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Happy Together back in Mitchell

A promotional poster for the Happy Together Tour.1 / 2
Gary Lewis2 / 2

Happy Together isn't just a name -- they really are glad to be touring together.

"Oh, it's wonderful being on the road with four other acts from the '60s that I've played with over all the decades," said Gary Lewis, of Gary Lewis and the Playboys.

Lewis, along with The Turtles featuring Flo and Eddie; Chuck Negron, formerly of Three Dog Night; Mark Lindsay, former lead singer of Paul Revere & The Raiders; and Gary Puckett and The Union Gap will perform at 5 p.m. Sunday as the final night of Corn Palace entertainment during the Corn Palace Festival.

Corn Palace Director Mark Schilling said The Happy Together Tour had sold 1,479 tickets by Friday evening; the show will have about a 2,600- to 2,700-seat capacity.

"It's about what we were expecting," Schilling said.

It's the third year the Happy Together Tour has played the Corn Palace, but the first return to the tour for Lewis since the 1980s. That's not to say Lewis hasn't played the Corn Palace; he did, in 1997.

"Oh, I love it. It's nice and big," he said.

What Lewis, 68, said he also loves about being back with the Happy Together Tour is a chance to be "part of one thing," and relive their glory years.

"All we do is play our hits," Lewis said. "All the shows are filled with everybody's hits."

For Lewis, those hits include "This Diamond Ring," "Count Me In," "Save Your Heart For Me," and "Everybody Loves A Clown."

And there's an audience for them, he said -- original fans have started to bring their children, and even grandchildren, to the shows.

"I believe everybody likes what they grew up with. That's why each generation kind of has a permanent audience," he said. "We're actually playing to the people we played to in the '60s. The only difference now is they're bringing their kids, and then the kids bring their kids."

Lewis said he didn't always know he wanted to be a professional musician. Then, he heard the Beatles.

"They kind of made up my mind for me," he said. "I knew how to play already but it wasn't until they came out that I put it to good use."

Lewis said he and his band were discovered in 1964. In those early years, Lewis was the drummer in addition to being the lead singer. After about a year and a half, Lewis made the switch to being in front of the band.

"I was trapped behind the drums. I wanted to get out front and see the people," Lewis said. "It was so much easier for me to get out front and play the guitar. Now I can play to the people."

The son of famous comedian Jerry Lewis, Gary said he never minded having a famous father -- or when people ask him about it.

"I think it's a courtesy," Lewis said. "I don't mind talking about my dad at all. We're related. That's how it is."

Lewis also never saw his father's fame as either a help or a hindrance to his own musical career.

"I was going into a field of show business that my dad never got into, playing rock 'n' roll music," he said. "Even to this day people don't even know that we're related."

And even after a career that has lasted nearly 50 years, Lewis said it never gets old.

"It suits me so good. I don't mind living out of suitcase, going from hotel to hotel, because it's all part of the great gift I've been given," he said. "I love it so much. I don't know how to do anything else."

Of all the hits he's recorded, Lewis said "This Diamond Ring" holds a special place in his heart, because it was off the band's first record and was their first No. 1 hit.

"That kicked the whole thing off for me," he said.

During Sunday's show, Lewis said each group will perform for 25 minutes, except The Turtles, who perform for about 35 minutes, "because they're the headliners." A finale brings out everyone, where they do one verse of their biggest hits.

"It's a pretty neat finale," Lewis said.

During Gary Lewis and the Playboys' 25-minute set, Lewis said he plans to mix in stories with his music, including a history of each song and "road stories."

"In almost 50 years of doing this, you run across so many situations that are just so funny," Lewis said.

One of his favorites, he said, is the time a 20-something woman told Lewis that she loved all his songs -- especially "Great Balls of Fire." It's an inside joke for rock 'n' roll fans, who know "Great Balls of Fire" was recorded in 1957 by rockabilly legend Jerry Lee Lewis.

"That story just gets a complete roar," Lewis said.

Though, he added, "I don't tell that story to young people."