Interview with Mark Volman of the Turtles
By Ronnie

You might not recognize the name Mark Volman, but if you are a fan of '60s rock you will recognize his band the Turtles. Their sunshine-pop hit, "Happy Together" was one of the biggest records of 1967. However, Mark's involvement with rock 'n roll didn't begin and end with the TURTLES legacy; there is much more to the story. Mark was part of the LA's in-crowd in the '60s, hanging out with some of the biggest names in rock 'n roll. After the Turtles, Mark joined Frank Zappa's band in the early '70s and went on to become half of the FLO & EDDIE duo. He also did session work with some very recognizable names in rock 'n roll. And he continues to tour with the Turtles today.

Of course I talked to Mark about the Turtles during our e-mail interview. But, I also asked him about some of his other rock 'n roll extracurricular activities.

Intro supplied by Mark:

Mark Volman (Flo) is a founding member and manager of the musical group “The Turtles featuring Flo & Eddie.” The Turtles have sold over 60 million records world-wide and their hit songs (Happy Together, She’d Rather Be With Me, Elenore and You Showed Me) are only a few of the 10 top ten records they have had. In the 70's, Mark, along with Howard Kaylan (Eddie) joined up with Frank Zappa & the Mother's of Invention where they made 10 albums and wrote and starred in the United Artist's feature film, "200 Motels." Mark & Howard have also sung on hit records with such notable artists as John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen, T.Rex, Todd Rundgren, Blondie, The Ramones, Duran Duran, The Cherry Poppin' Daddies and many more. They wrote songs for children’s television shows, such as the Care Bears and Strawberry Shortcake and received a Grammy nomination for these works. Flo & Eddie have survived in the music business for over 38 years as on-air radio personalities, radio syndicators, record producers and writers for national music magazines and network television. “The Turtles featuring Flo & Eddie” continue to be one of America’s most successful touring groups, performing 60 to 100 concerts around the world every year.

In the summer of 1992, at the age of 45 years old, Mark began college. In May of 1999 he graduated with his Masters Degree in Fine Arts with an emphasis in Screenwriting. He has been honored with acceptance into Alpha Sigma Nu, the Jesuit Honor Society equivalent of Phi Beta Kappa. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in Communication and Fine Arts from Loyola Marymount University, where he graduated Magna cum Laude and was the class Valedictorian speaker. He received several Presidential Citations’ for special achievement and service and was on the National Dean’s list for four and a half years. Currently studying for his Ph.D. in Philosophy at Trinity College of the Bible Theological Seminary.

At the present, Mark is a member of the faculty at Loyola Marymount University, where he has been teaching Music Business & Industry courses in the Communications and Fine Arts department for the past four years. He is also a member of the music department at Los Angeles Valley College teaching in the commercial music program. Mark is an active member of NARAS (National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences), and MEIEA (Music & Entertainment Industry Educators Association), and has conducted seminars for the music departments at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, University of Indiana at Bloomington, High Schools, Jr. High Schools, and many others. In 1997 he began his own record company and music business consulting firm and is finishing up his first book, “Sign Here, Kid, I’ll Make You A Star,” a self-help manual for aspiring musicians and people hoping to survive in the music business. As a music business consultant, author and teacher, Mark grabs the attention of his audience and students with his passionate knowledge of the music business. Through lectures, workshops, seminars and courses about the music industry, Volman brings extensive first-hand information, a history rich in support of independent music and a commitment to explain the complexities of an industry challenged by constant change and fierce competition.

Right: The Turtles

E.C.: Your first top ten hit was a Dylan cover in 1965. Did you initially have the same approach to rock 'n roll as the Byrds, who also did rock versions of Dylan songs? Being in L.A. at the time, I imagine that you hung out with the Byrds?

Mark: First of all, The Crossfire's, which is what we were called before we became The Turtles, was the house band at the Revalaire club in Redondo Beach, CA. We were pretty far away from the entire L.A. pop music scene that was starting up on the Sunset Strip. We really were a group of very un-hip Westchester High School kids who would never have hung out with The Byrds. Not because we wouldn't have wanted to, but they would have never had anything to do with us.

When we chose the Dylan song, It Ain't Me Babe, it was at the suggestion of White Whale Record executives. They wanted us to pick a Bob Dylan song because when they had heard us sing other Byrds songs really well. We never thought of any real approach or arrangement we just shortened the song and added a Danalectro 12 string guitar. We probably used The Zombies (Tell her no, She's not there, etc.) as more of an influence than The Byrds.

E.C.: Speaking of L.A. in the years 1965-67, Domenic Priore is currently publishing a book chronicling that scene. Any special memories of that time?

Mark: The scene was rife with memories and it is incredible to savor my life as it was... now just memories to read about. I lived in Laurel Canyon. It was my first home after leaving my parents and I was only 18 years old. My neighbors became the history of Rock and Roll, and each one of their names is also the foundation of stories that fill me with endless memories. My neighbors were Jim Morrison, Joni Mitchell, Richie Furey, Stephen Stills and members of the group "Love." Danny Hutton lived around the corner and Robbie Krieger lived in the next canyon over. Zappa was on the corner in Tim Holt's old house across from Houdini's mansion and Chuck Swenson (writer of Fievel Goes West) lived in Steve Cochran's house, which was known as "The Cock Run." Mama Cass was up on Mullhullond and Christina Applegate used to hang out with my daughter's when she was about 5 years old. Every year we lived in Laurel Canyon history would be made down the hill in Hollywood. The record companies, film companies and TV studios would pump out creative projects fueled by the neighbors we had. We knew these creative people as "family." Family who would help out at Wonderland Ave. School on Halloween or who would work to keep the canyon clean and safe for our families to grow up in. It was a time I will never see again, but it probably still goes on for someone.

E.C.: I had read that the group was on the verge of breaking up when "Happy Together" was a smash hit. What made you decide to stay together, or was it pressure from the record company?

Mark: That is not true. By the time "Happy Together" was made we were a very tight knit group who had drawn closer together by many incidents that would have probably broken up other recording groups. We had been through 3 or 4 different managers by then and had already survived 2 major group changes and a 9-month period of time where we had very small record success. We were coming off of three minor hits...Very Minor...they were, Grim Reaper of Love, Outside Chance and Can I Get To Know You Better. The record company was in a panic but we were not near breaking up. We were in dire need of a hit record but it would never be a time of real consequence. The song Happy Together would change our lives drastically and it would set off a chain reaction of 4 top ten records in a row, including She'd Rather Be With Me, She's My Girl, You Know What I Mean and of course Happy Together.

The only time we ever came close to breaking up was just before we made our first record. This is the story that makes film people drool. We were actually handing in our resignation to The Revalaire Club, when we were introduced to the people who would eventually sign us to White Whale Records. We had two guys in the band (Al Nichol & Don Murray) who were already married and starting families and they saw no future in a $40 a week night club act. Each of us agreed it was time to put childhood dreams to bed and start thinking about life after high school. Howard signed up at UCLA and I was at Santa Monica City College. With the chance to record with White Whale Records we tore up that resignation and put together three songs. One of those songs, "It Ain't Me Babe," would become a top 5 record and would change our lives, for that moment. It would send us on the road with a "Dick Clark's Caravan of Stars," instead of to college. The tour included Tom Jones, Peter & Gordon, The Shirelles, Billy Joe Royal, Ronnie Dove, Brian Hyland and others. This was a different type of college, a college we would become masters at, over the next 39 years.

E.C.: Many of the '60s rock legends got to perform on the Ed Sullivan show, the Turtles being one. There is nothing really like the Ed Sullivan show on TV today to compare it to. What was it like doing the Ed Sullivan show? You guys seemed totally at ease when you did "Happy Together" on his show-I mean, you didn't seem nervous at all despite having millions view it.

Mark: We were fortunate to become what I call darlings of 60's family television. The networks were doing their best to bring younger viewers to their shows that needed a shot in the arm. Shows such as The Smothers Brothers, Leslie Uggams, Della Reese, Hollywood Palace, Dean Jones and many others. The one show that really meant viewers to a group was Ed Sullivan. We did that show several times and each time it can be remembered as a very un-heralded spot. The producers did not know the music and Ed knew even less. We were treated poorly and the only reason we were there was to boost ratings by bringing in the younger viewing audience. I remember doing the Sullivan show with Russian dancing bears, chimpanzees and one time with Johnny Mathis. Johnny was the type of music that Ed really appreciated on the show and we never met him until the actual show time. He would show up just before airtime and undoubtedly he would make a mistake in introducing us. He did that, I believe every time we did the show, referring to us once as, "Here they are.. the ahhh...all the way from California..The ...let's here it for them." I mean really... what a disappointment.

We would sing live to a backing track on the Ed Sullivan show. We would make a mix of the song with no lead voice and mix the background voices at about 50% of the original. We would not play live on television for Ed Sullivan, ever. The best performance we ever had on TV was the only time we ever played a 100% live. This would take place on the Kraft Music Hall in 1969 and I would love to talk about that, but...that's a whole other story.

E.C.: Speaking of your Ed Sullivan appearance and the L.A. scene in the mid-sixties, I was watching the video tape of it the other night and your face seemed very familiar. Then I realized that you were in the infamous 1966 photo of Brian Wilson with a group of about 15 of L.A.'s hip crowd, including Danny Hutton (later of Three Dog Night), Dean Torrence (Jan & Dean) and Van Dyke Parks (sessions with the Byrds). Did you get to hang out with Brian a lot in 1966-67? The reason I'm asking is of course is the infamous "Smile" album that he was working on at the time (and was never released).

Mark: I am not sure just how much I want to talk about this. I do recall spending many evenings up at Brian's house. One of my best friend's was Danny Hutton and Danny was a really good friend of Brian's. We would go to the house with the sandbox and hang out. Brian would play tracks from his then unfinished album which he would eventually call "Smile." We would sit around a very long dining room table with headphones and .......... Listen, this stuff really has nothing to do with The Turtles and it always made me uncomfortable talking about it. It always made me feel like a groupie for Brian. I am glad Brian is doing better and his music was always exciting to watch metamorphose over time. I also felt that others were never given enough credit for his success. The photo happen because his wife Marylin asked us all to come and surprise him at the airport. We went, someone shot a photo and it came out in a book. "Smile" must be available somewhere because I have many versions of it.

E.C.: I once saw the Turtles video (in the '60s they called them "promos") of "Happy Together". If my memory serves me (its been about 15 years since I saw it), it had the band outside, miming the song in a kind of color "Hard Day's Night" performance. How many videos did the band do? Is there any chance of them being released officially? Do you have any say in the reissue of old Turtles material, whether it be the music or videos?

Mark: In the year 1998 or 1999 Rhino put together a video on "The History of the Turtles." It has been released this past month again on DVD. It contains many performances of the group on television and several of the videos that we shot in our heyday. We have almost total control over the material that the public gets to see at this time and any new releases must be authorized through Howard Kaylan and Myself (Flo & Eddie). We try to maintain some sort of quality control over everything that comes out of respect to the people who collect the Turtles.

Howard and I are collectors ourselves and we want our material to look and sound the way that people remember it. It takes a lot of time and personal involvement, but when you own the material, which we do, it gives you a new found enthusiasm for retaining the originality and quality. I think our die hard Turtle fans appreciate that. I hope so. This up-coming year we will be releasing a 50 song Turtle's anthology with a book featuring the group's history. It contains reminisces from each of the original members of the group and should be a fresh approach to the material once again.

I believe the only video's we made for promotional purposes were for the songs, "Happy Together," "She's My Girl," and for "Lady-O." I think each of them are on the DVD/Video and are very advanced viewing for the era. "She's my Girl" may be as close to an epic as any video ever was from that era and reflects the halcyon days of the late 60's.

E.C.: 8. Ray Davies of the Kinks produced one of your albums, how did that come about? What was it like working with Ray?

Mark: You're referring to the Turtles album "Turtle Soup." One of the most interesting times in The Turtles career. Personally, I think the best part of that project was the album design created by the photos of Henry Diltz and the graphic design work of Gary Burden. They did covers for the Eagles, Jackson Browne, Neil Young, Crosby, Stills and Nash and many others. It was a beautiful album cover, both inside and out.

The Turtles were looking for a new producer to do a new type of project for us. We were trying very hard to establish ourselves as an album oriented recording act. Radio was changing so quickly and the groups that were having big success at this time were now, not the "singles" oriented groups, like The Turtles, but groups who fit the cultures need for hip intellectual records. FM radio was replacing AM as the prime selling format and we wanted to continue the song writing growth we had begun to realize in the previous album, "The Battle of the Bands."

We threw out a bunch of potential producers and Ray Davies, from The Kinks, would eventually be the chosen one. Derek Taylor, who was the press agent for the Beatles, happened to be a good friend, helped us make the contact. We asked Ray, who we would find out was a big fan of our hit songs, and he jumped at the opportunity. It would be Ray's first outside producing project. We loved his songwriting and the group's music, and we were very excited to get the chance to work with him.

We would not find out until after making that album that Ray used the Turtle Soup project as a way of doing two things: one, to get out of England during a time when he was having some personal problems and two, come to America to light a fire under the record company that the Kinks were on. The Kinks were releasing some really great records, but they were having some major difficulties getting their records promoted the way that they wanted. Ray used the trip to America to, not only produce the Turtles, but to try and build up a better relationship with Reprise Records. The problem was, I believe Ray let us have too much control of the album and never got involved enough with the editing process on the material we recorded. Looking back now it seems that the songs were, for the most part, rather mediocre and it would have been nice to have had him more involved in the rewriting, or the discarding of some of the poor songs. He was a bit too passive in his approach and it might be because of the many external things that were going on in his life and the Kink's career at the time.

I do want to emphasize that Ray was a very charming fellow and never showed signs of the external problems during the time we made that record. It only would manifest itself in the lack of involvement that took place. We didn't get to hang out much with him as he stayed to himself quite a bit. In the end result, I guess I hoped more would come out of that record collaboration and maybe I shouldn't have. We have never had any contact with him about that album, but it was not a successful project for either of us. It sold poorly and any chance The Turtles had of cracking the album marketplace would not take place. It does remain a cult classic for the Turtle fans and I do enjoy listening to parts of it. "Love In The City," "Somewhere Friday Night," and a few others hold up very well, and "Love In The City" might be one of the great overlooked Turtle classics. Maybe it was a better record than I think it was. It's hard to compare it with the others but it brings back many great memories in the Turtles history.

Right: Mark (left) and Howard Kaylan (right)

E.C.: After the break up of the Turtles, you went on to play with Frank Zappa in the early '70s. That seems like quite a jump, from the Turtles to Zappa. What was working with Frank like? I love the Zappa version of "Happy Together"!

Mark: Working with Frank was a very fun and challenging experience. He created music, during our time with him, specifically designed for us and our capabilities. Most everything we did with Frank was from live concert recordings and this spontaneous approach worked very well for that era. It was much like improve for a comedian. We would create the foundation of a song and story, and then it would grow into something else as the piece was performed. Each piece would have a structure, but Howard and I were encouraged to add new things with each performance and this is the way most of those albums we made with Frank were done. I hear from many people that they feel the albums we made with Frank were the best for them. In my opinion they were fun, and I think the comparison of that era, to any other of Frank's works, is a waste of time. Frank had a philosophy, that he related to me at one time which was, an artist's career should not be judged on any singular project, no single record, film or any other individual piece of work. Frank felt that a person's art could only be judged as part of the whole of their career. Each individual creation was a part of that whole. No critique of any single work could change the overall end result, which was what should be seen as an artist's entire body of work. Only in that end result can it be judged and critiqued.

This may have been one of many of the things he helped me with during that period of time. Frank was an eloquent speaker and a continuously mis-judged person. He was soft-spoken but emphatic about the final outcome he was trying to get out of each piece of music. Nothing was left to chance, musically. He had his reasons and everything ended up that way. He was a tremendous influence when it came to the building of our musical career. He motivated us in attempting things vocally that we had never tried to do before The Mothers. He always seemed to respect our abilities and loved our sense of fun. We made him laugh constantly and this became the basis of our relationship. I stayed friends with Frank up to time of his death and his family still means a lot to me. I miss him very much but retain many significant memories of many wonderful nights. The mud shark, the Fillmore East, our many trips through Europe, Flo & Eddie, Anysley Dunbar, Ian and Ruth Underwood, Jeff Simmons, Jim Pons, Don Preston, George Duke and the Winnipeg Rangers will live on in my life forever.

E.C.: Were you with Zappa when he jammed with John Lennon in 1971 (the performance being recorded for the second disc of Lennon's 2-LP record, "Sometime in New York City")?

Mark: Yes.

E.C.: Were you still in the band when Zappa made the film, "200 Motels"?

Mark: Yes.

E.C.: What was the inspiration behind "Flo and Eddie"?

Mark: I have an idea...why doesn't everyone go to our website and read our history. The answer to this and many of the other historical stuff is right there on our web site, in our history section. The answer is at : the

E.C.: Finally, any hindsight regarding your music? Is it strange in the present day to play Turtles songs live?

Mark: Hindsight, is that a reference to my ass...Let me try and explain this...the band was started so we didn't have to do any real work and to meet chicks during high school. After 39 years , I think we can say we finally have done both. We have a friendship that spans four decades and it continues to survive. We enjoy what we do and what we have created. Each of the songs we recorded was done in hopes that people would like them as much as we did. Each song was recorded for a reason and we put our heart and souls into each one of the recordings we made. Some would become hit songs but to us every single song we recorded was an equal. We perform them today with that same vigor and with that same sense of fun that we had when we made them. That wasn't always the way it was, but that is the way it is today. Every year that goes by we realize how fortunate we have been and we feel lucky that we continue to grow musically and to understand how great it is to have our friendship, our memories and our future to ponder and celebrate.

I actually believe one of the major considerations has to also be the people we have known throughout our many years, our friends and our families. I also know Howard and I both miss Frank Zappa very much and the same could be said for the other friends we made music and worked with. Keith Moon, Marc Bolan, Glen Buxton, Joey Ramone, Jim Morrison, Cass Elliott, Carl Wilson, Gram Parsons, Dennis Wilson, John Belushi, Phil Reed, Gene Clark, Michael Clark, John Phillips, Phil Hartman and so many others who are not here anymore. These and the other people, who are still living life to the fullest: Roger McGuinn, Ron Stone, Ray Manzarek, Todd Rungren, Ron Nevison, Stephen Stills, Danny Goldberg, Richie Furey, Bruce Springsteen, Herb Cohen, Roy Thomas Baker, Alice Cooper and so many others I know I am forgetting.

There are so many people who continue to be influences on our lives. All of the great musicians we continue to play music and tour with: Benjy King, Don Kisselbach, Tristan Avakian, Rick Croucier, Andy Cahan, Joe Stefko, Tom Croucier, Rick Guidotti and Wade Biery.

This is the reason we wanted to be in this business. The friends, the experiences and the fans.
I hope everyone appreciates their own lives as much as Howard and I do.

Thanks for the time.

I hope I have not upset anyone along the way. I tried to answer with truth and candor.

This has always been one of my biggest problems.

Mark Volman

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