APRIL 17, 2001

by Beverly Patterson
Twist and Shake Magazine - May 2001

The world certainly lost a great bundle of talent when Mike "Smitty" Smith died in Kailua Kona, Hawaii on March 6 of this year.  As drummer for Paul Revere and the Raiders from 1962 to 1967, and then again from 1971 to 1972, Mike's tough-as-nails beats were tailor-made for the immensely popular band's distinctive brand of hard-driving melodic pop rock.  Not only did Mike's musical skills fit flawlessly into the band's format, but his sense of humor proved to be a major asset as well.  Paul Revere and the Raiders were stars of "Where The Action Is!," a television series that aired daily in 1965 and 1966, and their lively performances prevailed with zany antics.

Mike played on a slew of the band's hit singles, including "Just Like Me," "Kicks," "Hungry," "The Great Airplane Strike" and "Good Thing."  Paul Revere and the Raiders were indeed a constant presence on the charts during the sixties.  Extensive touring and heavy coverage in the teen magazines lifted the band to the top of the heap, right alongside the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.  While Mike is primarily remembered for his stellar drum abilities, he further continued a couple of certified nuggets to the band's albums.  "There's Always Tomorrow" was co-authored with Paul Revere and the Raiders guitarist, Drake Levin, and was featured on the band's "Midnight Ride" album in 1966.  Later that year, Mike wrote and sang on "Our Candidate," which appeared on the "Spirit of '67" album.  Due to his down to earth personality and good looks, Mike sported a large fan following of his very own.

Upon leaving Paul Revere and the Raiders in 1967, Mike teamed up with two other ex-members of the band -- Drake Levin and bassist Phil "Fang" Volk -- and established Brotherhood.  The band recorded a trio of albums for the RCA label that attracted positive reviews, but little commercial success.  In 1971, Mike rejoined Paul Revere and the Raiders, and that year, they gleaned a mammoth hit single with "Indian Reservation."  Mike was also involved in two reunions.  The first one took place in 1978 and then in 1997, he got together with Mark Lindsay, Drake Levin and Phil "Fang" Volk, where they staged a remarkable show in Portland, Oregon that boasted a wildly enthusiastic audience of eleven thousand Raiders rooters.

On Tuesday, April 17, a memorial was held for Mike at the Double Tree Inn in Portland, Oregon, the town which he was born in.  Many friends, colleagues and family members attended the service, and it was a wonderful celebration of Mike's life.  Former band members Paul Revere, Drake Levin, Phil "Fang" Volk and Keith Allison were at the memorial, and so was Roger Hart, their one time manager.  Gino Rossi, who was the band's personal photographer in their heyday was in tow, as were Dick Peterson, Mike Mitchell and Lynn Easton of the Kingsmen.  Mike's mother, Midge, his father Howard, his brother, Jerry and all four of his children, Rory, Alexandra, Jenna and Rio also came to the service.

Each eulogy stressed what a kind and warm person Mike was.  Paul's tearful eulogy let it be known he thought highly of Mike and is sorely missed.  Phil's heartfelt eulogy spoke of how spiritual Mike was and how he found God in nature, which he loved dearly.  He referred to Mike as a peacemaker, somebody who could not understand why people were mean.  Phil also read a few passages from the Bible and quoted "Turn!  Turn!  Turn!"  Although Keith and Mike never played in Paul Revere and the Raiders at the same time, Keith performed regularly as a solo artist on "Where The Action Is!," so they remained close.  Keith delivered a rather perky eulogy and told a story of when he, Mike and Ringo Starr got together.  He concluded the eulogy by saying he might have become a Raider a lot earlier than he did, if he could only do the dance steps!  Jim "Harpo" Valley, who replaced Drake when he exited the band in 1966, was unable to travel to Portland for the memorial, but graciously videotaped his eulogy and sent it out way.  Jim recalled how passionate Mike was about music and spirituality, stating that they used to jam on guitars and talk for hours in their hotel room after the gigs, with a towel stuck under the door so no one would hear them.  Ahem!  But grief also visited Jim's eulogy, which ended on a sobbing note.  The memorial definitely would not have been complete without a bit of entertainment.  Clips from "Where The Action Is!," "Hullabaloo," "The Ed Sullivan Show" and Paul Revere and the Raiders' 1978 reunion on "American Bandstand" were viewed, while Gino shared a sampling of his fantastic pictures.  Mike's eldest daughter, Alexandra, also played and sang a precious song on acoustic guitar, which strongly indicates she has inherited her father's flair for music.

The memorial obviously produced a mixture of emotions.  It was sad, beautiful and moving.  Mike was a special fellow who touched millions of people with his soul, smile, jokes and music.  Everyone who ever came in contact with him has nothing but fabulous things to say about him.  Mike brought loads of happiness to folks when he was with us and continues to do so.  New generations have discovered his music and are as taken with it as kids were in the sixties.  Mike was inspiring, witty and incredibly gifted.  His body may be gone, but his spirit and influence will live on for eternity.  Drum roll, please!

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