Behind the Band Name: The Turtles

An often overshadowed outfit of the 1960s psych-pop movement, especially when placed next to their counterparts The Monkees and The Zombies, The Turtles are consistently consigned to their shells. The band, however, played a significant role in shaping the sound of that era, bringing to the table their lovable harmonies and cheery pop sensibilities.

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Their hits, ear-worming tunes like “She’d Rather Be With Me,” “Elenore,” “You Showed Me,” and their signature “Happy Together,” have since become standards and made The Turtles a must-know name.

Behind the Name

Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman were the heart of The Turtles. According to the detailed biography on the band’s website, the two attended the same Southern California high school and were both tenors in the school’s a cappella choir.

Volman soon learned of Kaylan’s participation in an amateur surf rock band – made up of fellow choirmates and soon-to-be Turtles Al Nichol, Don Murray, and Chuck Portz – and wanted in on the action just as they were changing their name from the Nightriders to the Crossfires.

After high school, the Crossfires continued playing together, garnering various gigs at house parties and winning Battle of the Bands competitions. One such victory earned the band a residency at the local Revelaire Club, an establishment owned by disc jockey Reb Foster who would become their manager and eventually get them signed to what would be called White Whale Records.

With a freshly inked label deal, a name change was in order for the now sextet – consisting of the harmonious vocalists Kaylan and Volman, Nichol on guitarist, Murray on drums, and Portz on bass with the addition of rhythm guitarist Jim Tucker somewhere along the way.

“The Half Dozen” and “Six Pack” were names thrown, but their manager suggested The Tyrtles, a nod to the then-trendy misspellings seen with bands like the Byrds and the Beatles. That was soon ditched, however, in favor of the more accurate reptilian spelling.

“It was exactly the same band and the same songs – one week at the Revelaire they were the Crossfires, the next week they were The Turtles,” the band’s biography reads. It wouldn’t be long before the newly named group released their first single, a cover of Bob Dylan’s “It Ain’t Me Babe,” and began their journey to stardom.

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