It’s a packed house at Englewood, NJ’s BergenPAC this June 18, 2019 evening for the tenth anniversary edition of the Happy Together concert tour.
As we wait for the show to begin, we chat with several concertgoers, all here to enjoy a live performance by six of the top pop artists of the 1960s and ’70s including The Cowsills, The Classics IV, The Buckinghams, The Union Gap’s Gary Puckett, Chuck Negron of Three Dog Night, and The Turtles.
Says Donna from Middlesex, “I’ve done three years of Happy Together tours, and this is the third time I’m seeing this year’s show. It’s nostalgic, and I really like it because the show moves so quickly and the performers get all of their hits in.”
Amy from Jersey City agrees adding, “This is my fifth show of this tour. After I saw it in Morristown, NJ, I liked it so much I went online at 1am to buy tickets for the Westbury, NY show. It’s just so rejuvenating — the audience is into it, there are good vibes everywhere, and it makes you feel like you’re 16 again. Plus, it’s hard to pick a favorite artist, because they’re are all so good.”
Exclaims Shelly from Greenwich CT, “These shows are like potato chips — you can’t have just one. This is my first of three shows this tour, but last year, I saw the show eight times.”
Comments Herb from Montvale, “We’ve seen the Happy Together Tour five years in a row. I love it for the memories and the music. As the announcer, Shadoe Stevens, says at the beginning of each show, ‘Just think of the best time you ever had, multiply it by 1000, and then double it’ — the show is that much fun.”
Herb’s wife, Arleen, agrees adding, “At some concerts we’ve gone to, the singers have run out of steam, but never on the Happy Together Tour. Here, you get the best of each group. There isn’t just one ‘star’ — everyone is equal. They all sing well and the sound is so good, it makes you feel good.”
Before the show starts, we also take a moment to chat with several of the Happy Together Tour performers.
Explains The Buckinghams’ Carl Giammarese, “This is the 10th anniversary of the Happy Together Tour. The first tour was in 1984 and had Gary Puckett, Spanky and Our Gang’s Spanky McFarlane, The Association, and The Turtles. Then, in 1985, they had The Buckinghams, Gary Lewis and the Playboys, The Grass Roots, and The Turtles. Ten years ago they started doing tours every year. Altogether, The Buckinghams have been on the 2010, ‘11, ‘12, ‘14, and ‘15 tours, and now we’re on the 2019 tour which has a total of 53 shows.”
Exclaiming, “It’s been great — we love the fans and the response we get,” Giammarese reveals, “We’re in Jersey five times on this tour, and Jersey fans are some the best fans anywhere — they are very dedicated to this music. We’ve been up and down the Jersey Turnpike from New Brunswick to Ocean City, and were having a lot of fun. It’s a great lineup this year — and Ron Dante is doing an especially great job filling in for Howard Kaylan of The Turtles.”
Notes Ron Dante, “I’m honored and blessed to be singing with The Turtles. It was a gift to be in The Archies, and now I get to sing The Turtles’ songs — they’re great songs.”
Adding, “I enjoy performing with Mark Volman,” Dante notes, “We mesh together really well. He’s the comedy, and I’m the straight man,” before joking, “He’s Jerry Lewis and I’m Dean Martin!”
Tom Garrett, lead singer of The Classics IV, tells us, “This is our first time on the tour. It’s awesome — we’re having a great time! To be invited is such an honor, and to be performing with people like Carl Giammarese, Chuck Negron, and the rest is unbelievable — they are all such great artists and great people. It keeps you young.”
Lastly, we chat with Chuck Negron, former lead singer of Three Dog Night, who reveals, “I’m having a ball — it’s so nice to be singing with this tour. I’m having a lot of fun; I respect these musicians and I’m so honored to be a part of the group — it’s really unbelievable.”
Inside the BergenPAC auditorium, announcer Shadoe Stevens’ pre-recorded voice can be heard counting down, “4 minutes… 3… 2… 1… 30 seconds…” before the lights dim and the members of the Happy Together band — Barry Waller on bass, Chris Camilleri on drums, Manny Focarazzo on keyboards, and musical director Godfrey Townsend on guitar — take the stage and the show begins.
Up first are The Cowsills — siblings Susan, Paul, and Bob Cowsill — who open tonight’s show with a buoyant rendition of their catchy ’67 hit, “The Rain, The Park, and Other Things” (aka “The Flower Girl”), as images of flowers dance onscreen behind them.
Following large applause, the group dedicates their next song to “everyone in the balcony” — their 1967 Top 40 hit, “We Can Fly.” The audience claps along to the song’s snappy melody and the siblings’ tight vocal harmonies.
Brother Paul states, “You’re going to see lots of people on the screen in this song, including our brother, John, who plays drums for The Beach Boys.” Here, The Cowsills perform a bouncy version of their 1967 Top Ten Billboard smash, “Indian Lake.”
As members of the family band that provided the inspiration for TV’s The Partridge Family, the siblings go on to perform a TV theme they recorded back in 1969 — the theme song from Love, American Style.
As images of tresses of various colors, lengths, and styles of hair flash on the screen, the group ends their nostalgic set with a high-energy rendition of their 1969 hit, “Hair.”
Following a dynamic performance which brings the audience to its feet, The Cowsills bow to the crowd and then bow to the talented backup band behind them.
The Classics IV are up next, featuring Tom Garrett on vocals and Paul Weddle on saxophone. Bringing the audience back to a simpler time, the group performs their 1969 recording, “Every Day with You Girl,” a number with an easy ’60s groove that features three-part vocal harmonies behind Garrett’s lead.
The crowd cheers when they recognize the introduction to the group’s Top Ten hit from 1969, “Stormy.” The audience happily joins in singing on the famous “Bring back that sunny day” lyric before Weddle plays a solo which elicits large applause from the crowd.
Garrett explains that the group’s next song reached #2 on the charts because, as he explains, “It was kept out of the #1 spot by Tommy Roe’s ‘Dizzy.’” Dedicating the song to the group’s original lead singer, Dennis Yost, Garrett and Weddle perform the band’s 1969 hit, “Traces.” After Garrett croons the song’s famous “Faded photographs, covered now with lines and creases” lyric, Weddle switches off from playing tenor sax to soprano sax.
Concluding their set with a song which went all the way to #1 in early 1968, The Classics IV perform “Spooky.” The audience joins in singing “Spooky” as the band vamps and Garrett ad libs while Weddle plays a jazzy sax solo and the audience rises to reward them with a standing ovation.
The Buckinghams — featuring Carl Giammarese on lead vocals and Nick Fortuna on bass — hit the stage running with a brisk and lively version of their 1967 Top Ten hit, “Don’t You Care.” As Carl’s smooth vocals take the lead, Nick Fortuna and the Happy Together band sturdily back him up.
Following huge applause, The Buckinghams perform their 1967 hit, “Hey Baby (They’re Playing our Song),” while audience members joyfully clap along to this catchy pop classic.
After announcing, “This is the 10th Anniversary of Happy Together. We’re here because you still want to hear these songs,” the audience cheers with approval. At this point, The Bucks perform a song which Giammarese says made its debut on TV’s The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour — a fun and funky version of their 1967 Top 5 smash, “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy.” Heads bop to the infectious rhythm of this soulful tune which features Giammarese and Nick Fortuna trading off lead vocals.
Revealing that their next song also debuted on television — on The Ed Sullivan Show — Nick Fortuna does a humorous impression of Sullivan before Giammarese sings a lovely rendition of 1967’s “Susan.”
Following large applause, Giammarese introduces the band’s final song for the evening. Launching into a riveting version of their 1966 #1 hit, “Kind of a Drag,” The Buckinghams leave the Jersey audience standing on its feet!
Following a short intermission, Gary Puckett, the original lead singer of Gary Puckett and The Union Gap — takes the stage wearing his Civil War longcoat and opening with a powerful version of his 1968 #2 hit, “Lady Willpower.”
Moving on to a tune where Puckett croons, “Why am I losing sleep over you/Reliving precious moments we knew?” when he reaches the irresistible chorus, the audience cheerfully joins him in singing his 1968 Top Ten hit, “Over You.”
Following huge applause, Puckett goes on to entertain the crowd with a compelling version of his 1969 Top Ten smash, “This Girl Is a Woman Now.” Singing with emotion, his famous vibrato fills the BergenPAC auditorium before he holds out a long note at the end and an audience member yells out, “Wow!”
Puckett goes on to talk about his first record, “Woman, Woman,” which came out in 1967, stating, “At the time, it cost 39 cents for a record…and you bought one and a half million of them.”
Singing the powerful melody of “Woman, woman/Have you got cheating on your mind,” the audience is moved by Puckett’s performance.
Inviting everyone in the BergenPAC audience to sing along with him on his 1968 #2 hit, “Young Girl,” Puckett croons the song as images of himself as a young man fill the screen behind him. Holding the microphone out, exclaiming, “You should hear it from here!” Puckett rejoins the audience on the final refrain.
Audience members stand and applaud as Puckett says, “Let’s hear it for the Happy Together Band.” After taking a bow, saluting the audience, and exiting the stage, an audience member can be heard exclaiming, “That long note you held out was amazing!”
Chuck Negron, one of the founding members of Three Dog Night, takes the stage smiling and asks the crowd, “How are you doing?”
After replying in the affirmative, Negron opens with the lyric, “This is the craziest party I have ever seen,” and knocks the audience’s socks off with his authoritative version of the Randy Newman-penned 1970 Three Dog Night chart-topper, “Mama Told Me Not to Come.”
Announcing, “It’s great to be here again,” a member of the audience yells out, “We love you, Chuckie!”
Negron responds by saying how much he loves working with all of the musicians on this year’s Happy Together Tour before jokingly referring to them with such incorrect names as “The Cowbells,” “Gerry Puckett,” and “The Classics II.”
His big soulful voice easily filling the theater, Negron sings Three Dog Night’s first million seller, 1969’s “Celebrate,” as several members of the crowd begin to “dance to the music.”
One of the highlights of tonight’s show is when Happy Together band leader/guitarist Godfrey Townsend and bassist Barry Waller join Negron on vocals to perform a thrilling version of the Laura Nyro classic, “Eli’s Comin.’” Audience members cheer for the rubato introduction, and then clap along as the band picks up the tempo and Negron belts out the lead on this 1969 Top Ten smash.
The crowd responds to Negron and the band’s performance with a spectacular standing ovation.
After thanking the members of Three Dog Night for all of the years he spent working with them, Negron performs a robust rendition of the trio’s first million seller, “One.” The staccato keyboard part builds as Negron sings with power and feeling, hitting the falsetto notes spot on. Heads bop to the infectious beat before the crowd responds with enthusiastic cheers and applause.
After thanking the audience for a wonderful evening, Negron concludes his portion of the program by singing 1971’s Record of the Year, “Joy to the World.”
As images of a younger Chuck Negron fill the stage, the entire audience sings the “Joy to the world” chorus while Negron ad libs over them. On their feet before the song even ends, audience members can be seen swaying, dancing, clapping, and wearing grins from ear to ear for this consummate performer.
For the final act of the night, The Turtles — Mark Volman and Ron Dante — take the stage and open with a rockin’ version of the group’s 1967 #3 hit, “She’d Rather Be With Me.”
As Dante deftly handles the lead, Volman provides backup vocals before bouncing a drumstick off of the floor and successfully catching it three times in a row!
After excited applause, the duo follows up with their 1966 album cut, “You Baby,” before moving on to a recreation of their 1965 version of Bob Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me Babe,” where Volman conducts the audience as they sing along on the “I said a-no, no, no, it ain’t me, babe” coda.
Volman announces, “This was a good song for The Turtles,” before Dante demonstrates his vocal prowess on The Turtles’ 1966 Top Ten tune,“You Showed Me,” a number which features a swirling ’60s organ sound courtesy of keyboardist Manny Focarazzo.
Following large applause, Volman announces, “For ten years, we’ve had the Happy Together Tour on the road, and we’re hoping for another ten years,” before joking, “Now that will be something to watch.”
At this point, he introduces Ron Dante who, as he explains, is filling in for his long-time partner in The Turtles, Howard Kaylan, who’s recently experienced some medical issues.
Here, Dante dazzles the audience with a performance of his own #1 hit with The Archies — “Sugar, Sugar.”
The crowd cheers, after which Volman introduces the members of the Happy Together Band. After revealing, “Howard and I worked with The Mothers of Invention,” the band launches into a brief instrumental version of Frank Zappa’s “Peaches en Regalia.” Then, Volman and Co. segue into a spirited rendition of The Turtles’ 1968 Top Ten smash, “Elenore,” where Volman sings and plays tambourine before taking the instrument and putting it on the top of his head and wearing it like a crown.
Once Dante announces, “I’ve been waiting to sing this song all night — let’s sing it together!” the entire crowd stands and cheerfully sings while they move to the groove of The Turtles’ 1967 chart-topper, “Happy Together.”
At the conclusion, Volman thanks the audience and invites them to join him next year “for Happy Together 2020.” Then, the individual artists — one at a time — return to the stage so they can each do a snippet of one of their biggest hits, after which everyone joins in on a full cast reprise of “Happy Together.”
As audience members make their way out of the BergenPAC auditorium, we chat with several in the crowd who share their opinions about tonight’s performance with us.
Says Laraine from New Windsor, “The show tonight was great — it was a lot of fun!” Explaining, “I came with a group of people — we’ve come to the shows before — and we all had to see it again this year,” Laraine notes, “I especially loved Chuck Negron because I love Three Dog Night, but I loved everything about tonight’s show.”
Comments Keith from Ramsey, “This show was wonderful — so much fun. I’ve always wanted to see The Cowsills, and they were terrific. Also, The Turtles ended with such great energy,” before acknowledging, “To see all these legends singing together on one stage is really special.”
Next, we chat with Katie from Hasbrook Heights who is here with her mom, Ann.
Explains Katie, “This show is just the perfect Mother’s Day gift. I know the music because of my mom, so every year, I get tickets for us,” before confessing, “And I love Ron Dante — I even got an Archies’ record for Christmas this year.”
Katie’s mom, Ann, remarks, “This is the first time I saw The Buckinghams, and ‘Kind of a Drag’ was especially great,” before noting, “but I guess you could call me an ‘everybody fan’ — they are all some of my favorite artists.”
Karin from Hillsdale calls this year’s edition of the Happy Together Tour “Fabulous.” Explaining, “I listen to this music all the time,” Karen reveals, “I sang along with every song — I knew all the words,” before acknowledging, “Gary Puckett was my favorite — I didn’t realize how tall he was — and I love a man in uniform!”
Rebecca from Elmwood Park explains, “It was my husband who opened my eyes to this kind of music and I really love it,” before revealing, “I even gave The Turtles’ Mark Volman a kiss right after the show — but just don’t tell my husband!”
Lastly, we chat with Annette from Garfield who comments, “The 2019 Happy Together Tour was wonderful; it brought me back to my happy hippie days.”
Continuing, “I’ve seen many of the editions of the tour before — I enjoy them so much; they make me smile for days afterwards,” Annette contends, “The songs just stay in your head and make you happy,” before she concludes, “It truly is one happy together tour!”