Mark “Professor Flo” Volman has just finished his 16th year teaching at Nashville’s Belmont University Mike Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business, which means he’s ready to return to his summer job: the annual Turtles’ Happy Together Tour, this year featuring Three Dog Night’s Chuck Negron, Gary Puckett & the Union Gap, The Buckinghams, Classics IV and The Cowsills.
The enduring tour kicks off May 29 at the State Theatre in Brunswick, N.J., and visits another 50-plus cities before wrapping up in August.
“It’s like a whole other life with my music,” says Volman, who with high school pal Howard Kaylan and other classmates formed the Turtles in 1965. He and lead singer Kaylan then performed respectively as Flo and Eddie after the original Turtles dissolved.
Volman and Kaylan headlined several Happy Together tours in the 1980s, but this year’s model marks the 10th anniversary of the concert package since it started up again a decade ago.
“It’s a good thing to have put back together,” Volman says. “We’ve seen the rise of this style of show since in every genre: People really like groups getting together and doing tours like this, and we’ve seen it with metal bands and now even boy bands like New Kids on the Block.”
As for the granddaddy Happy Together Tour, he notes that the music of the ‘60s represented by the lineup shows “a lot of experimentation musically, lyrically and vocally--which made the ‘60s so dynamic, and make it such a fun tour.”
“We always feel that people fill in the gaps with their own memories of songs and groups, which make the shows so darn fun,” adds Volman, speaking of both fans and the bands themselves.
“You get someone like Chuck Negron, and after the tour is over, he honestly says, ‘Thanks for including me!’ We all know that we’ve all been given a bit of a career extension—and it’s easy to forget that. We’re so fortunate with the response each year from promoters who keep bringing us back.”
Volman reports that he just got a call from Susan Cowsill, and one a week ago from The Buckinghams’ Nick Fortuna.
“Everybody’s checking in and asking if they need to bring anything,” he says. “We’re all friends and looking forward to seeing everybody. Of course, when the tour ends, we’re all completely ruined for another three or four months! But it’s pretty well organized now, and we know what we’re in for, so everybody takes care of themselves probably a lot better than we did as kids.”
Speaking of kids, this Happy Together Tour will be without the first-part presence of select Volman students, who have accompanied him in their own tour bus the last six years in order to learn all the ropes of the tour business hands-on.
“We backed off it this year because the guy who came out with us to assist me got a job with an agency,” says Volman. “It’s been a really successful part of the tour and promoters love us for bringing them, but we didn’t want to rush it with a new person. But the they’ll be back next year.”
This year, however, the tour is making available a promotional EP with one newly recorded song from each act. The disc was produced by Ron Dante, the versatile vocalist behind hits like The Archies “Sugar, Sugar” and countless jingles, who was signed on last year to sub for Kaylan when he was felled by health issues. Kaylan is still out for the time being, and Dante is still in.
“He had the best time, and really gave us all a kick in the pants,” says Volman. “He sings so well, and he’s such a sweet guy and easy to be out on the road with.”
Still, the Happy Together Tour might be cut back a bit next year.
“We may feel like we’re 35, but it’s a day-to-day proposition,” says Volman. “Every year health is such a big part of our decisions and choices, since we don’t want to sell a tour and not be good.”
But he’s well aware that for the last 10 years at least now, fans and promoters leave Happy Together Tour stops very happy indeed.
“We all still salute our era and music every night,” Volman concludes, “and people still love the songs.”
Grand finale of a 2018 Happy Together Tour show