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Supergroups of the '60s: The Turtles

With rare exception, most rock bands of the 1960s came out of nowhere, burned brightly for a year or two and then faded away. The Turtles fit the first two parts of that formula, but they have stubbornly refused to fade away.

The band was born in the surf music craze of the early 1960s. A bunch of students at Westchester High in Los Angeles put together a little combo in 1963 that went by the name of the Crossfires. Unlike most high school rock bands, they actually continued to play together even after their members moved on to college.

By 1965, folk rock had definitely replaced surfing music, so taking a page from the Byrds, the band renamed itself, the Tyrtles. Problem was most people had trouble pronouncing that name correctly, so the band settled on the conventional spelling and the Turtles were on their way.

They signed with the tiny White Whale Records and found their first success (like the Byrds) in covering a Bob Dylan tune, “It Ain’t Me Babe.” Between 1965 and 1969, they placed 9 singles in the Top 40 with 5 reaching the Top 10. Their biggest hit was their only #1, “Happy Together,” and it became their signature tune.

Despite all their achievements on the singles charts, the band could not sell albums. Only the LP containing the aforementioned “Happy Together” and their first Greatest Hits package even charted. By 1969, the band was fighting with their record label and fighting with each other, so they packed it in.

But that was not the last we would hear of the band. The group's two singers, Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman stayed together and along with Turtles’ bass player, Jim Pons, joined Frank Zappa, resulting in the most commercially successful version of the Mothers of Invention. In fact, the Mothers’ live act during that time would culminate with the band actually playing “Happy Together,” always bringing down the house!

Kaylan & Volman became better known as Flo & Eddie. They hosted several nationally syndicated radio shows and found steady work as session plays (singing back up on Bruce Springsteen’s “Hungry Heart” and several of Alice Cooper’s tracks, among others). Along the way, the duo also bought the rights to the Turtles original recordings and have done an excellent job of keeping the band’s catalog in print.

Starting in 2010, Flo & Eddie formed a new version of the Turtles and took to touring the oldies circuit. Unfortunately, Kaylan has had health problem, which have curtailed his touring, but Volman continues with well-known session singer Ron Dante (“Sugar, Sugar,” “Traces,” “Leader of the Laundermat”) stepping in to keep the Turtles performing into their 7th decade.

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