THE MAN WHO DRUMMED
By: Larry McKenzie
It was May 28, 1988 when there an event was called "The Hot Rod Show," which had many nice cars on display, but the reason I was there was for the music. It featured music by the Ventures, Johnny Limbo & the Lugnuts, Marilee Rush, and Paul Revere and the Raiders. Needless to say I'm a fan of music of all kinds of groups and this was one heck of a lineup.
As the whole day came to end, I found myself sneaking backstage to meet the Raiders. During the concert, Paul Revere mentioned that his first drummer Smitty was there, and not knowing what he looked like, I searched. With my memory of the photo on the back of the "Indian Reservation" LP, I was able ask if Michael Smith was still around. Little did I know I was standing only about 10 feet away. I introduced myself and we started talking right off. He agreed to give me an interview for the readers of Silverbird.
These are the highlights from it! From what I can tell, this is his first printed interview in over 9 years, his last one being in 1979 at the Great Raider Reunion. Hope you like it.
LARRY McKENZIE: OK, I'm talking to Michael Smith, "Smitty," who worked with Mark Lindsay from when to when?
MICHAEL SMITH: Oh, let's see... From a later 1961 up till 1972.
LM: When did you first meet him?
MS: When I first met Mark, we had a teenage nightclub called The Headless Horseman, and it was one block off of Broadway in Portland on Park Street, and now it's a restaurant called The Renaissance or something like that. Some friends of mine in high school got together, and we opened a nightclub for teenagers. We made fancy drinks, non-alcoholic of course. We had two band stands, and after we remodeled and finally got the place open, we didn't have enough money to hire a band, and I played about six songs on the guitar, along with Ross Allemang, who ended up being the bass player for the Raiders for a short while.
LM: So how many albums did you play on with Mark all together?
MS: All the ones that went gold! We had signed a contract with Columbia Records. They wanted our "Louie, Louie," so they bought our master. We recorded it at Northwest Sound in Portland.
LM: Which is now a Binyons Optical store.
MS: Could be, ah, yeah.
LM: Someone told me, I think it was Roger.
MS: But here is Columbia Records sitting on their butts doing nothing and we took our 500 copies we had pressed up of "Louie, Louie," and every place we took it, it went to #1. A friend of mine took it to Hawaii--Went to #1 in Hawaii, went to #1 in San Francisco, and I have no idea how it got back to Louisiana. Seattle, all over the place it was #1. Of course we couldn't distribute it cause we were just hauling it around in the trunks of our cars, and then Columbia came and signed us up. We thought it was the greatest deal on earth, biggest record on earth was signing us to a contract. Then Doris Day was on the board of directors, Mitch Miller and a couple others who hated rock and roll, so they sat on it. In the meantime, the Kingsmen had recorded it and it went to Jerden Records in Seattle, which went to Wand Records in Boston, and that song, whoever would have done it, would have been a #1 hit. No matter who would have done it. But Columbia lost it for us. They just sat on their butt and the thing took off with another group. The Kingsmen who used to work for me at the Headless Horseman, as a matter of fact.
LM: So when was the last time you performed live with Mark or in the studio with Mark?
MS: Last time was in '79. We did a special for Dick Clark, which was called Rock and Roll from 1955 to 1965.
LM: Did you and Mark ever write any songs?
MS: We wrote songs while we were traveling, parts of songs. I never sat down and neither did Mark and I, together that is, sit down and finish something from beginning to end. We would start something then somebody else would get involved and they would finish it. We weren't worried about who got their name on the back then, it was no big deal. As it turns out now, of course, you keep getting royalties for those things. We worked on quite a few songs.
LM: Do you have a favorite Mark Lindsay vocal song?
MS: A favorite? I always liked "Hungry". We had a good time on "Good Thing". That was more of good memories rather than the content of the song.
LM: Which album do you think you worked hardest on back then?
MS: We really didn't work hard on anything. That sounds kind of strange, but we would get off the road--We worked hardest on the road. We would get back in L.A. maybe from New York, say we have been playing for 45 days straight and all the gigs were 500 and 1000 miles apart, so they were all airplane so we didn't have a chance to sleep. If you got sick or a cold at the beginning of the tour, you couldn't shake it till the end of the tour. We would come back into L.A., maybe get in from New York at four in the morning or so, and at six in the morning, we would have to be out on the set of Where The Action Is, cause they film from sun up till sun down. Then after that, we would go to a studio and record till about four in the morning so everything is kind of a blur and burn out. As far as being hard, none of the recording was hard, but everyone was burned out from just working so hard on the road. You just didn't have any time off.
LM: So what do you think of today's music?
MS: Well, I like all music. I don't like music with the anxiety of people or life where it gets into the music and its going, and making me uncomfortable. It's got to be mellow no matter how much rock it has.
LM: So what types of groups do you listen to today or stations so you listen to when you have to?
MS: I listen to KINK when I'm in town.
LM: The mellow stuff like Kenny G?
MS: In fact, I still like a lot of the old songs, like Simon and Garfunkel, Crosby, Stills and Nash.
LM: What if Mark asked you to go back on the road with him and do an album?
MS: Well, I would certainly think about it, that is why I'm curious about the material.
LM: What do you think is the comeback, the surge in old music?
MS: It just goes through cycles. The generation which is going through this one right now has seen more than any other generation on earth, and they have seen the falling away of natural things, natural resources, and everything else. I think they've got more of a desire to see the original things back together, bands too. I mean the woods I used to play in is now a parking lot with a Safeway store. I would like to see it back to original condition. I don't know if that is it or not, but I like original things myself. Just another surge, it goes in cycles.
LM: Thank you very much!
MS: Happy to do it.