published Sunday, June 10th, 2012

Happy Together Tour at Riverbend features hits of the 1960s and 1970s

The Grass Roots are one of five acts that make up the Happy Together Tour, which is the headline show Sunday at Riverbend on the Coca-Cola stage.
The Grass Roots are one of five acts that make up the Happy Together Tour, which is the headline show Sunday at Riverbend on the Coca-Cola stage.
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Riverbend's Happy Together Tour should evoke a stronger sense of nostalgia for Diane Brennan Knapp of Auburn, Ala., than it does for most festivalgoers.

When she was growing up, said Knapp, 57, her father and uncles owned radio stations throughout the Southeast and frequently produced shows by artists of the era. She got to meet all of the acts headlining on the Coca-Cola Stage tonight.

The Happy Together Tour features five acts whose music topped the charts in the 1960s and '70s: Micky Dolenz of The Monkees, The Grass Roots, The Buckinghams, Flo & Eddie of The Turtles and Gary Puckett and The Union Gap.

"My dad (Cyril Brennan) and his brothers had four stations then -- WFLI in Chattanooga, WVOK in Birmingham, WBAM in Montgomery and WAPE in Jacksonville. The shows were presented at each city, and the groups did a traveling circuit of sorts. We always went to the Birmingham and Montgomery shows, except for the time we went to Jacksonville to see The Beatles. The Rolling Stones did shows in Birmingham only," she said.

Knapp said the shows started in the 1950s with Elvis, Fabian and other rock stars.

"Since rockabilly was popular then, they also had Roy Acuff and Grandpa Jones on occasion," she said. "As time went on and the music became progressively more rock, they concentrated on the pop/rock acts of the day."

Typically, Knapp said, she and her siblings attended the rehearsals.

"On the day of the show, the stations would concentrate on the headline group, and I remember hearing The Monkees playing all that day," she said. "We didn't keep a list of the groups we brought in, although we do have some of the advertisements from those days."

Knapp said her family became particularly close to members of The Grass Roots because band members stayed in the Brennans' home.

"The original lead singer, Rob Grill, passed away recently, so none of the current touring members of The Grass Roots are original," she said. "I loved The Buckinghams and remember meeting Carl Giammarese and Nick Fortuna, the only remaining original members.

"My favorite was Dennis Tufano (the original lead singer of The Buckinghams), who has since gone out on his own, but he was so cute, and we walked in the park in Birmingham as I tried to convince him I was 17 when really I was 14.

"Carl (Giammarese) told me how much he loved my frilly shirt and bell bottoms. As I think back now, he must have been trying to be nice, but I don't care. It left me with great memories."

Her family also became good friends with Lou Christie and Paul Revere & the Raiders.

"We did not think this was out of the ordinary," she said about hobnobbing with rock stars of the era.

Earlier this week, Knapp said she hadn't decided whether she'll make the trip to Riverbend, but she still loves the music.

"It was a good life we had," Knapp said. "Too bad we didn't realize it when it was happening. I realize now that as a teenager, we were living a life that few got to live. I consider myself so lucky, though, and so thankful that I was there."

DID YOU KNOW?

• From 1967 to 1972, The Grass Roots set a record for being on the Billboard charts 307 straight weeks. They hold the all-time attendance record for a one-act concert, 600,000 people July 4th, 1982, in Washington, D.C.

• After a string of hits and international success, The Turtles folded in 1970. Mark Volman, Howard Kaylan and Jim Pons joined Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention. Because of contract restrictions, Volman and Kaylan were prevented from using the name The Turtles, so they later became known as The Fluorescent Leech and Eddie, later shortened to Flo and Eddie.

• In 1968, Gary Puckett and The Union Gap had six consecutive gold records and sold more records than any other recording act, including The Beatles.

• Best known as the drummer of The Monkees, Micky Dolenz is the son of actor George Dolenz. He was a child actor earning great success in the 1950s with "Circus Boy" (1956).

• In 1967, with three chart hits at one time on two labels, Billboard Magazine named The Buckinghams "The Most Listened to Band in America."

Sources: http://the-grassroots.com; www.theturtles.com; www.garypuckettmusic.com; www.mickydolenz.com; www.thebuckinghams.com

about Karen Nazor Hill...

Feature writer Karen Nazor Hill covers fashion, design, home and gardening, pets, entertainment, human interest features and more. She also is an occasional news reporter and the Town Talk columnist. She previously worked for the Catholic newspaper Tennessee Register and was a reporter at the Chattanooga Free Press from 1985 to 1999, when the newspaper merged with the Chattanooga Times. She won a Society of Professional Journalists Golden Press third-place award in feature writing for ...

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