MICHAEL "SMITTY" SMITH
1941 - 2001
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-sixties successes, and he had his own fan base which continues to the present.
Smitty was born in Portland, Oregon 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 gained popularity.
Meanwhile, Paul Revere and Mark Lindsay decided to put the Raiders (who had been on hiatus after their 1961 National Hit "Like Long Hair" due to the military) 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 stage favorite.
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. Scoring a huge regional hit, and through hotshot 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-sixties' Raiders (Revere, Lindsay, Phil "Fang" Volk, Drake Levin, Jim "Harpo" Valley and Smitty) all had their own fan clubs and loyal followings.
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) 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-sixties era Raiders, most notably on a 1978 Dick Clark network television special and more recently on September 19, 1997 in Portland, Oregon at a "homecoming" concert which drew about 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 -- and how can anyone hear his "Louie Louie" intro "Grab your woman, it's 'Louie Louie' time" and not smile?