By Anthony Scarlati
I have traveled much of this country of ours, many spots twice. I have seen it from above and below. I have crossed the Golden Gate Bridge for the first time in the back of a pick-up in the pouring rain. Climbing from 2500’ to 13,000’ on horse back just to get the shot is why today I eat Advil everyday for my bad back. Yes, watching the sunrise in the desert just a few months ago I thought would have been the best. Then there’s chasing cows on horse back when it -35* in North Dakota. I guess what I am trying to say is I have been living my life to be able to tell the story.
Lately I have been living the dream, crossing the country looking out the window of a tour bus. Documenting true Country music through the eyes of one band, Marty Stuart, and his fabulous superlatives. I can’t get enough of it. It’s like a drug that has a hold on me. Always moving, always vibration below my feet, always a sway. New town each morning, new faces, new smells and tastes. Yes, I love it, yes, I am obsessed with being on the road with a band.
So when the phone rang a few months back I was excited to say the least. I would be going out once again with my pals, the Turtles. The Happy Together tour was going to run up the east coast and would consist of five acts: Gary Lewis, Gary Puckett, Mark Lindsey, Chuck Negron and The Turtles. My task, to document two weeks of the tour but to also mentor 10 students from Belmont University. Yes, I said mentor, scary huh?
Up the coast starting in Florida, back to Nashville, up to New
Hampshire and back down again. The students have been amazing; the mentoring thing I found is a very rewarding task.
Shows night after night, sold out theatres every stop we made; this was a great run indeed. Then the last two nights I found myself off the bus in the luxury of a hotel room. And it is not moving. Tomorrow, I am going to travel the road in the back seat of a car with the Turtles.
Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan, “Flo & Eddie,” The Turtles.
Where do you start when you talk about The Turtles? Is it the songs “Happy Together,” “Elenore,” “You Show Me,” just to name a few, or do we talk about the days with Frank Zappa and Mothers of Invention? They have worked with The Beatles, U2, Bruce Springsteen, T. Rex and quite honestly, almost everybody. And most are their friends. So what do I do, what can I ask that has not been already been thrown around a few times?
This is what I did. I asked Howard if I could have a cookie from this fancy box he had so carefully placed on the seat next to me. Amazing cookies, we both went on and on about them as Mark enjoyed his orange. But when I asked Howard where they came from, that opened the door. Lulu’s Bakery in NYC and it was as if I had found the key to the treasure chest. The stories began.
From working in radio to working with Lennon, from the very beginning to where they are now was all discussed over cookies. But here is the thing, it was not really the rock and roll stories that I found most interesting. What was really interesting were their thoughts on how they have been able to last this long in such a cutthroat industry. How they have been able to keep the music alive and at the same time reinvent themselves to reach out to new fans. I learned about how to keep to your commitments and how not to lose focus on your dreams. “Live in the moment,” Howard said. “How can you stay focused on what you are doing today if you’re always thinking of the future?”
Yes, this ride with Flo & Eddie was becoming a lesson in life, a lesson on success, a lesson on friendship. They have been friends for 51 years and have seen it all, the good and the bad. Mark explained that the key to their friendship was never putting themselves first and to stay out of each other’s personal life. When a decision was to be made, each one would always put the other one’s happiness first. “If there was ever an uneasiness felt by either one, we would walk away from the opportunity.” They always have each other’s back; they never judged each other or their feelings.
Lessons, not the rock and roll stories that I expected. They have lived their music and their dreams, they have worked with the best and have never strayed from their plan. Mark put it perfectly, “This is a blessed life, we’re lucky to still be living at the age we are and still having our friendship and music to share with our fans. It has always just worked, we never really had to try. We were never out of fashion, we were never in fashion, we always created are own fashion.”
Our car pulls into the next venue with another show to perform. Mark and Howard fall into their pre-show routine as they have for the last 51 years. I, on the other hand, walk away feeling more blessed and thankful than I have ever felt in my 52 years of life. It was not the rock and roll stories it was all about life and it all started with some very good cookies.
Anthony Scarlati is a fine art portrait photographer and photojournalist known for his soulful and thought-provoking images. A native of Chicago, he has spent more than twenty years working in the music and travel industries. Anthony now calls home Leiper’s fork, TN and more of his work can be seen at www.scarlati.net and his travel blog www.scarlatiblog.wordpress.com