Sixties hit-makers are Happy Together

I n 1959, Dick Clark launched his “Caravan of Stars” tour in which a variety of singing stars of the day would travel from city to city by bus, doing sold-out shows for the bobby soxers and teenyboppers. Soon after, dozens of imitators launched “package tours” of various combinations playing ballrooms, theatres, county fairs, and […]

The original hits, the original stars at Fraze

The Turtles founders Flo & Eddie are still happy together.

By Dave Gil de Rubio

In 1959, Dick Clark launched his “Caravan of Stars” tour in which a variety of singing stars of the day would travel from city to city by bus, doing sold-out shows for the bobby soxers and teenyboppers. Soon after, dozens of imitators launched “package tours” of various combinations playing ballrooms, theaters, county fairs, and so on. If you’ve seen the movie That Thing You Do, the Wonders are part of such a tour about midway through the film. Go on, play the hits, get off the stage. It was smart business then.

And it’s smart business now. Package tours are still around today, of course, many featuring classic artists from the golden era of rock-and-roll.

Thursday, August 9, the Happy Together Tour rolls into town for a night of music, memories, and nostalgia with some of the top pop stars of the “flower power” era. Top billing goes to The Turtles, whose biggest hit lends its name to the tour. Featuring original members “Flo & Eddie” (Mark Volman and Howard Keylan), the band is also known for the hits “”She’d Rather Be With Me” and “Elenore.” In 1984, they launched the original “Happy Together Tour” with three other bands, including The Association and Gary Puckett & The Union Gap, both of whom will be on the stage at Fraze as well.

The other performers on this tour are Chuck Negron (former singer of Three Dog Night), Mark Lindsay (lead singer of Paul Revere & The Raiders), and The Cowsills, the family band that inspired the TV series The Partridge Family.

Gary Puckett and the Union Gap may have enjoyed their heyday from 1967 to 1969, but it hasn’t kept these pop legends from continuing to tour and entertain their many fans.

But beyond merely being your standard oldies act, Puckett and his crew regularly donate a portion of the proceeds from their shows to various charities throughout the country. The Minnesota-born frontman has a particular affinity for military veterans and first responders. The Wounded Warrior project is a particular favorite, given how it provides free programs and services to address the needs of wounded warriors and fill gaps in government care.

And considering how the demand for its programs and services has grown from serving a handful of injured veterans to now serving tens of thousands, the organization continues to receive hundreds of new registrations from injured veterans, their families and caregivers each month. It’s a worthy cause that Puckett is happy to raise money for.

“I’m always pleased to see that we’re doing something for those who are America’s Finest, as I like to call them,” Puckett said in a recent phone interview. “I also do a tribute to veterans that’s been part of my set since way back in 1984 on the very first Happy Together Tour.”

Founded in 1967 by Puckett, the Union Gap enjoyed a string of five Top 10 hits for the next two years. Like any other oldies act, Puckett promises to keep the nostalgia flame burning bright with those much-loved songs serving as the creative kindling for anyone coming out to catch his band’s set.

“The people want to hear the music of their youth and that’s the music they expect from me. I play all the hits and we play a lot of the songs that were on the first three albums for the Union Gap,” he explained. “So it’s built around music that they may recognize, but not necessarily were our hits—though I do all the hits—‘Woman, Woman,’ ‘Young Girl,’ ‘Lady Willpower,’ ‘Over You,’ ‘This Girl Is a Woman Now.’ But we also do some songs like The Bee Gees ‘To Love Somebody.’ Bob Dylan’s ‘Mighty Quinn,’ because it’s so much fun and I think it was on our second album. We do Petula Clark’s ‘Kiss Me Goodbye’—stuff like that. Songs that everybody knows and loves.”

As the son of two musicians who got their start playing in Dick Halverson’s Big Band straight out of high school, Puckett’s introduction to music came at an early age, when he started taking piano lessons at the age of six and learning about the three B’s—Beethoven, Bach and Brahms.

Born in Hibbing, MN (birthplace of Bob Dylan), Puckett moved to Yakima, WA with his family while still a teenager. A chance discovery of a guitar in his grandparents’ attic, plus an affinity for an array of 1950s rock and rollers including Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Eddie Cochran, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis, had the aspiring musician looking to this as a viable career choice by the time the Puckett clan relocated to Southern California in the early 1960s.

While balancing college and working a day job at a car parts store, the Minnesota native pulled together a portfolio with lyrics, band pictures and a demo and started shopping it around to record labels. A chance encounter with Jerry Fuller, an A&R man who’d written Rick Nelson’s “Traveling Man” and was starting a new gig at Columbia Records, led to Puckett’s music industry break. It was also around the time this ambitious young musician came up with the Civil War motif for his new group.

“I knew that it was a very competitive business. I knew that everybody wanted to be on that Top 40 and everybody wanted to get on the Billboard Hot 100 chart,” he recalled. “I thought that was competition beyond compare, so I thought we might want to go for a visual image along with a record that we might be able to make. [The idea was that] maybe somebody would look at it, be curious and wonder what the record sounded like and that’s exactly what happened actually. I always thought the Civil War-era period of history for the U.S. was so interesting [and the uniforms] were spectacular to look at. One day it occurred to me that maybe we could wear Civil War outfits and thereby be the same, but be different—have different stripes and things about the outfits. I took the band down from Seattle down to Portland [OR] and then down to Vallejo [CA]. From there, we went to Los Angeles, where we went to a place called Western Costume and rented one Civil War outfit. Then I took the band to Tijuana, Mexico and had a little tailor make these spectacular outfits for us.”

Hits started rolling in over the next couple of years, the band shared bills with The Buckinghams, Grass Roots, The Association, and The Beach Boys. By then, Fuller’s controlling ways in the studio led to creative chafing that came to a head when Puckett and the band refused to take part in a 1969 recording session for which the producer had arranged for a 40-piece orchestra to play on a song. The date was canceled and Fuller never again worked with the group, whose days as a hit-making act soon came to an end. And while Puckett admits he might not have been ready to take the lead with his group, he also pointed out that tastes and times were changing.

“I made some poor decisions at a very bad time when things were changing,” he said. “The ‘60s were becoming the ‘70s. People were changing their attitudes, their minds, their music, their drugs—they were just changing and moving on.”

But Puckett has persevered as a solo artist, and continuing to front The Union Gap, as well as staying involved in the music business and his charitable endeavors.

Known for their smooth harmonies, The Association had four big hits in 1966 and ’67, “Along Comes Mary,” “Cherish,” “Windy,” and “Never My Love.”

A founding member of Three Dog Night, Chuck Negron will be doing their biggest hits and has plenty to choose from—the band had 18 consecutive top 20 hits, including “One (Is the Loneliest Number),” “Eli’s Coming,” and “Joy to the World.”

As lead singer of Paul Revere & The Raiders, Mark Lindsay was featured on the band’s biggest hits, “Just Like Me,” “Kicks,” and “Hungry” and had solo success with the unforgettable hit “Arizona.”

Started by brothers Billy and Bob Cowsill, the Cowsills expanded to include their other siblings and their mother, inspiring “The Partridge Family” TV show. Their biggest hits were “The Rain, The Park & Other Things” and “Indian Lake” as well as the hit single of the title song from the musical “Hair.”

Sure to be a memorable evening, the Happy Together Tour is a package not to be missed.

The Happy Together Tour will perform at Fraze Pavilion, 695 Lincoln Park Blvd. in Kettering on Thursday, August 9 at 8 p.m. For tickets and information, call 800.514.3849, or visit


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Reach DCP freelance writer Dave Gil de Rubio at

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