Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Turtles singer found lots of 'inspiration' in Winnipeg

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'HAPPY together' took on a whole new meaning for Turtles vocalist Howard Kaylan and Frank Zappa whenever they came to Winnipeg in the early '70s.

Their numerous female fans were so "friendly" to Zappa and his band, the Mothers of Invention, that they inspired a song you can't find on any of his 70 albums: Winnipeg Rangers.

"It was more than a song; it was a way of life," Kaylan explains over the phone from his Seattle home. "In Winnipeg there was a group of people unlike any other we've run into anywhere in our lives. They were more fun-loving and Frank really fell in love with Winnipeg and the people. All of a sudden we had so many instant friends.

"In Frank's vernacular, 'instant friends' were young women who would spend time with the band, helping them with 'lyrics.' It was a private booty call, sort of a club, and we immortalized it. We turned it into a piece of music."

The song was only performed in airports. Whenever the band got off a plane, the members would pound their chests, reach for the sky and shout, 'Rangers, ho!'

"We thought in the interests of taste it would be good to keep it to ourselves," Kaylan says with a laugh.

Kaylan and Mark Volman were part of the Mothers of Invention for two-and-a-half years after The Turtles, who hit it big with songs like Happy Together, She'd Rather Be With Me and Outside Chance, disbanded in 1970. Because of various lawsuits, they weren't allowed to use their real names, so they became known as Flo and Eddie -- nicknames that have stuck with them.

Kaylan has written about his time in the Turtles, Mothers of Invention and as part of the musical comedy duo of Flo & Eddie in a book set for release next year. How Not to Be Me is an autobiography that doubles as a cautionary tale.

"I hate that every single autobiographical piece of rock history comes off exactly the same, so I did a book based on my misadventures. At the end of every chapter it will be what I did, what I should have done and what people should do," he says.

The idea for a book emerged after he wrote a screenplay about a dinner he had with Jimi Hendrix during the Turtles' first tour of Britain. The film was supposed to be a 20-minute short for the film festival circuit, but was expanded into a 90-minute feature, My Dinner With Jimi. The 2003 film will be screened at Cinematheque Saturday. Kaylan is coming to Winnipeg for the local debut and will have dinner at Hu's on First with fans (a limited number of VIP dinner tickets are $80, while tickets to the movie and Q&A only are $12 at winnipegfilmgroup.com).

"The picture is an homage to the period and the people. It was a real fun place to be," he says. "It was almost a club growing up in the '60s. We had a music and drug culture and our own way of speaking."

The title comes from a dinner and heavy drinking session Kaylan had with Hendrix at London's Speakeasy Club, which ended when he vomited on the guitar legend.

"Yeah, and I couldn't be more proud to make one of music's most colourful characters a little more colourful," Kaylan says. "To go against the grain of ideology that has surrounded Hendrix as a god and to see him in puke sort of equalizes him."

Kaylan hopes to write another screenplay about some of his escapades. In the meantime, he continues to tour with Volman as the Turtles and Flo & Eddie. They will take their act on the road again in 2008 as the hosts of Hippie Fest, a touring road show featuring acts from the 1960s.

"There are some hilarious stories out there, some Frank Zappa stories that would make incredible films," he says.

"There are some of those stories in the book; however, you're not going to hear who I went home with that night. That's another book."

The identities of the Winnipeg Rangers are safe.

rob.williams@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 6, 2007 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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