Happy Together Tour 2010
The mid 1980’s saw a renewed interest in the classic pop sounds of the sixties and the revival of many bands from that period. After Mark “Flo” Volman and Howard “Eddie” Kaylan reformed their chart topping group The Turtles for a tour in 1984, they decided to put the concept to work for them and started their own Happy Together Tour the following year. The tour was named, of course, for The Turtles best selling and only number one hit. This was a catchy tune that probably seemed out of place even when it was released in 1966 but, just like the musicians who recorded it, has stood the test of time. While the featured acts may change on a continual basis, the core values of an evening of fun and entertainment with original artists performing their hits has remained the same. For the twenty-fifth anniversary tour, the duo assembled one of their finest lineups to date to spread a little sunshine across the country.
I had the rare opportunity of attending two of the concerts on this year’s tour, one at the Florida Theater in Jacksonville and another, a few days later, at the Peabody Auditorium in Daytona. While the shows were virtually identical, it was very obvious that the venue and the atmosphere can make a major difference on the overall experience. Both establishments sounded terrific but the Peabody’s more personal layout and supporting activities made the performance there more of an event than just a show.
The Florida Theater engagement was on a Tuesday evening. Being a work night this certainly had some influence on the crowd. I was told that the theater had sold about half their seats by the day of the show but there had obviously been some sales that day because the ground level looked full by the time the curtain came up. The highlight of this performance for me was getting to sit next to a member of The Turtles, Jim Pons, who now resides in Jacksonville. Pons replaced Chip Douglass on the bass for the group in 1967 when Douglass left to produce records for The Monkees. Pons would remain with The Turtles until the group split in 1970 but he followed Flo and Eddie over to Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention. He retired from the music industry in 1973 to take up a career in film and video production. Today, he still plays in Bluegrass bands and even joined his former band mates on stage for their two closing numbers. I was glad I just happened to have a copy of The Turtles Greatest Hits CD on me that night!
In Daytona, the festivities surrounding the concert began three and a half hours before the show. Similar to last year’s Hippifest, a selection of vendors lined the streets outside the auditorium and a live band was playing. Refreshments were served to help make the hot Florida sun a little more bearable. Even though the day was ending, temperatures were still in the mid 90’s. This performance was the following Friday and it was clear that the crowd, mostly dressed in tie dyed t-shirts and shorts, were ready to get their weekend started. Among the vendors, which included everything from hand made jewelry to sandals and clothing, was Retro Records, a music store from Orlando. Their table space was very limited but they had a well chosen selection of records and memorabilia from the groups on the bill that night. I was actually surprised when I found two Monkees cereal records, the kind pressed on cardboard that you cut off the back of your Alpha Bits box, and a Buckinghams picture sleeve. This is one store I definitely have to check out the next time I am in Orlando.
I didn’t have a Turtle with me at the Daytona show but I was fortunate enough to get a Royal Guardsmen. Billy and Donna Taylor had so much fun at the Ringo Starr concert in St. Augustine a few weeks back that they decided to drive in from Ocala to join Cindy and I for this one. We met up before the show in the lobby of the auditorium, which had been decorated like a period version of Haight-Ashbury but the strongest thing they were serving this evening was wine. We soaked up the sixties atmosphere, perused the souvenirs, and spent a few leisurely minutes catching up before the performance.
I have to give credit to the promoters of the Happy Together Tour for an excellent selection of merchandise related to the show. Every artist on the bill was represented by signed CDs and most had other items like photos, magazines, and books. For the tour itself, there were several different styles of t-shirts but sadly no cool posters like the ones for Hippiefest. I picked up a signed Turtles CD that I had missed out on at the last show (some of this stuff sells out fast) and a similar CD of Mickey Dolenz performing the hits of The Monkees.
The auditorium filled up quickly as show time drew near and judging from the general buzz coming out of the crowd, they were in the right frame of mind for this evenings entertainment. The opening act was The Buckinghams, a Chicago based group with a respectable number of hits to their name. Lead singer Carl Giammarese and guitar player Nick Fortuna opened with Don’t You Care and Mercy, Mercy, Mercy. Midway through the set, Giammarese brought out one of his original coats from the sixties, which amazingly still fit him perfectly. After Giammarese let one enthusiastic fan touch his jacket at the side stage, the group continued with one of my personal favorites, Hey Baby (They’re Playing Our Song) and closed with their biggest hit, Kind of a Drag.
Next up was another two man act, in this case original Grass Roots lead singer Rob Grill backed by the group’s current lead guitarist, the talented Dusty Hanvey. This was my third opportunity to see this group in concert since I saw them open for The Monkees way back in 1986 and they were still in fine form. Grill belted out the hits Temptation Eyes, Sooner or Later, and Let’s Live for Today and also included the group’s first chart success Where Were You When I Needed You. It was a quick set and left me wishing they had time to do some of their other songs that may not be as well known.
Concluding the first half of the show was the former lead singer of Paul Revere and The Raiders, Mark Lindsey. As animated as the first two groups had been, Lindsey proved he had more energy than both of them combined. He sang no less than nine songs during his set including the Raiders’ signature tune Kicks, Hungry, Good Thing, Arizona, and the group’s biggest hit, Indian Nation. Between songs, Lindsey joked with the audience about his being able to experience the sixties again now that he is in his. This emphasized the point that all the main performers on this tour are close to, if not already eligible for, social security but they can still tear a stage apart for thirty minutes.
A special mention needs to be made of the band that backed all the performers throughout the entire evening. They were lead by the extremely talented Godfrey Townsend, a man who has made a career out of supporting classic musicians in a live setting. While many of the performers played some of their own instruments, it was still the unenviable job of this band to fill in the gaps and help recreate five different distinct musical sounds. They did a great job of it.
Following a brief intermission, the show continued with long time Monkee Mickey Dolenz. Surprisingly, Dolenz performance, while enjoyable, was probably the weakest of the evening. Granted he followed three very strong acts but he seemed to spend too much time talking and not enough time singing. Another detraction was his song selection which included two Monkees’ songs Davy Jones originally sang lead on and a Beatles tune, a pretty decent cover of Oh Darling. Considering the large selection of Monkees’ tracks he had to choose from where he did sing lead, he could have easily filled the set out with his own material. When Dolenz did get down to business with songs like Last Train to Clarkesville, I’m a Believer, and Pleasant Valley Sunday, he proved he still has game. In one of the most inspired moments of the evening, Mark Lindsey interrupted Dolenz’ performance of I’m Not You’re Stepping Stone. During a mock argument, Lindsey reminded him that songwriters Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart gave the song to The Raiders to record first. Dolenz countered with the fact that The Monkees were the ones who had a hit with it. Afterwards they performed the song as a very lively duo in what was certainly the highlight of the set.
Filling the well deserved closing spot were the men who started this tour twenty-five years ago and still have enthusiasm to spare, Flo and Eddie of The Turtles. They opened with You Baby and the group’s popular cover of Bob Dylan’s It Ain’t Me Babe. They then paid a brief tribute to their post Turtle days with Frank Zappa by playing a few minutes of Peaches En Regalia which segued perfectly into one of my favorite Turtle tracks, Elenore. They closed out the set and the evening with their hits She’d Rather Be with Me and a rousing sing along of the tour’s theme, Happy Together.
Svelte is not a word I would have expected to use to describe Mark Volman but the once beefy singer has trimmed down considerably in a short period of time. The effervescent (or should I Phlorescent) Volman told me he has lost 61 pounds in the last year through diet, exercise, and working out twice a week with a personal trainer. It was an impressive turn around and not an easy one to maintain with the grueling schedule of this tour. The Daytona Beach show was the fourth of five straight days in five different cities in two states. Not a cake walk for any group but these senior songsters made it look easy. According to Carl Giammarese of The Buckinghams, the only thing that has been hard on them is the Florida heat.
After the performance, Billy, Donna, Cindy, and I loitered in the parking lot for a few minutes and discussed the show. While everyone had their opinions as to how this compared to other performances, particularly the Ringo Starr show that was still fresh in our memories, we all agreed it was a good time. The street fest prior to the show and the lobby decorations really helped to get patrons in the proper frame of mind and it made the entire experience more enjoyable. I realize there are physical limitations for these performers but their wasn’t an act in the 2010 Happy Together Tour that I wouldn’t enjoy seeing for the next twenty-five years.
Very special thanks to Jeff Albright of The Albright Entertainment Group and tour manager Ron Hausfeld for their assistance with this article and for making the Happy Together Tour such a fun show.