June 17, 2009 / 5:17 PM / 10 years ago

Happy Together, again: rocker relives glory daze

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - They say that if you can remember the ‘60s, you weren’t really there.

Actors Royale Watkins (L) as Jimi Hendrix and Justin Henry as Howard Kaylan of The Turtle's in a scene from "My Dinner with Jimi". The film is due out on DVD June 23rd and dramatizes the Turtle's whirlwind tour of 1967 London. REUTERS/Fallout Entertainment/Handout

But Howard Kaylan, the lead singer with the psychedelic pop band the Turtles, found himself in the center of the action, cavorting with the likes of the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix.

And his memory is undiminished. In fact, he is about to release a DVD dramatizing the Turtles’ 1967 adventures in “Swinging London” shortly after his band attained its own short-lived stardom with the No. 1 hit “Happy Together.”

Kaylan, 61, hopes the comedic film, “My Dinner with Jimi,” set for a June 23 release via Rhino Entertainment, will be merely the first of many stories he gets to share about his psychedelic exploits.

“As long as I have the will power and love power to tell these stories, I’ll try. I want to share some revealing stories about those people in those days without getting my legs broken,” he joked.

Kaylan, who lives in Seattle and plies the oldies concert circuit, began writing “My Dinner with Jimi” in 2001, aiming to show how a “fat little American kid” got to mix with rock ‘n’ roll royalty. The low-budget movie, directed by Bill Fishman, hit the film-festival circuit two years later.

“We met Graham Nash, Donovan, Brian Jones and the Beatles all on the same night,” Kaylan recalled. “I wound up having dinner with Hendrix at 4 a.m.”

The first half of the film shows Kaylan and bandmates muddling through the Los Angeles club scene and running into the likes of Jim Morrison, Mama Cass and Frank Zappa. After “Happy Together” tops the charts, they venture to London, reuniting with their old friend Nash.

In an intriguing sequence, Nash plays them an advance copy of the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band” and introduces them to the Fab Four. But the Turtles also find themselves on the receiving end of John Lennon’s acrid wit, to the embarrassment of his bandmates.

Kaylan’s “bleary-eyed 20-year-old self” is portrayed in the film by Justin Henry. Actor Royale Watkins offers a convincing turn as Hendrix, while Turtles co-founder Mark Volman is played by Jason Boggs, and Lennon by Brian Groh.

Kaylan is finishing up a memoir, “How Not to Be Me,” which he hopes will be turned into another film. It would depict his encounters with Bob Dylan and Zappa, as well as the band’s historic yet chaotic 1970 White House performance at the request of first daughter Tricia Nixon.

“We didn’t want to do it because we were so anti-Nixon and so anti-war, but our manager, who was Bill Cosby at the time, said it was like an invitation to sing before the Queen,” said Kaylan, noting the president was not there for the performance, which he describes as a “social nightmare.”


The Turtles dissolved in litigation over the ownership of the band’s name and rights to master tapes later in 1970.

Kaylan and Volman went on to join Zappa’s Mothers of Invention under the names “Flo and Eddie” since the litigation prevented them from using their names.

When Zappa was injured during a concert in 1971, Flo (Volman) and Eddie (Kaylan) began releasing and producing albums for themselves and others, and they also sang background for dozens of stars including Lennon, Bruce Springsteen, The Ramones and Alice Cooper.

The duo also wrote comedy, magazine columns, composed music for kids animated TV series and became radio personalities.

A poster for the comedic film "My Dinner with Jimi". REUTERS/mydinnerwithjimi.com

In 1985, the multiple lawsuits were settled and the name, “The Turtles” and the master recordings reverted to them.

Kaylan and Volman continue to perform 60 to 75 concerts a year and the Turtles’ catalog remains a staple in films, commercials and now video games.

“It’s nice to see kids singing ‘Happy Together.’ I don’t know if they know it from ‘Shrek’ the ‘Simpsons’ movie or whatever,” said Kaylan. “It’s sort of a weird connection but its okay. I’m valid again for a year. It’s great that I’ve done something in this millennium and I’m not just looking back over my shoulder,” he said.

Editing by Dean Goodman and Bob Tourtellotte

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