Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Happy Together ... With A Twist

Forgotten Hits Reader Rich Turner caught a special edition of The Happy Together Tour in Plant City, Florida, earlier this month and wanted to share his review with our readers. 

Take it away, Rich!   


Thought you might be interested in this. A couple of days ago, Monday, March 2, I caught the latest edition of the Happy Together Tour here in Plant City, Florida, at their annual event known as the Florida Strawberry Festival. I believe this was a one-off performance ... in other words, not part of any tour at this time. Their next tour starts in June. For the most part a very good show.  

The featured acts were: The Turtles, Chuck Negron (of Three Dog Night fame), Gary Puckett, Gary U.S. Bonds and Gary Lewis. They were backed by a group referred to several times as "The Happy Band." Don't quite know how the band members felt about that moniker, but in my opinion THEY were the stars of the show! An excellent set of musicians that made each artist's particular songs sound just like the original recording, except even better. Job very well done fellows. They introduced the band but none of the names struck home with me so they will remain incognito for now but "Happy."  

As far as the artists themselves go, IMHO I felt Chuck Negron was head and shoulders above and better than the others. What an outstanding voice he still has. He brought much new life into each of the five Three Dog Night songs he sang. Three of the songs he did were not even originally sung by him as the lead in the band back in the day, but they were outstanding. He opened with "Mama Told Me Not To Come" (as good as Cory Wells, maybe better), then went into "Celebrate" and brought the house down with "Eli's Coming", on which he received some help from the drummer and guitar player on vocals. Did I mention how great the Happy Band was?  

The next song was "One" and apparently he doesn't have the same hard feelings about the other Three Dog Nighters that they do because he dedicated the song to ... and he personally named ... all the original members of the Three Dog Night band starting with Danny Hutton, Cory Wells, Joe Schermie, Mike Allsup, Floyd Sneed, and then he asked for a prayer for Jimmy Greenspoon as he "is pretty bad shape right now." He then closed his portion of the show with, what else, "Joy To The World."  

He was also full of good humor and joked quite a bit with the crowd, especially when talking about the 60's. "It's kind of a blur right now." and "I hope you don't mind if I just kind of stand here by the microphone and sing because if I start moving around a lot, I have a tendency to get lost" ... and you get the picture. Very entertaining. Worth the price of the show right there.   

The three Garys were all just fine. Their voices left a little to be desired (Mr. Bonds was probably the best of the three) but they all had a lot of energy and enthusiasm as they sang their individual hits for probably the millionth time.  

And then, the featured act, The Turtles.  

I personally was wondering if they were going to show. I had heard that lead singer Howard Kaylan had back surgery about four weeks ago and was supposed to be laid up for at least two months. They were still advertised to appear so was it going to be one Turtle or Flo or both Turtles (aka Flo and Eddie)?    

When the Happy Band introduced the Turtles, who came out to my surprise but both Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan! I'm looking at Howard and I'm thinking, damn he's in pretty good shape for just having back surgery four weeks ago!  But then he picked up a guitar (Howard Kaylan never plays a guitar in concert) and the group started into "She'd Rather Be With Me", with Mark Volman singing lead. Uh-oh, what's going on here? Is Howard temporarily not strong enough to sing? The next song was "You Baby" with Mark again singing the lead (and to be honest, the song was really missing Howard's vocals).   

And then I figured it out. That was not Howard Kaylan up there at all, just someone with a very strong resemblance to him.  

And who did that person turn out to be?  

None other than Jim Pons, one of the original bass players in the Turtles back in the 1960's. So there were "two" Turtles on stage.  

He was introduced by Mark as being retired here in Florida and decided to join the show for this one performance to help things out. After being introduced, Jim said into his microphone "Thanks, get well Howard." And that was the only reference made to the missing Howard Kaylan the entire night.  

The group then played "It Ain't Me Babe", "Elenore" and closed with, of course, "Happy Together."  

Mark's vocals left a lot to be desired (not necessarily bad, just different than Howard's) ... which left what seemed to me most of the crowd wondering what was going on with the singing. Obviously most were unaware of the Kaylan back situation so there did seem to be a lot of negative feedback and it wasn't helped by the Turtles not really making any reference to the missing lead singer.  

The show ended with each singer coming back on stage to sing a snippet of their biggest hit and then into a huge crowd sing-a-long with "Happy Together."  

After it was all said and done, a real good show with a great band and a great performance by Chuck Negron. The crowd of probably about 1,500 I believe left "Happy!" for the most part.  

Rich Turner 
Safety Harbor, Florida 

Oh yes, the Happy Together Tour will be back here in Clearwater, Florida, in June with a different lineup (except for the Turtles). So I will check it out again, and hopefully Howard Kaylan will be back with the band!   

The Happy Together Tour has received a bit of flack the past few years for not quite putting up on stage what was always advertised ahead of time.  There were issues with The Grass Roots a few years back and last year Gary Lewis took ill mid-tour and missed a number of shows.  Gary "U.S." Bonds replaced him on at least a couple of appearances, one of which was caught by another Forgotten Hits Reader who gave it an outstanding review ... that night, it sounds like it was Bonds who stole the show. 

But The Turtles without Howard Kaylan on lead vocals just isn't The Turtles!  (My guess is that this show was booked before Howard underwent surgery so they made the best of the situation ... but to not mention or acknowledge Howard's absence or health condition just seems wrong to me.)  Best wishes for a speedy recovery, my friend ... it sounds like they need you!

The 2015 Happy Together Tour line-up includes The Turtles, Mark Lindsay, The Grass Roots, The Buckinghams, The Association and first-timers The Cowsills, who blew us away when we saw them a few months back 

That's one heck of a line-up and we're looking forward to meeting up with all these guys again this summer when the show hits Chicago.  Here's hoping EVERYBODY stays healthy this year ... and fans get to see the artists they love and hear the music that never grows old.

Note:  Concert dates are still being finalized at this time ... 
Stay tuned to Forgotten Hits for more details as they become available