from the Bronx, New York, whose family relocated to Manhattan, then Utica,
and finally settled in Westchester, Los Angeles, California. He attended Airport Junior High School
and took clarinet lessons as a youth, although he was much more interested
Westchester High School, he met Mark Volman, and
the two of them became fast friends and sang together in the Westchester
High A Capella Choir. They co-formed their own choral
group, The Crosswind Singers, which also included Betty McCartney and Al
copious free time, Al and Howard started up a surf-rock band that was
rounded out by Don Murray and Dale Walton. Dale was eventually supplanted by
Jim Tucker and soon Mark was on board, as well, as an alto
saxophonist. (Howard played the
The band was
originally called The Nightriders but they changed their moniker to The Crossfires in 1963. They were a big hit on the college
circuit, rocking out to mostly instrumental covers of party favourites such as “Money” and
“What’d I Say”, replete with the obligatory
expletives. This lyric-changing
didn’t go over so well at Westchester Women’s Club, however,
and the band was banned from Westchester.
surf rockers took to the surf, namely Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach, and
Torrance, repeatedly winning battles of the bands. One of these blue-ribbon
performances landed them a steady gig at the Revelaire
Club. They were about to quit
the club when Ted Feigin and Lee Lasseff approached them with a record deal on a label
to be named later.
In 1964, The
British Invasion changed the face of music, and Feigin
and Lasseff were eager to capitalize on the
ensuing craze. They changed the
name of The Crossfires to The Turtles and the
band basically emulated The Beatles, as best they could. For a long time, people actually
believed The Turtles were English.
Herman’s Hermits at the Rose Bowl in front of 50,000 screaming fans
couldn’t have hurt in advancing the ruse. Hardly English at all was their
first hit record, a cover of “It Ain’t
Me Babe”, which was penned by Bob Dylan. The song was a smash, and The
Turtles were on the musical map.
Then they went on the road with Dick Clark’s Caravan of Stars
and cemented their newfound reputation as a rock band with national
most well-known hit, “Happy Together”, was penned by Gary
Bonner and Alan Gordon, who were in a band named The Magicians. When The Turtles recorded it, it was
magic. The song shot to #1,
dethroning “Penny Lane” in the process, no less.
As it turns
out, members of The Turtles’ management were not so happy
together. Their road manager
was trying to take their manager’s job, borrowed lots of money from
the band to pay him off, and eventually fled to Mexico. In turn, their manager, Bill Utley,
sued them for not honouring their contract with
him. As they didn’t have
3-1/2 million dollars lying around, custody of the band was awarded to
Utley. In the meantime, another
lawsuit was filed by a law firm in New York.
All of this
was a bit much for the twenty-somethings who,
after all, just wanted to make music.
Although The Turtles’ hits virtually financed White Whale
records, the label was strict and demanding. They only wanted “happy”
songs. Howard was
“happy” to oblige them with “Elenore”
which he wrote as a joke. The
record execs didn’t get it, and apparently, the public didn’t
either, as it became a huge hit.
“Elenore” was on their 1968 album, The Turtles Present The Battle of the
Bands, an eleven-track affair that featured the band doing imitations
of other groups and genre-hopping from bluegrass to hard rock to
psychedelic to surf. It
continues to be a cult classic and curiosity to this day.
One of The
Turtles’ biggest fans was Tricia Nixon, daughter of President Richard
Nixon, and she invited them to play at her birthday party in 1970. This made them the first rock band
to ever perform at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
In June of the
same year, “Eve of Destruction” squeaked onto the top 100 but
it would prove to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Ray Davies produced their next
album, Turtle Soup, and it
flopped. The proverbial nail in
the coffin was when the band was forced to record “Who Would Ever
Think That I Would Marry Margaret”. They hated the song, and factoring
in its lack of chart success and sales, most everybody else did too.
dissolved in 1970, but Mark and Howard were not long out of work. Frank Zappa snapped them up and they
joined The Mothers of Invention for about a year. It was a prolific year,
nonetheless, resulting in a handful of albums and a movie entitled 200 Motels.
For some legal
reason pertaining to one or both of the aforementioned lawsuits, Mark and
Howard were not even allowed to use their own names on records, so they
went by the absurdist pseudonym, Phlorescent
Leech and Eddie, which was the title of their 1972 album on Reprise.
The duo recorded
with a number of artists and groups, as well as releasing their own
albums. They even did
voice-overs for cartoons such as 1974’s Down and Dirty Duck.
“Flo and Eddie” did nearly everything together,
including writing columns for Creem, L.A. Free
Press, and Phonograph Record.
humourists, they added Andy Cahan to their ranks and spoofed Pink Floyd’s The Wall with
“Flo and Eddie’s The Fence”. They parlayed their madcap hilarity
to radio and hosted shows on KMET and KROQ. In 1980, they sang background vocals
on Bruce Springsteen’s first top-ten hit, “Hungry
for TV as well, scoring Strawberry
Shortcake in Big Apple City, Strawberry
Shortcake: Pets on Parade,
and The World of Strawberry Shortcake. He played Captain Cloud in the 1983
movie, Get Crazy, a comedy
co-starring Daniel Stern and Malcolm McDowell.
“Flo and Eddie” rejoined The Turtles for a nostalgia tour that
included The Association, Gary Puckett, and Spanky
and Our Gang. They made similar
concert appearances in 1985 with The Buckinghams,
The Grass Roots, and Gary Lewis.
These tours were enormously successful and a harbinger of things to
come. In the new millennium,
nostalgia tours continue to be popular.
At long last,
in 1985, Howard and Mark were allowed to use their real names, and their
decade-and-a-half, litigious nightmare was over. In 1989, the pair returned to radio
and co-hosted their own show for about two years on WXRK-FM in New York.
always been a fan of horror and science fiction and began writing short
stories in the 1990s. His works
appear in the anthologies, Forbidden
Acts and Phantoms of the Night.
He then turned
his attention to the big screen and penned the autobiographical film, My Dinner with Jimi,
an account of a real-life encounter with Jimi
Hendrix in London, England. The
movie was filmed in 2003, played the festival circuit, and was finally
released in theaters in 2006.
Its release coincided with Howard’s debut solo CD, Dust Bunnies, which was recorded at
Billy Bob Thornton’s house and features the Oscar-winning actor on
vocals on the last track, simply titled “Music”.
the year by holding The Turtles and Beyond Auction, auctioning off Turtles
memorabilia including albums, books, magazines, photographs, and other
featuring Flo and Eddie reunited with Herman’s Hermits on 4th
April 2008 at Aurora, Illinois’ Paramount Theater. They are still performing upwards
from sixty concerts per year.
It’s just the right amount of live dates for Howard, who is
still trying to make in-roads into film and is in the process of writing
biographical info on this versatile artist, check out his website, listed
Bruce Springsteen recordings
Hungry Heart (Bruce Springsteen)