Originally planned as a Mark Lindsay solo record, Paul persuaded Mark to release it as Paul Revere and the Raiders … give the band one last big hit … and said that he would personally promote it himself, from coast to coast.
And that’s exactly what Paul Revere did.
He hopped on his motorcycle with a supply of singles in his bag and drove from Top 40 station to Top 40 stations across The United States. The promotion worked … and “Indian Reservation” became the biggest hit Paul Revere and the Raiders ever had.
I have to admit that I was QUITE surprised when I first heard that Paul Revere and the Raiders had redone the song in 1971 ... they had written so many of their own hits, I couldn't imagine why they'd now be issuing a cover, particularly of a song that I thought was already so well known and had just been on the charts a couple of years before. (The Raiders’ hit list doesn’t include a lot of covers. Way back in 1963, they released a competing version of the garage band classic "Louie, Louie," only to see their rivals The Kingsmen score the major hit with that song. In fact, both bands recorded their versions of “Louie Louie” in the exact same studio, only a few days apart!)
Well, it turns out (despite its massive airplay here in Chicago, where it hit #5), Don Fardon’s version of "Indian Reservation" apparently WASN'T all that well-known around the rest of the country … #20 in Billboard … and America embraced Mark Lindsay's version (maybe it was the ponytail???), sending it straight to #1, the ONLY official #1 Record of their career!
(When Fardon's record hit #3 in England, Jack Gold, a Columbia Records Executive, approached Mark Lindsay about recording the song. Lindsay says he's about 1/16th Cherokee and was intrigued by the song's message.) The original plan was for it to be a Mark Lindsay SOLO record ... he had already hit The Top 40 on his own with "Arizona," "Miss America," "Silver Bird" and "And The Grass Won't Pay No Mind" ... and, quite honestly, The Raiders hadn't had a decent-sized hit in nearly two years.
Mark Lindsay agreed to cut the tune but, according to some reports, said that he wanted it released as a Raiders' single. (Since he was producing the band anyway, Columbia agreed ... in fact, the success of this "comeback" record helped to resurrect the band's career for a short time and their follow-up singles "Birds Of A Feather" and "Country Wine" also made The National Top 40.) The far more popular version of that story states that Paul Revere BEGGED Lindsay to release the tune as a Raiders cut to give the band one more shot at a hit record ... in either event, Mark Lindsay's recording revitalized the band ... and "Indian Reservation" stands as the last of their five Billboard Top Ten Hits.
But Don Fardon's version was not the original version of this song either. When we did our "Honest Injun" series back in 2005, we let all of our readers know that the song was written by veteran songwriter John D. Loudermilk, no stranger to the pop charts over the years, having also written the hits "Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye" for The Casinos, "Tobacco Road" for The Nashville Teens, "Ebony Eyes" for The Everly Brothers and "Waterloo" for Stonewall Jackson.
John D. Loudermilk first wrote and recorded his song under the title "Pale-Faced Indian" with real-life Cherokee Indian Marvin Rainwater back in 1959 but it never reached the charts. (Rainwater is best remembered for his 1957 Top 20 Hit "Gonna Find Me A Bluebird.")
After a lyric tweak here and there, Don Fardon's 1968 version was simply called "Indian Reservation" (although "The Lament Of The Cherokee" appeared in parentheses in the title.) By the time Paul Revere and the Raiders got ahold of this tune, the parentheses portion of the title was expanded to read "The Lament Of The Cherokee Reservation Indian.")
Fardon (whose REAL name is Donald Maughn) was a British artist who had previously recorded with the group The Sorrows. (Their British hit, "Take A Hand", "bubbled under" on the Billboard charts here in the States.) Despite his solo success here in The States, Fardon's version of "Indian Reservation" wasn't released as a single in Great Britain until two years later. When it WAS finally issued in 1970, it went all the way to #3!!!
Paul Revere and the Raiders were the first rock group signed to Columbia Records ... and quite honestly, they really didn't know what to do with them ... they just knew that in order to compete in the new teen record buying market, they needed to focus on acts that would appeal to that demographic. (Keep in mind that the company's chief exec was Mitch Miller at the time ... and their biggest artists were far more mainstream acts like Johnny Mathis and Andy Williams. This was new territory indeed.)
The band got its big break when Dick Clark picked them to host his new after school rock and roll show "Where The Action Is." This brought them into our living rooms every day ... and immediately got their photos plastered all over the most popular teeny-bop magazines of the time. (Lead Singer Mark Lindsay in particular, with his ponytail!)
After seventeen Top 50 Hits, Lindsay decided to launch a solo career ... and he had good success in 1970 with hits like "Arizona" (#9), "Miss America" (#31), "Silver Bird" (#20) and "And The Grass Won't Pay No Mind" (#36).
Mark told Fred Bronson, author of "The Billboard Book Of Number One Hits," "'Indian Reservation' was going to be a Mark Lindsay solo single. I'd had 'Arizona' before that and (Columbia Executive) Jack Gold suggested I record it. At the time, The Raiders had no material out there. As the producer of The Raiders, it was my choice to put it out under the name The Raiders." (Funnily enough, for YEARS there was a rumor floating around that Mark Lindsay did not sing The Raiders' all-time biggest hit. We can assure you that this is TOTALLY false ... that's Mark singing lead on the record and, as evidence above, on the video as well.)
The far more common version of the story ... and the one that was told at the time and ever since by Paul Revere in countless interviews ... is that Paul told Mark that if he would release the record as The Raiders rather than as a solo single, he would drive from coast to coast to ensure it would be a hit.
Paul Revere said that recording both "Indian Reservation" and "Birds Of A Feather" (another single consideration ... it ended up coming out AFTER "Indian Reservation" was a hit) prompted him to visit an old DJ friend in Idaho and have him play both tracks in order to measure his audience's reaction. "Indian Reservation" proved to be by far the more popular track so it was the song that was released as their next single.
Paul said "I knew that it was the kind of song that would either be a monster or a complete bomb. I called the head of Columbia's promotion department, Steve Popovich, in New York and I told him that I was going on a record promotion trip, which was something artists didn't do anymore. Over a four month period, my good friend Mike Allen and I crossed the U.S. on two Harley Davidson motorcycles a total of four times, plugging 'Indian Reservation' at over 300 radio stations." Revere's road trip was a success ... it earned the band their first (and only) #1 Hit Record.
According to Ed Osborne's liner notes for the Collectors' Choice 2-CD Set "Paul Revere and the Raiders featuring Mark Lindsay: The Complete Columbia Singles," Mark Lindsay is the only Raider on the record.
"Mark had already laid down his lead vocal when veteran studio singers Ron Hicklin, Stan Farber and Tom Baylor added their voices." The organ (Paul Revere's forte) was played by Artie Butler and session maestro Hal Blaine was on the drums.
Osborne writes "In the first weeks after its release on February 12, 1971, 'Indian Reservation' showed no signs of becoming a monster hit and the CBS execs considered it a lost cause."
Paul Revere was having NONE of that ... and in this case, tells this story:
"I took it to a radio station in Idaho where they had a battle of the bands in the evenings ... when people would vote for which song they liked out of the new releases. I said, 'Do not tell anybody who this is, because nobody is going to think that this is Paul Revere and the Raiders.' They played it and it won ... and it kept on winning."
Encouraged, Paul did what he did in the band's scrambling days ... he hit the road. "I had a cool Excalibur car that looked like a 1927 Roadster and I drove to Reno, did an interview and got the rock an droll station there to play the record. And then I drove to Sacramento, Fresno, Modesto and all the way down to L.A. And I was getting airplay at all these little radio stations."
Paul returned to Idaho ... and then he and his motorcycle buddy Mike Allen hit the road again. Armed with a list of radio stations across the country, "we stopped at four or five radio stations a day, hitting secondary markets because they were more apt to put me right on the air for an interview and play the record live. By then it was late enough in the spring (for good weather) so I went all the way up to New York and Boston. By the time I got home, I think I'd lost about thirty-five pounds."
The road trip paid off ... it took FOUR MONTHS for "Indian Reservation" to crack Billboard's Top Ten, but it continued to gain momentum with each new radio station add. On July 3rd, it slid into the #2 spot behind Carole King's smash "It's Too Late." It sat there for three weeks before FINALLY hitting the top of the chart on July 24th. The record was so successful that Lindsay rejoined the band for a couple more years ... but, despite a couple more Top 40 hits, this was really was The Raiders' last hurrah. Mark Lindsay's solo career never really took off again either ... but today ... some 55-60 years later, he's still drawing them in as one of the headliners on The Happy Together Tour, still kicking his leg up over his head despite being over 70 years old! Paul Revere, of course, passed a few years ago. Ever the showman his band, now billed as "Paul Revere's Raiders" continues to entertain on oldies cruises (including the Where The Action Is Cruise!), casino showrooms and clubs across the country.
One of history's greatest injustices is the fact that Paul Revere and the Raiders have never been so much as nominated (much less inducted) into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. Millions of fans grew up loving their feel-good music and their incredible list of hits. (See below)
THE PAUL REVERE AND THE RAIDERS / MARK LINDSAY HIT LIST:
(National Peak Shown)
1961 - Like, Long Hair - #30 (#9 in Chicago)
1963 - Louie, Louie - #103 (honorable mention)
1964 - Over You - #132 (but #22 in Chicago)
1965 - Steppin' Out - #41 (#17 in Chicago)
1966 - Just Like Me - #11
1966 - Kicks - #3 (#1 in Chicago)
1966 - Hungry - #6
1966 - The Great Airplane Strike - #17
1967 - Good Thing - #4
1967 - Ups And Downs - #19
1967 - Him Or Me, What's It Gonna Be - #5
1967 - I Had A Dream - #13
1967 - Peace Of Mind - #35
1968 - Too Much Talk - #11
1968 - Don't Take It So Hard - #18
1968 - Cinderella Sunshine - #42
1969 - Mr. Sun, Mr. Moon - #15
1969 - Let Me - #14
1969 - We Gotta All Get Together - #25
1970 - Arizona - #9 (MARK LINDSAY)
1970 - Miss America - #31 (MARK LINDSAY)
1970 - Silver Bird - #20 (MARK LINDSAY)
1970 - And The Grass Won't Pay No Mind - #36 (MARK LINDSAY)
1971- Indian Reservation- #1 (as The Raiders)
1971 - Birds Of A Feather - #13 (as The Raiders)
1972 - Country Wine - #28 (as The Raiders)
1972 - Powser Blue Mercedes Queen - #43 (as The Raiders)