Smith was born in Beaverton, OR, in 1942 and grew up in Portland. He was interested in music from an early age and entered his teens the same year that rock roll began dominated the music charts and the airwaves. His first instrument was the drums, but at some point Smith switched to the guitar, for reasons that aren't entirely clear -- by his own admission to writer William Ruhlmann in the latter's notes for the double-CD set The Legend of Paul Revere, he was a terrible guitarist. He was running a teen club in Portland in the early '60s, where he sometimes played music, and where he knew Mark Lindsay as a patron and fan of his work. One day in 1962, Lindsay showed up and told him that a friend of his who ran the group that he sang with wanted to meet him. Smith joined them outside and they talked, and he was persuaded not only to join Paul Revere the Raiders, but to do it on his old instrument, the drums.
The band at that point was rapidly headed toward its peak as a local and regional institution and had already done some limited commercial recording, and Smith proved a major addition to the lineup and sound. He was a powerful drummer, generating a tremendous amount of raw energy in his work, an essential element in the brand of RB-based dance music that the group specialized in at this time. Smith filled his slot in the lineup comfortably, so much so that he stayed on while others around him came and went -- he was soon joined by guitarist Drake Levin, and it was around then that the group got its big recording break when it was signed to Columbia Records; and in 1965, they were joined by bassist Phil Fang Volk, and the classic lineup was in place. The group's sound changed during this period, taking on more of a garage punk edge and also adding elements of pop/rock to their repertory, and they also came under the broadcast umbrella of Dick Clark, who'd had them on his #American Bandstand show many times and now put them into the regular cast of musicians on his new afternoon series #Where the Action Is, where they quickly became the most popular attraction.
Smith was a strong, energetic player, but he also had enough subtlety in his technique that he was well up to the job of playing on the group's new brand of music, and he, Volk, and Levin helped focus their sound with laser-like precision and intensity behind Lindsay's singing. What's more, because of all of the exposure they were getting through Clark's TV show, they were all among the most well-known musicians in the business. Smith was, for a time in the United States, probably the second most well-known drummer in rock roll after Ringo Starr of the Beatles; a little later on, he found a "rival" in Micky Dolenz (ironically, another guitarist-turned-drummer, though primarily an actor/singer in terms of his major contribution) of the Monkees, whose weekly network television show gave them a similar platform among pre-teens and teenyboppers. Like the other members apart from Lindsay and Revere, he wasn't always heard on every record -- producer Terry Melcher relied ever-increasingly on session musicians after 1965 -- but he was able to do anything on their live appearances that was demanded, and was well into the spirit of fun that pervaded their antic on camera when they worked on television, which soon included not just music showcases but also guest appearances on programs such as ABC's primetime series #Batman. Smith hung on after Levin was forced out of the full-time lineup by the military draft, but by 1967 both he and Volk had left the Raiders as well. By that time, their sound in the studio was thoroughly dominated by Revere, Lindsay, and a coterie of session musicians, and they were drifting toward an ever-poppier brand of music.
Smith, Levin, and Volk, however, re-emerged at the end of the decade together in a group called Brotherhood that was thoroughly their work and their music. In addition to doing a lot of organizing on a business and creative level, Smith also contributed to the songwriting in this setting in a major way, and Brotherhood showed some promise and some credibility as a music act by stepping forward under their names in this new role. Unfortunately, the members, as ex-Raiders, had unsettled contractual obligations to Columbia Records that got in the way of their recording for RCA and the promotion and distribution of their work. The group left behind three LPs before they called it quits in late 1969. The three musicians went in their different directions, Smith rejoining the Raiders for a time as their drummer in the early '70s, at a point when their recording career was effectively past. He eventually left the music business as a full-time activity, but he was only too happy to participate in periodic reunions with his former bandmates, official and unofficial (Revere controlling the group's name); as late as the end of the 1990s, he returned to the limelight to work with Volk, Levin, and Lindsay. By then, he'd moved to Hawaii and was mostly retired from performing. He passed away of natural causes in 2001, at age 58. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi
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