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The Turtles start 42-city tour Friday in Columbus

The first time a 7-year-old came up to Mark Volman asking for an autograph, he was a little surprised. After all, his core audience is usually in the age range of 55-70.

The question he was asked, "What was it like to work with Shrek?," startled him.

Volman started the group The Turtles with Howard Kaylan in 1965. He and Kaylan came up with the Happy Together Tour, which is now in its third consecutive year. The 42-city tour kicks off in Columbus Friday.

The Turtles' biggest hit was "Happy Together," which was on the soundtrack of the first "Shrek" movie, which is why the youngster asked Volman the question.

Volman, who is also known as Flo of Flo & Eddie, laughs as he remembers that first time.

But now, he says it happens over and over.

Three weeks ago, he was in Orlando, at Walt Disney World's Epcot Center to see his friend, Mickey Dolenz of the Monkees.

"He was signing autographs for teenagers," Volman said. "Our music is used in so many ways."

Dolenz, along with Gary Puckett and the Union Gap, the Buckinghams and the Grass Roots make up this year's Happy Together Tour.

"The main group of the audience are from either side of the 1960s. The core fans are 55-70-years-old, who listened to our music and collected the music," he said. "But I'm always surprised to see the young fans in their 20s and 30s. They're just fans of the music of the 1960s."

Volman, 65, said those young fans don't know that the Turtles are old.

"I'm part of their iPods," Volman said proudly.

A band called Tahiti 80, very popular in France, did a cover of the Turtles' hit, "Elenore."

"It was really exciting that an entire new audience was getting turned on to the music of the Turtles," Volman said. "That's the continuing saga of the Turtles."

Happy Together Tour

Volman and Kaylan started discussing starting this tour in the mid 1980s.

"We were looking at the landscape of how tours were going out," he said. "We were thinking about how to put together a package. People were always saying to us that was the best music (the 1960s.)."

By 1986 when the first Happy Together tour idea was being finalized, the marketplace had changed, he said. So it was put on the backburner.

About four years ago, they decided to work on the concept again. In 2009, the Turtles went on the road with the Hippiefest Tour.

It was kind of successful, so they thought the Happy Together Tour might work. The first one was in 2010.

"The fans are out there," Volman said.

Each of the bands play their hits and in the finale, they all come out. This year, with the death of Dolenz's bandmate, Davy Jones, he will do a small tribute.

Instead of each group bringing its own band, there is a house band so the audience won't have to sit through band shifts.

The show is about 2½ hours with an intermission.

"It was a comforting era of popular songs," Volman said. He said he and his wife attended a wedding recently. Every third or fourth song was one from the tour.

"People would just come out on the dance floor," he said. "I said to my wife, 'See, that's why I'm out on tour.'

"We're excited. This year, it's a 42-city tour, twice as many cities as last year."

Why he tours in the summer

Volman tours in the summer because that's when he has time off.

He's an associate professor and coordinator of the entertainment industry studies program in the Belmont University's Mike Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business.

He said Belmont has the largest music business school in the country.

Volman was late coming to academia. He started his college career at age 45, receiving his bachelor's degree in communications and his master's degree in fine arts, both from Loyola-Marymount University in his native Los Angeles. He moved to Franklin, Tenn., about eight years ago.

"We love it," he said. "There are a lot of historical landmarks of that particular era (Civil War). We're on the outskirts of Nashville, about 30 miles south and west of Nashville."

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