Monday, May 27, 2019

Rehearsing for The Happy Together Tour 2019

As of this date, there are 53 Happy Together Concert performances for the 2019. First up is State Theatre in New Brunswick, New Jersey, on Wednesday, May 29th, but before the tour begins, you're looking at six different musical acts, a single backing band to keep up with all their songs, and then introductions of each group plus the evening's finale where everyone is on stage to sing. And you need the show producer who puts all these details together bringing the shows to your hometown. The producers are formally known as Flower Power Concerts, Inc., but that's actually the brainchild of Toby Ludwig and Ron Hausfeld. They're the same fellas who are behind several nationally popular tours, including "Hippiefest," "Rock the Yacht" Tour, "Happy Together" Tour and the soon-to-launch "It Was Fifty Years Ago Today" Tour.

Although many of these artists have been on tour together before in previous tour configurations, the magic just doesn't happen when the band starts playing. It's a matter of getting together early before the tour and rehearsing. That's a part of the touring world the audience doesn't get to see, but it's all made easier as Mark Volman (The Turtles, aka "Flo" of Flo & Eddie) is the consummate showman and ringmaster (with or without the top hat, you never know), who puts everyone at ease with his wild sense of humor.

The Next Phase Sound Studio in Farmingdale, New York was chosen as the tour's rehearsal site for Monday, May 27 and Tuesday, May 28.

They have many studio rooms available for rehearsal, plus they have a huge sound stage that's perfect for rehearsing this giant concert. This year's lineup includes:

The Turtles

Chuck Negron (formerly of Three Dog Night)

Gary Puckett & the Union Gap

The Buckinghams

The Classics IV

The Cowsills

Traditionally until 2017, The Turtles were always Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan. Three years ago, Howard ran into some medical problems that kept him off the road since then, but Mark always reminds the audience of Howard, noting that he's missed and it's hoped he can rejoin in a future tour. In his stead is Ron Dante, a recording artist and respected music producer whose versatile voice allows him to blend in exactly as whomever he needs to. Specifically, he can sing Howard's notes perfectly and The Turtles' songs still sound authentic.

You may remember Ron as the male voice of "The Archies" song ("Sugar Sugar"), with Toni Wine as female lead, on radio and television. Ron is also the uncredited lead singer of The Cuff Links, whose hit "Tracy" is well known by many as well. So, this is the third year pairing Mark Volman with Ron Dante. Ron will also sing some of his music of The Archies, including "Jingle Jangle" (also recorded with Toni Wine). Then get ready for all the music of The Turtles, as Ron and Mark sing all the hits, including "Elenor," "You Baby," and "It Ain't Me Babe."

Chuck Negron, formerly of Three Dog Night, is a veteran of many HTT tours. His unmistakable voice is heard on so many of Three Dog Night's hits yet the audience always has a hard time choosing which of his songs is their specific favorite. One song that's always guaranteed to get the audience singing along has to be "Joy to the World," that great Hoyt Axton tune from a very versatile songwriter. Hoyt also wrote their hit, "Never Been to Spain" as well.

Carl Giammarese, founding member, lead vocalist and guitarist for The Buckinghams and Nick Fortuna, founding member, bass player and vocalist, return in 2019 for the 10th anniversary of the 2010 25th anniversary of the Happy Together Tour. They could have called it the 35th anniversary of the Happy Together Tour (1984-2019), but that might complicate the math. Anyway, it's the anniversary of the anniversary and from "Kind of a Drag" to "Don't You Care," the audience loves to sing "I love you, yes I do, I do" when Carl sings "Susan." Count on hearing "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" and "Hey Baby (They're Playing Our Song)."

The Classics IV are represented by lead singer since 2007Tom Garrett, and Paul Weddle on saxophone. Tom sings so many of their one-word massive chart hits, "Spooky," "Stormy," and "Traces." They had plenty of other hits with songs with more than one word, too, sharing songs so many teenagers fell in love to.

Gary Puckett brings his signature hits including "Young Girl," "This Girl is a Woman Now," "Lady Willpower," "Woman Woman," and "Over You," which includes the memorable lyrics: "Why am I losin' sleep over you? Relivin' precious moments we knew? So many days have gone by, Still I'm so lonely, and I, Guess there's just no getting over you, And there's nothin' I can do, Wastin' all of my time, all of my mind over you." The audience will join in on "Guess there's just no getting" without your even asking them to. And Gary graciously loves it when audiences sing.

But for so many of these amazing musical talents on the Happy Together Tour, when they tour separately around the country, they generally have a full band of sidemen with them. For example, Gary Puckett has his "Union Gap" band, The Buckinghams have three very talented sidemen, and The Cowsills actually have more family members who tour with them, including Susan's husband, Russ Broussard, but the configuration for the HTT includes Bob Cowsill, Paul Cowsill and Susan Cowsill, with their amazing familial harmony bringing you right back to "Indian Lakes," "Hair," and "The Rain, The Park, and Other Things" in the blink of an eye.

Now, there's one backing band to keep up with all the music of the Happy Together Tour. They're touring professionals, and two of them are longtime veterans of this tour. Musical contractor, guitarist, and vocalist Godfrey Townsend is the man with a plan. Manny Focarazzo on keyboards and vocals has been part of the tour for a very long time. Joining more recently are Chris Camilleri on drums and Barry Waller on bass.

You can't have a tour without sound mixing, lights, and the monitors comprising the Front of House engineer duties. J. C. Girardier is in charge of the FOH and Josh Lampert handles the monitors. You don't see them often, but they are the MVPs of the show. They put the hidden magic behind making everything sound so good that you can hear all the vocalists, the instruments, plus you don't have to wear earplugs as you would if you were at other concert venues (and you know you've had that happen before!).

Once the groups all arrived in Farmingdale, the rehearsals went very smoothly as the full group had a chance to put the plan into action. After two days of rehearsals, the band traveled 69 miles from Farmingdale, NY to New Brunswick, NJ for the tour opening on Wednesday, May 29th at the historic State Theatre.

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