Howard Kaylan is best known as the lead singer of 60s pop group the Turtles. That group chalked up an impressive string of hit singles including “Happy Together,” She’d Rather Be With Me” and “Elenore.” And they released several albums, including at least one absolute classic, the acerbic parody-concept LP The Turtles Present the Battle of the Bands. The group folded at the end of the decade, with Kaylan and co-lead vocalist Mark Volman going on to a high-profile stint with Frank Zappa, then on their own fronting their own band. They also developed a highly successful career as backing vocalists for a wide variety of artists (Bruce Springsteen, T. Rex, Psychedelic Furs, etc.), and hosted an off-the-wall syndicated radio show. These days they tour as The Turtles Featuring Flo and Eddie, performing the hits at shows across the country. They are also part of the traveling “Hippiefest” concert package, featuring other immortal 60s acts including Mountain and the Rascals’ Felix Cavaliere.
Amidst all that activity, Kaylan wrote and developed a screenplay based on a momentous event in his lifetime: his chance meeting with Jimi Hendrix. The two spent a fascinating evening together right on the eve of Hendrix’s commercial explosion. That dinner with Jimi took place mere weeks before Hendrix’s major American debut at the Monterey Pop Festival.
The film My Dinner With Jimi had its (extremely limited) theatrical premiere in 2003, and the film has finally been released to DVD this summer. Recently I spoke at great length (over 10,000 words, if you’re counting) with Howard Kaylan about the film; in our conversation we discussed the difference between the public personas and actual characters of some very famous people; we mused on the price and perils of sudden fame, and we talked about the challenges of getting an independent film made on a shoestring budget.