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Columns > Mike Gruenberg - In My Life

Published: 2003/07/28
by Mike Gruenberg

Flo & Eddie

Anyone who has ever listened to or watched a Mets baseball game has had the distinct pleasure to hear sportscaster Bob Murphy. Since the clubs’ inception in 1962, Bob has been calling the "play by play." Murphy has painted the word picture on the radio for 42 years. His descriptions were always so vivid and well presented that many a fan would turn off the sound on the television and turn up the radio just to hear "Murph" call the game. Through good times and bad, you could always rely on him to give an accurate and upbeat view of the Mets even though there were plenty of times when it was difficult to find a redeeming moment from those games. After a Mets victory, fans invariably waited for Bob to summarize the key plays of the game introducing them as the "happy recap."
On Sunday, July 27th, Bob Murphy announced that he would retire from baseball broadcasting after 42 years on the job at the age of 78 years young. Although unintended to coincide with his retirement announcement, the Mets handed out Bob Murphy bobble- head dolls at the game. Throughout his time with Mets, he witnessed the good, the bad and the ugly. Announcing an exciting game is one thing, but to try and keep someone’s interest when the level of play is subpar is quite a task. Yet, Bob was always able to keep the listeners attention. A mighty feat indeed!
Around the same time that Bob began announcing Mets games in the New York, two young men whose common bonds were their ethnic background, love of music and Mr. Ferguson, their clarinet teacher formed a friendship that has spanned over forty years. Howard Kaplan and Mark Volman met as teenagers while performing in the Westchester High School Accapella Choir located just outside of Los Angeles. Their story, much like Bob Murphy’s is one of transition and the ability to adapt and reinvent oneself.
Howard and Mark started their first rock group called The Crossfires. It was a typical surf music band that was prevalent in 1962. They got the majority of their early work at UCLA fraternity parties, which turned out to be more fun than work. By 1964, the Beatles and the British Invasion was sweeping the country and the boys decided to ditch the surf boards, grow their hair long and enter the world of folk rock. They changed the name of the band to The Turtles and released a record of the Bob Dylan tune; "It Ain’t Me Babe." It became an immediate hit!
Capitalizing on their folk rock hit, they decided to continue on the protest movement which was popular at the time with their next hit, "Let Me Be" written by P.F. Sloan. Although this record was mildly successful, the next three choices of songs released by the group were met with indifference by the record buying public. Naturally, the group and the record company fell into panic mode. Thinking about what made them successful and happy in the past, the group went back to their roots and began to perform on the college circuit. Their strength was their "live" shows and their interaction with the audience. The group had been holding on to a song written by Gary Bonner and Alan Gordon called "Happy Together." They decided that the musical direction of the group should fade from folk rock to a more good times type of sound and that this was the optimum time to release such a song. It became a # 1 hit for The Turtles.
With success came the pressures of follow-up hits. Although the group had some success, there were no more # 1 hits in their repertoire. To make matters worse, their small record company was not faring well in the highly competitive record industry wars. Music was replaced by lawsuits and good time music became a thing of the past. Things were so bad that Mark and Howard were prohibited from using their real names as well as The Turtles when performing. Inevitably, the group broke up in 1970. In order to work and make a living, the boys changed their stage name to "The Phlorescent Leach and Eddie" which was shortened to "Flo & Eddie."
Flo and Eddie were then contacted by Frank Zappa and agreed to tour with him and his band. When it became clear that Zappa would no longer tour, Flo & Eddie went out on the road with some of Zappa’s musicians. They also released a number of excellent albums under the Flo & Eddie name. My favorite is "Moving Targets" released in 1976. It contains the classic Flo & Eddie tune, "Keep It Warm."
When the Flo & Eddie touring ran its course, the boys decided to turn their attention to broadcasting. The spent three years on the West Coast station KMET interviewing and playing records of the top rock acts of that time. In 1989, Howard and Mark came to New York and had a radio show on K-ROCK, WXRK. At the same time, they were in demand as session musicians and also began touring again as Flo & Eddie.
Mark and Howard have also worked on writing songs for children. They are the ones that created the songs for the Care Bears and Strawberry Shortcake. Today, Mark and Howard are touring again as Flo & Eddie. They have been together for 41 years. Much like Bob Murphy, they are survivors. However, in order to survive they had to constantly reinvent themselves. Having seen their live performance recently, I can tell you that an evening with Flo & Eddie is a joy and pleasure. They play the old songs, interact with the audience and wrap it up in a memorable evening of songs, dance and schmooze.

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