Turtles' 'Happy Together Tour' continues on even keel
Happy Together Tour 2017
The Turtles annual Happy Together Tour, this year featuring The Cowsills, Three Dog Night's Chuck Negron, The Association, the Box Tops and The Archies' Ron Dante along with perennial hosts Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman of the legendary Turtles, kicks off Friday night in Biloxi, Miss. and runs through Aug. 26.
"The show sort of handles itself now—which is a good thing," says Volman. "In fact, this year we decided to pull back and do less shows—but we'll probably play to as many people by cutting out some of the smaller venues and going into bigger theaters."
Volman, who serves as a professor (“Professor Flo”) in the Mike Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business Belmont University in Nashville, points to the tour's Aug. 17 date at Nashville's fabled Ryman Auditorium.
"That's about 3,000 seats instead of the theaters that we sold out last year, with about 1,200 people. So we can go in and do a larger amount of people in eight fewer shows this year."
This year's Happy Together Tour is 48 shows, down from 58 last year.
"But we're drawing as many as if we did have 56, so it's optimized by going to larger venues and charging more money, so there's no loss for the promoters," says Volman. "We just have to be able to do that extra thousand people, and hopefully by the end of summer it will pretty much even out from dropping the eight shows."
Also by dropping those eight shows, Volman tabulates, "It's eight concerts—eight days—and four or five travel days. That's two weeks taken off and gives us a little less strain: The first leg is two weeks and three days, and then we get eight or nine days off, and then it's the West Coast and a two-week run and two weeks off before a three-week run. So we're not driving as far or as long, and we're not trying to stuff the tour, so that's kind of nice."
The tour acts—and the crack house band—is in Atlanta this week rehearsing.
"We haven’t figured out everything in our set, but [big Turtles hits] 'You Showed Me' and 'She's My Girl' are back in, though we're not sure how they'll work. But the Happy Together Tour is a collection of the best songs from each artist: You know what you're coming to hear. People want to hear 'Happy Together' and 'She'd Rather Be With Me,' and a little bit more thrown in. We'll play it by ear and see."
The Happy Together Tour originated in 1984 but restarted in 2010 following a hiatus. Its "real distinction," says Volman, is its focus on hits.
"We made a commitment with this particular show to play songs that people want to hear. You go out and see The Monkees' show and you don't know half the songs—only the die-hard fans do. I'm sure people say the same thing about us when we throw in Flo & Eddie songs [lesser known material Volman and Kaylan recorded and performed as Flo & Eddie during the period after the original Turtles broke up and they were prohibited from using the band's name]. We know our fans care about it, but other than in New York nobody's going to be excited to hear [songs like] 'Keep It Warm' or the 'Tibetan Memory Trick' [the beloved, tongue-twisting 'One hen, two ducks…' shtick Flo & Eddie, as 'the great Sanzini Brothers,' incorporated into their gigs]. They're fun for fans who know them but other people want to hear the hits."
Volman is happy to have The Cowsills back for the third year in a row: "They're such fun—and only have to deal with doing their hits. The Box Tops have never been on a Happy Together Tour and have two of the originals, Bill Cunningham and Gary Talley. Ron Dante, who opens the show, is also new and will do his Archies hits like 'Sugar, Sugar' and [his 1969 hit with The Cufflinks] 'Tracy' and some of the famous commercial jingles he sang on in the '60s. Then you have The Association and Chuck Negron, who've been here before, and The Turtles. So it's a little bit of what you remember and some new acts."
The show, Volman adds, "is a real family winner. We go to fairs and get young families and a lot of older people—grandparents who come and know the songs. The songs are the show, and it's fun so it takes a lot of the pressure off."
Looking ahead, Volman reports offers for a cruise with other '60s bands, and perhaps picking up as many as 10 Turtles shows. But for now it's the Happy Together Tour—and then it's back to school right after. Speaking of which, Volman will once again have 10 of his Belmont students joining the first leg of the tour and learning all the ropes of the concert touring business.
"It should be a lot of fun," he says, especially since he's feeling so much better this year following treatment last year for throat cancer.
"Recovery is different for everybody who goes through chemo and radiation, and for me it still goes up and down. But I was 50 percent last summer and this summer I'm higher."
And Kaylan, who tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his knee during last year's tour and following surgery was in a cast and seated for some of the shows, is back on his feet.
Topping it off, The Turtles will have a special green vinyl single of the tour's namesake and the group's signature hit "Happy Together" on sale at the shows. The single includes both mono remixed and remastered and stereo versions, and was originally created for the recent Record Store Day.