The Turtles were one of the most astonishing overnight success stories in rock ’n’ roll history, notching several chart-busting singles before they were even dry behind the ears.

The Turtles were one of the most astonishing overnight success stories in rock ’n’ roll history, notching several chart-busting singles before they were even dry behind the ears.


These days, Turtles co-founder Mark Volman and his cohort, Howard Kaylan, have all sorts of things going on, but there’s nothing quite as invigorating as the annual “Happy Together” tours they headline.


This year’s edition features The Buckinghams, The Grassroots, The Association and Mark Lindsey from Paul Revere and the Raiders, along with the Turtles featuring Flo & Eddie.


Volman has one of the more interesting stories of life-after-rock. He went back to school in middle age, earned his bachelor’s degree and then a master’s in music, and now he teaches at Belmont University, outside Nashville, Tenn.


“One of the things that helps us do these tours, a key, is that everybody enjoys what we’re doing,” said Volman, 64. “We all really appreciate the fact that we’re given this opportunity to get together for this sort of summer camp. There’s a lot of joking and reminiscing backstage, and it is very special. We’re all at a point in life where we can look back and reflect on the success each group had and our experiences in what was a very special time in music.


“When you get a chance to look at the list of songs we’re doing,” Volman added, “from ‘Happy Together’ to ‘Kicks’ (Lindsey) to ‘Kind of a Drag’ (Buckinghams) to ‘Midnight Confessions’ (Grassroots) to ‘Windy’ (Association), those were the biggest songs of that mid-1960s era. To hear it all take place again and see people’s reactions to it is very gratifying, and also fun. I have a very full life now, with plenty to do, but nothing else can compare to the kind of fun I have on this ‘summer camp’ tour.”


The Turtles had burst out of the suburban Los Angeles scene in 1965, with a hit cover of Bob Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me Babe,” and followed it up with other folk-rock hits like “You Baby,” “Elenore,” “She’d Rather Be With Me,” and their biggest smash, “Happy Together,” which spent three weeks at No. 1.


But by 1970, the band had dissolved and, legally prevented from using the band name, Volman and Kaylan became “Flo & Eddie” and started a new career, including extensive work with Frank Zappa. But the 2009 release of a DVD movie of Kaylan’s “My Dinner with Jimi,” a hilarious memoir of the Turtles’ first British tour, put them in the spotlight again, not that they ever went away.


“When we started out, we weren’t much older than the people buying our records,” said Volman, “all of us just turning 18. None of us had any idea it would become what it turned into, that we’d be able to tour the world, and haven’t really stopped since 1965. We were just a bunch of kids right out of high school, trying to avoid working for a living. But a lot of groups came out of the woodwork at that time. Everything we take for granted in the music industry now –– radio, FM radio, was just emerging, recording technology was expanding –– every element of the business was blooming. We had no idea how very lucky we were to be a part of that.”


Just relating his own meteoric musical rise must be a bit awe-inducing for Volman’s students today. Do they perhaps think his tale is too incredible?


“Teaching is a wonderful experience for me,” Volman said. “Being able to pass on my experiences in the music business to the next generation is truly wonderful.”


Normally, when Volman and Kaylan hit the road, they delve deeply into their extensive catalog from the Flo & Eddie years. But on this all-star tour, the emphasis is on the many hits from each of the bands. There are 32 musicians aboard, but many crossover and play for several bands each night. There also are shared rhythm sections to make the show flow smoother.


“Everything is organized to give the audience one simple thing: the greatest songs from that era,” Volman said.