Phil "Fang" Volk

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As a member of Paul Revere & the Raiders from 1965 through 1967 -- the group's prime hitmaking years and their time of biggest exposure on television -- Phil "Fang" Volk was probably the…
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As a member of Paul Revere & the Raiders from 1965 through 1967 -- the group's prime hitmaking years and their time of biggest exposure on television -- Phil "Fang" Volk was probably the second-best-known bassist in rock, at least in America, after the Beatles' Paul McCartney. He has also enjoyed a professional music career for four decades since leaving the Raiders. Volk was born in 1945 and grew up in Nampa, ID, a small farming town, about 30 miles from Boise. Rock & roll was already a going concern when he reached his teens, and he was a big fan of Elvis Presley and Fats Domino, among others. He was known in high school for his musical and athletic abilities, but also for his outgoing personality and a flair for comedy, all of which would come to serve him well in the Raiders. Volk was in his first band, the Classics, at 16 with a friend and classmate, drummer Russ Bice, and by 18 had moved on to his first semi-professional group, the Chancellors, based in Boise, where Volk played rhythm guitar and sang some lead vocals. Their main inspiration as a group, by his own account, was Paul Revere & the Raiders, who, by 1961-1962, had come to dominate the Pacific Northwest band scene in Idaho and Oregon -- the Chancellors themselves even had the chance to record, and they were making a decent living as a working band by 1963.

Volk got fired from the group when a commitment to a track meet interfered with his making a gig, and he subsequently joined a group called Sir Winston's Trio, which included a guitarist named Drake Levin. While neither that band nor its successor group, the Surfers -- who, by Volk's account, never played any surf music but did dance-style R&B -- lasted long, the second group managed to cross paths with the Raiders when Paul Revere took them as the opening act for a show in Nampa. He and Levin even got to work with Raiders drummer Mike Smith when he sat in with the Surfers, and Levin was subsequently brought into the lineup of Paul Revere & the Raiders. In the meantime, Volk, temporarily out of music, attended the University of Colorado in Boulder. His college education lasted a total of 18 months, when one day in early 1965 he was contacted by Revere, who wanted him as bassist in the band to replace Mike "Doc" Holiday.

At this point, the group was signed to Columbia Records and were about to emerge as one of the most popular rock & roll acts in the country, thanks to the intervention of Dick Clark, who put them onto his new afternoon music show, Where the Action Is. The band had always had a good deal of comic antics in their stage act, but miming to their records on camera allowed them even more freedom to pump up the humor -- and the presence of Volk only enhanced that attribute. He had the nickname "Fang," thanks to his somewhat prominent teeth, and he had a flair for visual humor that made him a natural; one of his trademarked moves involved flipping over his instrument on camera to reveal his nickname in big, goofy letters on the back. More seriously, he, Levin, and drummer Mike Smith formed a tight instrumental trio at the core of the group's sound, coupled with Revere's keyboards, and all of it, combined with Mark Lindsay's lead vocals, made for a massively powerful sound, which producer Terry Melcher was able to capture extremely well on record.

Volk remained with the group until the spring of 1967 -- indeed, his last appearance with the group also marked the debut of Freddy Weller in the lineup. He, Levin, and Smith went on to form Brotherhood, a group that had a lot of promise and lasted through three albums on RCA before calling it quits in the early '70s. Volk remained fully active in music, however, as a member of Rick Nelson's Stone Canyon Band, succeeding Randy Meisner (who departed for the Eagles) for much of 1970, and he even played a few gigs with the Raiders soon after this, as well. He organized a band called the Great Crowd soon after this, and spent much of the mid-'70s leading a band based at Disneyland. Volk was part of a Raiders reunion brought about by Dick Clark in 1978, and since then has led groups -- primarily in an oldies context -- most recently in the early 21st century with the American Rock All-Stars, featuring ex-members of the Buckinghams and the Grassroots, and his own Fang & the Gang. Drake Levin, who with Volk participated in a four-man (sans Paul Revere) Raiders reunion in 1997, has worked with him on many occasions in the years since Brotherhood's breakup.