colonial coats. Today, they’d be worth a lot of
Smith said the Raiders rented the uniforms out of necessity. He remembered that
when their new, bright red, collarless La Jolla jackets were improperly cleaned,
a solution was needed before the next gig.
“We played a couple of nights in those [red jackets] and Mark [Lindsay]
was the one who took them to a cleaner, or maybe he did them himself or whatever.
Anyway, when the jackets came back, they shrunk up and the sleeves were about
four inches too short. I didn’t think we were going to make short-sleeve
jackets the new trend,” Smith said. “So, we devised a little plan.
We loosened all the threads in the shoulders and so on.”
That night, the crowd at the Lake Oswego Armory outside of Portland — estimated
at 1,500 by Smith — witnessed one of the Raiders’ most memorable
antics of their pre-teen idol era.
“We get on stage in our new La Jolla jackets with sleeves too short on
everyone. We’re playing our regular dance and just before the middle break — and
this was set up in advance — the whole band starts fighting each other,” Smith
recalled. “We’re ripping these brand new coats and everybody there
knew we just bought these things just a couple of weeks ago. [The audience thought]
we wouldn’t really be tearing up our own coats unless we’re really
mad! We ripped those coats to shreds and stomped off the stage!”
As part of the ruse, Roger Hart, the group’s manager, assured the crowd
that the dance would go on, and to expect a longer-than-usual break.
“We went back in the dressing room and put on the three-corner hats and
the colonial outfits. With tension in the air, we came back on stage and started
playing and everybody boogied down … good party,” Smith said.
The group returned the coats to the costume shop, thinking it was a one-time
stunt. Smith remembered that during one of their next dances, some of the fans
asked why they weren’t wearing the colonial uniforms.
“That was such a highlight that we rented them again and later had some
custom-made. That started that trend,” Smith said.
With their regal threads came the nightly challenge of averting the level of
dehydration usually associated with sports like football or hockey.
“[The jackets] were complete bulls—-,” Smith said. “They
were really terrible. They were heavy coats and with all the frill and everything,
we were spending a lot of energy from the moment we started a show until we finished.
“We would weigh ourselves afterward and found we’d lose 12 to 15
pounds a night.”
By 1968, the Raiders had phased out their on-stage Revolutionary styles. However,
in 1974, near the end of Lindsay’s stint as lead vocalist, Revere brought
back the colonial look. The change in wardrobe helped the band cash in on the
American Bicentennial celebration, and the uniforms remain a popular staple of
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