Thursday, April 17, 2014

Paul Revere and the Raiders with The New Colony Six

Even at 76 years of age, Paul Revere can out-perform many of his contemporaries with one hand tied behind his back ... or, in the case of Sunday Night's Show, tied in FRONT of him.  (Revere recently had rotator cuff surgery and only had one hand available to use on his signature keyboard fills.)  

The past couple of years have not been kind to Paul.  He has had a number of health issues and they seem to be taking a toll on him.  But ever the trooper, Revere continues to perform to the delight of sold out audiences everywhere.  (During his show at The Arcada Theatre Sunday Night, he was already talking about his Rock And Roll Cruise leaving in January of 2015 ... simply put, this guy is NOT going down without a fight!) 

He has enlisted his son to join in on stage as part of the band ... but this is no token, throw-away bit of nepotism ... the kid can PLAY!  Quite a guitarist, he dazzled on a couple of solos.  Where Revere's slow down is most noticeable is in his once rapid-fire pacing of patter throughout the show.  On more than a couple of occasions, he truly seemed to lose his place, needing some help from a couple of his band members in order to stay on track ... whereas before this always seemed to be part of the schtick, Sunday Night it felt a lot more real.  While there were times that this was sad and difficult to watch, I've still got to give him an A for effort ... this guy's a performer of the highest caliber ... and that's pure show-biz running through his veins.  (Unfortunately all of that great adrenalin seems to now be sharing the same space as some necessary medication, which appears to be slowing him down!)

On the plus side, he's got an INCREDIBLE band.  Bassist Ron Foos and Guitarist Don Heath have been with him for over forty years now ... and Keyboardist Danny Krause isn't far behind with 35 years under his belt.  Even the new kids ... Lead Vocalist Darren Dowler (a man of a thousand voices) and Drummer Tommy Scheckel (a drummer the likes of which you've never seen before ... unless, of course, you've seen Tommy Scheckel!) ... have already spent a few years with the certified Mad Man of Rock And Roll.  

Musically, they're as solid as a rock ... they can probably do this show in their sleep ... but it never feels that way.  In fact, quite a few more of their hit songs were featured as part of medleys this time around ... which meant that more recognizable hit material could be included in their set ... as such, we were treated to GREAT Forgotten Hits Raiders tracks like "Let Me", "The Great Airplane Strike", "Ups And Downs", "Mr. Sun, Mr. Moon", "Him Or Me, What's It Gonna Be" and "Birds Of A Feather", tracks that both radio ... and the band ... have ignored for years.  (One thing about Paul Revere and the Raiders ... even when one considers the thousands and thousands and thousands of shows they've done over the years, they've never done the same show twice.  Revere continues to mix things up on stage to keep the band on their toes ... and, as such, they all seem to be having a great time up there on stage, never quite knowing for sure what to expect next.)  It keeps things moving and adds an extra bit of fun to the whole experience, making it all that much more entertaining when something unexpected happens or goes slightly wrong!  The audience is definitely part of the wild ride when these guys are up on stage!

Here's hoping he stays strong for another 76 years ... there are few artists out there that can entertain an audience the way that these guys do.


Opening for Paul Revere and the Raiders were Chicago's very own New Colony Six.  (We were instrumental in instigating this unique pairing, something I've ALWAYS wanted to see.) 

Back in The Summer of '65 (four years before Bryan Adams bought his first real six string), The New Colony Six were starting to make a name for themselves playing the clubs around Chicagoland ... but they felt that they would never hit the big time limiting themselves to The Windy City ... NO other rock band had ever made it big out of Chicago before ... so they packed up all their gear and headed out to Sunny Cal-I-For-Ni-A, landing on The Sunset Strip in Hollywood at a duplex motel.  Back then, part of their gimmick was their colonial uniforms ... so imagine their surprise when they checked in and began unloading to find another rock group renting the space above them ... ALSO decked out in Revolutionary gear.  Yep, it was Paul Revere and the Raiders.  In Ray Graffia Jr.'s words, all jaws collectively dropped.

The big difference during that entire experience was the fact that one of Paul Revere and the Raiders' auditions that week was with Dick Clark Productions ... and Dick fell in love with the band, signing them to host his brand new afternoon rock and roll show "Where The Action Is".  (The New Colony Six, meanwhile, came home feeling quite depressed and dejected.)

But, lo and behold, thanks to the love and belief of their families, several of the parents kicked in money to start their own record company ... and Centaur Records was formed.  The band went in and cut their first single later that year, and by the time the calendar flipped to 1966, "I Confess" was the #2 Record in Chicagoland!  They had done it ... a rock group from Chicago made the charts.  The record soon started climbing the national charts as well, eventually peaking at #64 in Record World.

More hits followed ... SEVENTEEN Top 40 Hits in all on the Chicago Charts ... and a dozen of those made The National Charts as well.  Before The Buckinghams ... before The Cryan' Shames ... before The Ides Of March, The American Breed or The Shadows Of Knight ... The New Colony Six were the FIRST rock band from Chicago to hit the charts and pave the way for all of other acts to follow.  Their 17 local hits is more than ANY other local band of this era ... yet they seem to have been short-changed for a good chunk of their career, often falling in the shadows of some of these other hometown heroes.

Sunday Night they proved that they've still got it ... in one of the best performances I've ever seen them do, The New Colony Six played eight of those hits (along with a killer "Chicago Gold" medley, spotlighting one song each by the other groups mentioned above) to a very receptive audience.  (There seemed to be a fair amount of concern earlier in the week that The New Colony Six may be too similarly dressed as the headliners to share the same stage ... but for me that was always part of the charm of pairing these two acts up together in the first place.)  Incredibly, as a token of deference to the headlining band, The New Colony Six offered to wear their more "subtle black outfits" out of respect ... only to find that Paul Revere and the Raiders came out in a very similar black uniform get-up for their set!  (Needless to say, I'm sure a few more jaws dropped once again!)  Nevertheless, Paul Revere had a bit of fun with the whole idea, first stating that he'd always wondered what happened to the old Raiders outfits that he sold on eBay ... and then later, after remarking that someone earlier that day had recognized him, most likely because of the way he was dressed, went on to say that while normally that's because he's the only one dressed that way, there were WAY too many people dressed that way here today.  All in good sport, of course ... but material other concert goers aren't going to be treated to anywhere else due to the unique circumstances of this particular concert.  Personally, I think they should take The New Colony Six out on the road with them and have this kind of fun EVERY night.  Plus they proved to be a very formidable opening act.)

In fact, both bands got rousing ovations throughout their performances and it made for a fun evening of '60's Rock And Roll.   The '60's was a magical time for music ... and for those of us growing up back then, it's often amazing in hindsight to think about just how "all around us" and accessible this great music actually was.

For starters, we had The Ed Sullivan Show every Sunday Night ... where you just knew he was going to be featuring the latest hit by the hottest band at that moment each week.  We had American Bandstand on the weekend ... and great evening programs like Shindig and Hullaballoo, always bringing the latest hit music right into our living rooms.  After school we had The Lloyd Thaxton Show and Where The Action Is, starring Paul Revere and the Raiders, who showed us several short clips from their hit television series prior to taking the stage Sunday Night.

But here in Chicago we ALSO had Kiddie A-Go-Go, on which The New Colony Six appeared to perform their latest hit record "I Lie Awake" back in 1966.  That clip, when shown at The Arcada Theatre Sunday Night, got as big a laugh as any other ... it was like watching American Bandstand for seven, eight and nine year olds ... all of whom were up there strutting their stuff with all the latest dances.

A FUN night at The Arcada ... some GREAT '60's Music ... and (in my opinion anyway) the PERFECT blend of acts to pull it off.  (kk)   

Some pre-show fun ... 

Prior to the concerts, I got a chance to hang out during the sound checks, during which time FH Reader and frequent contributor (and Chicagoland Sportscasting Legend) Chet Coppock showed up.  (Chet ultimately introduced The New Colony Six on stage that night.)

As pointed out here in Forgotten Hits many years ago, Chet worked as the band's roadie back in the late '60's, earning a whopping $50 a week to help load and set-up the equipment ... and occasionally he even took to the stage himself to treat the audience to his Wayne Cochran impersonation! He said he'd do it again in a minute ... but now they'd have to pay him $70 a week!!!   

He confided that those days are amongst the happiest of his life ... and he still believes that, with the right promotion and management, The New Colony Six could have been one of the biggest groups in the country.  He was there for recording sessions held at the world famous Chess Records studios ... and watched the guys lay down the tracks for their two biggest national hits, "I Will Always Think About You" and "Things I'd Like To Say".  

So when Chet suggested we all huddle around the mike together, doo-wop style, how could anybody possibly resist???

L-R:  Ray Graffia, Jr., founding member of The New Colony Six; 
love-him-or-hate-him sports broadcaster / commentator Chet Coppock; 
and kk, Kent Kotal, that Forgotten Hits guy,
who's doing his part to keep the music alive by saving the oldies one song at a time ... 
live, on stage at The Arcada Theatre; St. Charles, IL
Sunday, April 13th, 2014