Very few rock performers have remained as vital through the 1960’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s as have Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman. Initially they made their mark with the Turtles, then they joined Frank Zappa‘s Mothers of Invention, and then they glided into their own Flo & Eddie persona, dishing out records that have encompassed a multitude of personalities.
They’ve always been smart enough to have responded to the latest worthwhile trends in a fashion that has yielded an abundance of quality records, and more than their share of hits. This history will attempt to add a depth and perspective to Kaylan’s and Volman’s unique musical journey, one that, perhaps encapsulates the post-Beatles rock era like no other. This text was originally a companion piece to Rhino’s exquisitely packaged, executive version of “The Turtles Greatest Hits” (RNLP 160).
Let’s pause just for a second to make the totally subjective case that the Turtles were the closest America ever came to having a Beatles. Others, like the Lovin’ Spoonful, Rascals and Beach Boys, certainly had as many hits, but the Turtles hits were better conceived and arranged and, like the Beatles, transcended so many styles: from the outright protest rock of:
“It Ain’t Me Babe” “Let Me Be” “You Baby”
“Can I Get to Know You Better” “Happy Together”
“You Showed Me” “She’d Rather Be With Me”
“Elenore” “She’s My Girl”
“You Know What I Mean.”
The Rascals lacked the heavy guitars that were the sound of the day; the Spoonful were limited in approach, and didn’t last that long anyway; and the Beach Boys were too square for too long, and somehow seemed tied to a pre-Beatles era.
Suffice to say that, even the Turtles more minor hits, the ones which failed to make it onto “The Turtles Greatest Hits.”, all sound like first class records.
This will provide a necessary primer for understanding Kaylan’s and Volman’s crazy world, so you’ll be better prepared when the duo hit you with their next record, as their “history” continues.
Two guys from Westchester. The one with the curly hair and glasses, and the other with the beard. That’s how Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan (AKA Flo and Eddie) refer to themselves. Two slightly bewildered kids thrust into the fast lane of rock ‘n’ roll stardom – hits, fame, national tours, hanging out with the Beatles, joining the Mothers of Invention, acting in the “200 Motels” movie, and on and on … Two guys from Westchester.
Despite its extremely boring, middle-classness, the Los Angeles suburb of Westchester bears some insight. A frequently fogged-in area slotted next to Los Angeles’ International Airport, in the late 1950’s/1960’s the community thrived due to its proximity to Hughes and other companies that were instrumental in America’s galloping let’s-catch-up-with- the-Russians space program.
This bred a generation of kids who were slightly smarter than the bulk, and Westchester High during these years used to place right up there scholastically among the city’s schools. (Sad to say that, with the coming of the 1970’s, Westchester’s potency was severely sapped as the bucks for the aerospace industry dissolved, and the airport started grabbing more territory; laying waste to nice tract homes and turning the area into the remains of a holocaust; in essence, ruining all that was. Howard later fantasized about the possibility of buying the now-deserted junior high school he once attended.
Westchester was devoutly conservative, had no teen night clubs of its own, and was so far out of the happening Hollywood area (12 miles) as to strip it of all means of convenience to acquire that hipness comfortably. It was in this cultural wasteland that the partnership of Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman was formed.
Howard Kaylan (changed in 1965 from Kaplan, because that’s how he always wrote his name) was born June 22, 1947 in the Bronx, and spent his first eight years in Manhattan before his father took a job with General Electric in Utica, New York. After the family moved there for a year or so, they moved to the Los Angeles area, settling in Westchester. Mark Volman was born April 19, 1947. After a brief period living in Redondo Beach, his family moved nearby to Westchester.
Little did they know it at the time, but both Mark’s and Howard’s musical direction was forged by a crusty, old Mr. Ferguson who gave clarinet lessons in a drafty cubicle above the Westchester Music Store. Mark went to Orville Wright Jr. High, while Howard went to Airport Jr. High They didn’t know each other, but they both pursed their lips around clarinet reeds for Mr. Ferguson, who ran them through the gamut of “Deep Purple” and “Anapola, My Pretty Little Poppy”.
The puckers soon gave way to wide grins when their friendship formed in the Westchester High A Cappella Choir, which was conducted by Robert Wood. Mark was a first tenor, Howard a second tenor. (Wood was so influential that the duo later named a publishing company after him. “Mr. Woods Music.’)
It was quite a choir, and won all sorts of city competitions. Look at the accompanying photo and you’ll see not only Mark and Howard, but Al Nichol and Chuck Portz, all standing right next to each other!
In 1963, Al Nichol, Howard Kaylan, and Chuck Portz had just changed the name of their novice surf combo from the Nightriders to the Crossfires. Mark Volman knew them from the Westchester High A Cappella Choir and joined the group (initially as a roadie). Also in the band were Don Murray from Inglewood High and Dale Walton.
Dale was later replaced by Tom Stanton, who in turn, was later replaced by Jim Tucker. Ironically, their music was almost exclusively instrumental! Four guys from choir forming an instrumental band? Actually, it wasn’t all that surprising. In 1962, the hardest dance music of the time evolved out of Dick Dale‘s concept of the Surfer Stomp, searing guitar solos over a pounding rhythm section. Nichol was one of the very best of the city’s surf guitarists….
…The Crossfires adapted their own, original versions of standards like “Money” and “What’d I Say”…
The effects of being in a band had their social consequences. Howard expresses it this way:
“In B-10 I was socially less than a potato; in A-10 I was like Fabian to those kids.”
The pair, along with the rest of the band, were thrust into an Animal House-like existence. Here they were, mere lads of 15, their fingers ripping away at their saxes, playing at fraternity parties. The naive duo were exposed to wild bacchanals, strangely devastating drinks like “Red Death,” and all manner of mayhem.
To rise to the occasion, and to keep the frat boys happy to insure the band of even more
$200-a-night jobs (good money for 1962), the Crossfires adapted their own, original versions of standards like “Money” and “What’d I Say” that were laced with the well chosen obscenities that the UCLA party boys loved so much. An ill-timed rendition of those very same ditties at the Westchester Women’s Club effectively banned the Crossfires from Westchester, for good.
They set their sights on the adjacent South Bay area (Redondo Beach, Manhattan Beach, Torrance) and quickly found themselves winners of several Battle of the Bands competitions that resulted in a residency at Reb Foster’s (a local DJ) Revelaire Club. The group also had a fan club of sorts, “the Chunky Club,” whose members made obscene genital gestures with the help of spoons during band appearances. (For more insight into this period, refer to the Crossfires album, Out of Control) It was here that demands were made upon them to learn the various hit recordings of stars like the Coasters, Sonny and Cher, the Righteous Brothers and others for whom they would occasionally become the backup band.
In 1964, the Beatles and the whole English Invasion took effect. Mark and Howard put down their saxes, took up the vocals more ardently (Howard did most of the leads, Mark backups and tambourine) and the Crossfires dropped their entire repertoire of surf instrumentals and grew their hair long. They were so taken with this change of identity, that it was not uncommon for them to show up at the South Bay Bowl, spewing forth English accents and claiming they were Gerry and the Pacemakers. It’s a wonder what one little, properly-phrased order of “white tea please” can bring on in the way of offers of free drinks, food and autograph requests.
Despite this response, and their following at the Revelaire, frustration set in. The members weren’t in high school anymore, two were married, and the band wasn’t earning enough money. On the night they were submitting their resignation from the Revelaire and about to break up, they were approached by Ted Feigin and Lee Lasseff who signed them to a brand new, nameless record label, later to be called White Whale.
It was time for a name change as well. The group liked “The Half Dozen,” or “Six Pack,” but opted for Reb Foster’s suggestion, The Turtles (like The Byrds, right?).
It was exactly the same band and the same songs – one week at the Revelaire they were the Crossfires, the next week they were the Turtles.
It wasn’t long before the release of the Turtles first single, their arrangement of a Bob Dylan song, “It Ain’t Me Babe.” It was an immediate hit – climbing into the Top Five nationally – quickly establishing the Turtles as a force of their own. Their first concert appearance was before 50,000 kids at the Rose Bowl, opening for Herman’s Hermits.
Vocalist Chuck Negron grew up in the Bronx in the 1950s, pursuing his talents in basketball — for which he was recruited by colleges nationwide — and singing, which he explored with his doo wop group the Rondells. After playing basketball for Santa Maria, CA’s Hancock College and California State University in Los Angeles, Negron was ready to pursue his musical career. He remained in Los Angeles, eventually connecting with fellow singers Cory Wells and Danny Hutton and forming Three Dog Night in 1968. They met with massive success, scoring 18 consecutive Top 20 singles, including number ones like “Mama Told Me Not to Come,” “Joy to the World,” and “Black and White.” With success came the trappings of the rock & roll lifestyle, which for Negron focused on drugs: by the time Three Dog Night split in 1977, he had a 2,000-dollar-a-day habit.
Remaining in the grip of addiction for almost two decades, Negron wasted away to 126 pounds and attempted 36 rehab programs unsuccessfully. His stay at the Cri-Help center, however, found him truly rehabilitated and ready to perform again — with an extra octave added to his vocal range. Negron restarted his career by opening for Howie Mandel’s 1994 Atlantic City show, and the following year he released his debut album, Am I Still in Your Heart. Negron now divides his time between raising his family, performing, lecturing, and working with anti-drug organizations like Musicians Assistance Program (MAP), MusiCares, and Cri-Help. 1999 saw the release of his biography, Three Dog Nightmare, and his second album, Long Road Back, the book’s musical counterpart.
Gary Puckett and the Union Gap
Gary Pucket and The Union Gap had six consecutive gold records and sold more records in 1968 than any other recording act …Including The Beatles.
Gary is one of a few artists whose ﬁrst ﬁve releases went gold. Not even Elvis accomplished this.
Mr. Pucket played a command performance at the White House for Prince Charles and Princess Anne by special invitation of the President.
Gary has made more than 50 television appearances and has performed in a Made for TV movie. PBS will be airing a special in August 2001 in which Gary appeared.
Gary Pucket and The Union Gap achieved prominence worldwide.
“Young Girl” was reissued by popular request in England where it reached number one and achieved a Silver Record Award for the second ?me. This is a full six years aYer the song was ini?ally released.
The Gary Pucket and The Union Gap’s “Greatest Hits” album is one of CBS’s best selling “Collector’s Series” albums today.
Gary was a founding member of the incredibly successful “Happy Together” Tour Playing to sold out performances in over 100 cites nationwide.
Gary was invited to tour with the Monkees on their national reunion tour, which established itself as the major box oﬃce success of the 1986 touring season.
In 1992 he went to Europe and recorded “In Europe “, now released in the US in 2001. In August 2001, Gary released his ﬁrst ever Christmas CD, ” At Christmas “.
Gary performs to standing room only crowds doing over 150 performances each year He currently resides in Clearwater Florida with his wife and family.
The real-life inspiration behind the hit television series The Partridge Family, the Cowsills — comprised of teen siblings Bill, Bob, Barry, John, Susan, and Paul in tandem with mother Barbara — were one of the biggest pop acts of the late ’60s, scoring a series of hits including “The Rain, the Park and Other Things” and “Hair” with their angelic harmonies and sun-kissed melodies.
One of the most beloved and respected Chicago bands ever to explode onto the national scene, The Buckinghams’ live concerts pack power into 60s pop rock. Bringing back great memories with their chart-topping 60s hits, The Buckinghams include 70s favorites in their powerful sets, electrifying audiences with dynamic vocals and solid harmonies. Full-time since 1982, original Buckinghams Carl Giammarese and Nick Fortuna and their band have continued to deliver fast-paced, solid shows that bring crowds to their feet.
Their No. #1 Billboard hit, “Kind of a Drag” is the standout that first made them famous. Next came 7 national chart hits, 15 singles, and 8 acclaimed albums. Billboard Magazine named them “The Most Listened to Band in America”; The Buckinghams became national favorites on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Smothers Brothers’ Comedy Hour, American Bandstand, and more.
Thousands of loyal fans remain devoted today, as their hits continue to be heard on oldies radio, classic rock stations, Sirius/XM satellite and Internet channels. Enthusiastic and effervescent as when their records began their ascents up national charts, The Buckinghams’ Giammarese and Fortuna deliver nonstop, high-energy performances that audiences appreciate and request in shows filled with longtime fans, as well as new friends—teens and young adults.
Today they’re still crowd-pleasing favorites, delivering a show packed with tremendous music and good humor. Audiences love The Buckinghams today as much as they first did in the 60s. With 3 songs on the Top 10 simultaneously, The Buckinghams enjoyed phenomenal success with hit singles including “Don’t You Care,” “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy,” and the national anthem of teenage love, “Hey Baby, They’re Playing Our Song”, on the national charts simultaneously. In 1968, the Buckinghams debuted “Susan” and “Where is Love” on The Ed Sullivan Show. In concerts today, crowds are “Back in Love Again,” as fans know the words to all their songs.
In 2001, The Buckinghams were part of the successful “Solid Gold 60s” tour, featuring Tommy James & The Shondells, The Turtles, Gary Puckett & the Union Gap, & Grass Roots. PBS featured The Buckinghams on “The Sixties Pop Rock Reunion” in 2004. The Buckinghams headline festivals, play arenas, theatres, and casinos, wherever fans want to hear them. Playing the 2005 Presidential Inaugural Ball was a great honor for The Buckinghams. They were again invited to perform at the Bipartisan Agricultural Ball at the Presidential Inaugural festivities at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, Washington, DC, on January 20, 2009.
From 2008–2009, The Buckinghams released 3 new CDs—“Reaching Back”, “Standing Room Only,” and “The Joy of Christmas,” favorite standards & new tunes from their annual Christmas shows every year. In 2009, The Buckinghams were inducted into the prestigious Hit Parade Hall of Fame. The 2010 DVD/CD, “Up Close,” featured The Buckinghams live at the Star Plaza Theatre. “FlashBack!” a Buckinghams’ studio CD, was released in 2014. Carl’s solo CD, “Living in the Moment,” was released in 2016.
In 2014, The Buckinghams & Gary Puckett debuted “Groovin’ the 60s,” an Orchestral Events show, with symphonic arrangements of 1960s hits, and they’ve performed annual Buckinghams Christmas shows. Carl Giammarese and Nick Fortuna were on the Happy Together Silver Anniversary Tours (2010-2012, 2015), with The Turtles, Micky Dolenz, Mark Lindsay, Grass Roots, & Gary Puckett and others. They are popular entertainers booked for international cruises, including Where the Action Is and Flower Power Concert Cruises (2008–2019). Featured performers on WTTW’s, Cornerstones of Rock: American Garage show, it’s still shown on national PBS stations. They now are part of the Cornerstones of Rock Concert Tour across the country. The Buckinghams always deliver concerts that are certified “Solid Gold.”