No wonder these classic pop-rock acts from the 1960s and ’70s stay happy together on tour every sunmer.
The Turtles, featuring Flo & Eddie, also known as Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan, are headlining another “Happy Together Tour,” with Chuck Negron, a co-founder of Three Dog Night, Mark Farner from Grand Funk Railroad, Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels, and Gary Lewis and the Playboys.
These five musical acts will light up walks down memory lane at 7 p.m. next Thursday at the Alabama Theatre, at Barefoot Landing in North Myrtle Beach.
Conversing by phone on a Friday afternoon last month from home in Nashville, Tenn., Volman said when this tour gets going Saturday in Biloxi, Miss., “that’s pretty much it, all summer.”
Truly jovial about his plans for another summer on the road, Volman said with “a lot of camaraderie,” the groups have enjoyed “connections” with one another “for a long time, and that’s important when you’re going on a tour of this length.”
They all have been “on board with the whole philosophy of the tour,” he said, “to basically play nothing but hits,” all for the fans.
“That’s what we set out to do five years ago,” Volman said, also praising the Fab Four.
“None of us are like the Beatles. We don’t have three hours each of really memorable songs. We each play about 45 to 50 minutes of massive hit singles from the ’60s and ’70s, and play nothing but 21/2 hours of hit songs. It’s worked really well.”
That array of music includes the Turtles’ “Happy Together,” Negron reliving his lead vocals from Three Dog Night’s “Joy to the World,” Ryder’s Detroit Wheels doing “Devil with a Blue Dress On/Good Golly Miss Molly,” Farner leading Grand Funk Railroad’s “Some Kind of Wonderful,” and Lewis’ “This Diamond Ring.”
Volman estimated that as much as 40 percent of audiences turn out “probably concentrating really because of the music connectied to great memories.”
“That’s what you’re here for,” he said. “We also draw, for some reasons, a lot of younger people, who are buying old vinyl records. Vinyl has come back. Even if at a small level … it’s commandeering a percentage of the marketplace. A lot of vinyl collectors, 25 to 40 years old, are coming to shows. They are experiencing a lot of the same things the fans of our era did, the upbeat, melodic music of the ’60s and ’70s. You’d be surprised how many new young fans we get.”
Recalling a chat with “a young writer,” Volman said he enjoyed enjoy hearing how he’s been collecting vinyl records for three years “because his parents took him to the Happy Together Tour in 2011.”
“These tours are doing well because promoters are giving them a chance to survive,” Volman said, “and we’re playing some fantastic theaters. ... You’d be surprised how the word spreads.”
Volman sees the lineup for 2014 as “really strong,” and he’s a fan of his touring colleagues.
“Every night, I have a good seat,” he said.
Gary Lewis looks back
By phone from his residence in Rochester, N.Y., Lewis said this tour covers about 60 concerts in 90 days. He also appreciates entertaining “three generations from 50 years,” from people who first saw these acts in the 1960s, then their children and grandchildren were turned on, and “we’re not slowing down.”
Lewis quoted a 7-year-old who emailed him, “I just love all your songs because my grandmother would sing them to me when I was falling asleep.”
Happy to open the show each night, Lewis said it’s “just boom – eight Top Ten hits – there you go.”
He said people might wonder if he or tour mates tire of performing “these same songs and I say, why? These songs gave me what I am, and how can I get tired of it that?”
Lewis said he delights in presenting the Playboys’ music “exactly like people remember it,” from their original recordings, without any new arrangements, because fans “want to sing along with those songs” just as they remember them.
Talking on the day after Memorial Day, Lewis, who served with the U.S. Army in Vietnam, said he shared pity in treatment of veterans returning home, so “right from the beginning,” in 1969, after his discharge and rejoining the Playboys, “we went overseas and did shows” for service personnel through the USO.
Lewis, active with the group Help Hospitalized Veterans, based in California (951-926-4500 or hhv.org), his group continues giving free shows for service personnel, veterans and their families, and play in benefit golf tournaments, “to raise awareness” of sacrifices made by people in uniform.
Asked about the 1960s, Lewis said although it had “turmoil,” other parts made for “a very fun time,” thanks to music.
“The Beatles did all that,” he said.
Growing up a son of comedian Jerry Lewis, host for decades of a Labor Day weekend telethon for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, Gary Lewis said the family looked forward to that time of year for that tradition.
“It was like Christmas,” he said of the anticipation, and that the Playboys played a part in the telethon almost every year “all the way up to 2008.”
When the Playboys started in telethon spots, the elder Lewis had them play at “4 in the morning,” Gary Lewis said, but “the more we kept doing it,” they would earn slots at 8 or 9 p.m.
One moral learned years ago from his father remains in place on stage today.
“He told me,” Gary Lewis said, “ ‘I don’t care what you do with your life, as long as you give it 100 percent and love it with all your heart.’ That says it right there.”
With an abode on 11 acres, Lewis he loves caring for a forest, including cutting wood, and managing six acres of lawn.
“I love that kind of stuff,” he said, “because I grew up in Los Angeles. There’s no grass out there.”