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The Turtles last tour - Part 1 <1 2 3>
Drug Store Truck Driving Men
Holiday Inn Florida 1969
L-R Mark, Winston, Carlos (Tour manager) and Howard - Holiday Inn Florida 1969
(p)© David Marks 3rd Ear Music
October / November 1969, USA & I had shed my blue Safari suite top - I think some American hippie may have taken it; they were in awe of this many pocketed 1/2 length shirt-jacket in the Village, where I stayed at 64 Jane Street. It was also a fashionable envy item at Newport & Woodstock. At Live Peace in Toronto some freak offered me a heap of stash if I would trade him that ridiculous, but highly functional and cool pale-blue Safari Suit top.

My hair had also grown somewhat so I looked for all the world like any other American groupie - an ordinary one of them! Somehow I often seemed to connect to the many bands of musicians I met & toured with throughout 1969 on the road. It was no big deal or any different to cracking a joke or lighting a smoke with songwriter friends or rock artists back home in Johannesburg or Durban. Hoyt Axton, Jerry Jeff Walker, The Turtles - Mark Volman or Howard Kaylan - who were about to leave the Turtles after this their last tour, & join Frank Zappa as Flo & Eddie the following year - all were most approachable.
Maybe it was early days back then and making friends with perceived idols was a lot easier perhaps. Without thinking about it at the time, these popular hit-song performers had no idea that I had been a SAfrican celebrity of sorts a few months earlier. I'd written 3 Top 40 Southern hit songs myself. I had long since given up telling people or bragging about it to my new found American friends. We often heard Master Jack, Mr. Nico and Hey Mister (The Limehill song) by 4 Jacks and a Jill on the radio; and as much as I didn't like the way they were recorded & produced - and dare not own up to being connected, given the musicians I was mixing with & for - swelling with silent pride & dying to tell somebody that those were my tunes. That only happened twice. Once after a gig in Nashville or Knoxville I think. Somewheres in Tennessee - the home of these hit songs in the USA - I just had to tell her while she was heartily whispering along with one of my songs on the radio. Suddenly there was silence. She left immediately, obviously thinking that I was some kind of a nut - A roadie who wraps, packs and carries wires for bands on the run and now you want to tell me you composed Master Jack my favourite song of all time? How could I keep that a secret between the sheets?

The truth is, that many of the bands that I mixed for, in the USA & back home some time later, hadn't achieved that sort of notoriety. But this was not a noticeable big deal at the time. I was just a young sound roadie doing his thang and enjoying this wonderful new found & expressive freedom in a pale-blue Safari Suit top - and I was hearing & seeing the USA for free.

We'd roll up for a show in Oklahoma City or Tampa Florida & the crowds would go crazy for a piece of Mark or Howard; with stage security getting their hands full - protecting us & throwing them off stage. And almost everytime the first note of Happy Together or Eleanor struck into the crowds they'd go berserk. In the fanzines back home these guys were the Hot Hit Gods that mortals couldn't mix with. Outside of protecting themselves against family, friends & freaks, like we all have to do sometimes, they are just people - more so, because they were contemporary Folk!

The Turtles, 3 Dog Night, Hoyt Axton was a 5 week Deep-South Trucking tour adventure that took as from Hanley Sound in Boston down to North Carolina, through South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Oklahoma, Florida, Louisiana, New Mexico & finally into Texas - where our Sound Truck & Equipment would meet up with the Steppenwolf tour in El Paso. Hoyt Axton travelled mainly alone in his convertible (Jeronimo's?) Black Cadillac whenever he could. Some distances were just too far for even him to handle alone - while the 3 Dogs, their band & entire crew flew all the way. The sound crew did fly at times, to meet the sound trucks on time for a far out concert; but for most of the tour we could choose - and I chose to see America & Truck it!

Mark Volman hated flying; so the somewhat rotund bespectacled blimp & big hearted & talented Turtle front man with his extremely long auburn frizzy hair & sense of humour, would travel between the shorter gigs of the deep Southern United States with us in the Peterbilt - the 22 ton, 60 foot tractor trailer Sound Truck - The Yellow Bird. Sometimes he'd squeeze in with his 2 Turtle's Roadies Denny & Jones who followed the Yellow Bird in a suped-up black & red Bedford Band Equipment Van; it had to be suped to keep up with the Bird.

I'd be lying if I didn't say that for most of the journey we'd hurtle along the highways at an average speed of between 95 & 110 miles an hour. The truckers in the USA ruled the roads back then & there was nothing anybody could do about it. Except maybe the inspectors & State Troopers at the weigh stations, when the trucks were forced to finally come to a standstill & have their logbooks, breaks & weights checked. But catch them on the open road, you couldn't; and if you were in anything under 22 tons when there was a posse of truckers dicing & riding together like cowboys on the plains - with those frightening ship-type fog horns blasting - you simply wouldn't dare. Just move over, be grateful and smile good buddy! 10-4!

Mark was always unsuitably attired in his Avis or blue air-force issue jump suit, tambourine in hand. Dick Lee was our one-armed non-union driver. He would pull up at the Truck Stops & park right there in the middle of the Teamsters preferential parking - amidst tons & rows of gleaming 18 wheel Iron Wagons, polished to perfection; the pride of the new prairies - the super highways of the USA. There were some trucks that had genuine Smith & Western Gun Door Handles, gold platted cabin steps & chromed lift gates; TV set behind the driver in the sleepers' cabin bunker; cow-catchers & Bull Horns; wood-framed pictures of ma, the old lady, the girlfriends & the children & those very loud deep-sea foghorn hooters - that they call horns. And the dusty old 22 Ton Yellow Bird Peterbilt would pull in with this steaming Bedford Van in tow, just off a midnight run from the last arena gig with 4 very tired & hungry looking long haired music peoples - Us! & Dick the trucker.
Jones Denny
Jones Denny - Turtle Roadies & Dick the driver

Dick never cared much for Rock 'n Roll music, so he slept at the gigs in the Peterbilt's very comfortable sleeping cabin; I only woke him up after we had loaded. I'd climb into the cab don my sleeping bag & fall asleep to the roll & sway of the truck between states & gigs. I'd always wake up before sunrise & shoot the breeze with Dick as we rolled into another state. You could tell we were crossing a border by the changing sounds of the music on the truck radio & the accents at the truck stops.
Dick genuinely had a gammy right arm - the one he somehow used to artfully manipulate all 13 gears with - without you even noticing. The arm wasn't broken for not joining the Teamsters, he proudly told me - he was born that way. He was also short, chewed a match at all times, wore dark sunglasses, good looking & born to impress. And believe you me, behind that Peterbilt's wheel, when he wasn't flying one-handed down a highway, he surely could move those 22 tons & 60 feet backwards & forwards around a tickey. We needed him - not too many of the older southern sports arena's were built to care or cater for Rock 'n Roll rigs & gigs, that's for sure. This was the short-back & sides pro-Vietnam sporty South. But for the accents - which were equally hard to understand - a sort of duplicate Orange Free State. If he didn't get the truck right up to the loading bay, the Union men in the halls would watch in amusement us as we struggled (without one-armed Dick) to hump the gear towards the Union's Yellow loading line. In old Wild West fashion the Teamsters were a voluntary powerful Truckers Union & you were encouraged to join them - by force if you moved Middle America over the highways. I had figured that the reason Dick never joined the Teamsters Union & lived to brag about it, was because he already had a permanently broken arm - I don't think there was too much force they could use to persuade him to join. Truckers with no arms aren't much good to the Union. But Dick kept promising to join them, anyway - just incase
Hanley Sound's Yellow Bird
Hanley Sound's Yellow Bird somewhere in Texas - Photo by Dick Lee - Oct 1969
(p)© David Marks / 3rd Ear Music 2001

Mark Volman would jump down & out of the Yellow Bird, tambourine proudly rattling, Queen-wave with his freehand & smile; howdy neighbour & good morning to you pardna' beating his thigh with a jingle jangle. This, in the deep white south with the rest of the long-haired sound crew in tow. Dick would half embarrassingly say that he didn't think it was a good idea that we used the Truckers only preferential service entrance - that only he, as a true-trucker was allowed , even if he wasn't a teamster. The Trucker's queue was almost always empty at that time of the morning - most of the real truckers had already all been served & the tables were filled with startled stern faced Teamsters, checking out these clowns. Dick quietly suggested that we should perhaps go around the front & stand in the full queue with the rest of the staring, starving travelling Americans, to get served. Follow me said the jingle jangle Mr. Tambourine-man Mark Volman - with the Emmett Grogan / San Francisco Diggers' attitude - leading us into the preferential deep-south almost empty truckers' fast-food queue. Dick the non-union driver with no ticket, melted back into the parking lot - mumbling something about having to check the truck tires again. You can always tell when you're in the wrong American food queue & in the wrong town, when the waitresses don't call you Honey.

Let me try & set the scene here a little; tell you a bit about Teamsters, Truckers, Truck Stops & Trucks as I grew to know them on the highways & freeways of the USA - after some 3 months living in the back of the Peterbilt Tractor Trailer conquering 27 of the Eastern & Mid Western United States, from Mexico in the South up to Canada in the North.

Your average American trucker - often around 6 foot something & well over 200 & fifty pounds apiece - was extremely fashion conscious. Numbered baseball cap (usually number NYC), chequered shirt (black & red seemed to be in that Autumn), with a cute little hip-hugging denim number or a sheep-skin looking sleeveless jacket, with a partially beer-belly obscured brass-belt-buckle, strung through the low slung tight fitting demin jeans; and to round it all off, the boots & army regulation short back 'n sides. In 1969 I saw a sign at an Oklahoma Truck Stop that clearly read, Coloured Drivers Only. I got my camera out in disbelief. I had always thought South Africa was the last nation on earth to insult people like that. I had heard that in India there was a sign at an airport that read: No Dogs & South African's Allowed. Understandable at the time. But in the home of the brave & the land of the free? Surrounded by these fashionable truckers - infact I was sure they were all following us from Truck Stop to Truck Stop? - I tried to get a Rodney Barnett type SAfrican shot that he became famous for in his photographic books, shooting from the hip. Without looking into the viewfinder or letting them know I even had a camera, I coughed & clicked.

Many of the pale-faced teamsters would have had sons or relatives proudly doing their duty in Vietnam - and loud happy long-haired fellows who looked like girls from that sissy's city San Francisco - obviously all dope smoking, anti-war hippie communists too boot - were not a welcome sight first thing in the morning after a hard night's drive. I'd had some years of this attitude towards long-haired bands stopping off in lonely Free State or Northern Cape towns between gigs - in the old 1300 Kombi - down in our own Deep South. To be honest, we were never quite as Merry or Mad about smiling and waving to Them - especially if we had had a tambourine in our hands.

Here in the democratic USA the law is for the protection of the people - all the people - including loud happy longhaired anti-Vietnam fellows. At one stop I got the strange old familiar feeling that made digesting perfectly normal Truck Stop fast-food very difficult indeed. From a table in between a few of the 250 pounder check shirted Teamsters, sat a Trooper with the starched broad-brimmed Canadian Mounties type Scout masters' hat I'd come to know as a kid; badges & tin-star glinting in the dim lit standard red & brown coffee table light; gun & Billy-club nestling in his belly; starring at me with every swallow I self consciously attempted to take over the rim of his steamy coffee cup. When he reached for his belt to burp, I ducked!

I can't say that my ulcer took too lightly to those early morning Truck-Stop meals; but that wasn't the point. Being raucous & attempting to share a laugh - on & off stage - was Mark's mission - & it more often than not did work. At that adventurous age, me with my South African background & my dislike of our own men in blue, I would have gladly antagonized the animal instinct in us all & started a miner's bar-room brawl, in the noble defence of some lame or pious ideology that nobody, including myself, would have understood. This positive clown attitude of Mark Volman's - let live & let laugh - was catchy & would eventually cut through anarchist & fascist alike. In no time at all the Truckers, the odd Trooper & most of the travelling family audiences - from the slow moving American fast-food counter-queues - would be eating away & smiling. The ultimate applause (if somewhat silent) would come at the end of the meal, when Betty would clear away your plates & ask politely, will that be all Honey?

The Greenback Dollar

The Turtles were not top of the bill - they were on their way out - Mark & Howard were serving notice - playing out their contractually bound last tour as a band, before joining Frank Zappa for his 1970 programme & tours. 3 Dog Night were in some form of ascendance. Reb Foster Management, Los Angeles, was tasked to help launch this new & exciting pop & funk band. As all the investment & record company interest was focused on the 3 Dogs future, they didn't seem too happy about the Turtles getting all the attention & applause at almost every show on that Southern State tour. Hoyt Axton, the amiable & powerful singer songwriter opened the shows. Although he was the son of well-known American composer Elizabeth Axton (early Elvis hit, Heartbreak Hotel among others) - he was also famous & well known in his own write; not down here to the white Rock 'n Roll audiences of the South or the black funk slaves. Hoyt reminded me of Brian Finch. Same sort of stage presence, energy & power - thundering driving solo guitar, foot stomp, eyes closed & booming vocals.

The Hoyt Axton, Turtles & 3 Dog Night combination was a total music mismatch. At most of the gigs 2 of the 3 acts suffered real bad. Hoyt mainly. The one song of his that almost every body knew; even the mainly teenage audiences, was his own international hit (recorded by The Kingston Trio, Trini Lopez & many others) Green Back Dollar. But this song alone wasn't enough to save him from the gladiator arena crowds that would vary from 5 000 to 10 000 Romans a show. The Turtles on the other hand seldom failed to bring the Coliseums down - with Mark Volman throwing that tambourine so high that it often got near touching the iron roof of many of those giant indoor arenas; & where ever it came down he'd make a dart to catch it. Even if that meant jumping off stage in mid-song & thundering through a bemused audience - he very seldom missed. It was an entertaining & an athletic sight to see; always the show stopper.

3 Dog Night couldntt always follow that despite their chart topping albums of the year before - more west coast I suppose - & their obvious musical prowess; a mixture of funk, rock & some jazz riffs, most notably in drummer Floyd Sneed & organist Jimmy Greenspoon's impressive solos. Chuck (Negron), Danny (Hutton) & Cory (Wells) were the bands 3 front showmen on their own terms; good rock harmony voices, but a strange attitude that got through before their songs did. Their make-up & glitter was pre-glam rock days & didn't always go down well with the mainly young rock audiences.
Chuck & Danny
2 of 3 Dog Night - Chuck & Danny - Somewhere in Oklahoma Oct 1969
(p)© David Marks / 3rd Ear Music 2001

This wasn't West Coast Hippie domain - this was the trucking south remember; and although many of the kids smoked pot, had long or big hair & wore torn jeans, they were basically the sons & daughters of a 3-chord sleepy, slowly waking trucker's Southern United States. Country & Blues Country. 3 Dog Night were often mocked for their glam appearance - as good as the band may have been. The rest of the band was Joe Schermie on Bass & Mike Allsup on Guitar.

The show was, for some other reason, not too well received by the audiences in Jacksonville Florida - even the Turtles died. There was a 10pm or 11pm curfew at the time - the anti-Vietnam protests & race riots of some weeks before must have had something to do with it. The audience was generally pissed off at whitey anyway, so with Floyd hidden behind his drums, we were on our own out there...not unlike some of those township festivals that I was soon to get myself involved with. It may have been Mark Volman's antics, catchy humour & highflying tambourine that saved the night. Hoyt left the stage after a couple of songs & beer cans & the 3 Dogs got a pasting during their set. Either Sam or Harold flew in to mix 3 Dog Night - with the Turtles Tour manager, Carlos Bernal - the Byrds' stand-in bass player for Gram Parsons on their controversial SAfrican tour a year earlier in 1968 - helping out to mix his charges. I got to mix Hoyt sometime after the start of the tour - and always gave him a powerful acoustic guitar sound - much to the irritation of the master-mixers who thought the guitar way too big & loud - a problem I had, to the delight of many acoustic guitar players, throughout my SAfrican mixing career in years to come. I enjoyed Hoyt Axton's sets - every night - & made sure that he got a good sound out front. The songs that Hoyt was writing & singing were memorable for me. I couldn't believe why these tunes were not bigger hits - more so than anything he had written before. Although my diary notes were getting sparse & more formal; dates, places, meetings & so forth - with the odd half a song scribbled here & there - there was none of the articulate long-hand opinioned missives that I had got so good at a few months before; but referring to my diary I note : I can't believe why these tunes were not bigger hits - more so than anything Hoyt had written before. One good entry suggested that Hoyt's songs were good potential barroom type classics & certain international hits. Material that I wanted to take back for Brian to sing. I had already collected Jamie Brocket's version of Legend of the USS Titanic from the Boston Peace Moratorium, with Brian Finch in mind. Hoyt's was the sort of songs that could easily get audiences going in the coffee bars & cock-tail lounges back home. Back-stage I told Hoyt what I thought & planned & he just gruffly & politely thanked me for the consideration; but he didn't seem to be overjoyed with that tour & didn't say too much. My feelings were obviously in the minority in those Southern US auditoriums.

The constant travelling, gigging & touring didn't leave me much time to stream my consciousness, as I preferred to do; an easy way of saying that a lot of what I was scribbling into my note pad - other than the facts & figures of the tour - was turning into junk.


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