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Happy Together Tour at OC Fair is a musical trip down memory lane

Gary Puckett entered an In-N-Out Burger recently and unexpectedly found himself in a dialogue with his twentysomething self.

At the burger joint somewhere on the road back from San Diego, the onetime lead singer of Gary Puckett and the Union Gap stopped in for a bite and encountered a room where he suspected he was the only person over college age. There were 50 or more customers, he estimates, packing the tables and booths — and one thing about them jumped out at Puckett instantly.

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"Many, many, many of those people were staring at their phones," the 73-year-old recalled. "In the '60s, we had no idea of that kind of thing."

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Puckett, like his cohorts on the Happy Together Tour, can vividly remember a time when Americans got their news from three major television networks and crowded around the record player to hear Bob Dylan's new single. (Of course, during the era when the Who snarled, "People try to put us down / talkin' 'bout my generation," young people spent more than a little time defending their habits and technology to elders.)

Regardless, when the tour, which features a lineup of 1960s rock veterans, stops at the Pacific Amphitheatre on Sunday, Puckett can look forward to watching multiple, um, generations enjoy a spectacle larger than an iPhone screen.

The Happy Together Tour, which ran briefly in the mid-1980s and launched again in 2010, is a staple of the OC Fair's summer concert series. Except for singer Frankie Valli, who began his career with the Four Seasons in the early '60s, the Happy Together acts date back the furthest of any on this year's schedule.

Joining Puckett on the bill are Flo and Eddie, the founders of the Turtles; former Three Dog Night vocalist Chuck Negron; Mark Lindsay, who sang lead on Paul Revere and the Raiders' hits; the family band the Cowsills; and the Spencer Davis Group, which appears under the somewhat odd billing "The Spencer Davis Group Starring Spencer Davis."

That last detail is telling: While the Happy Together Tour provides plenty of nostalgia, it stops short of full-fledged reunions. Steve Winwood, who sang soulful leads on the Spencer Davis Group's hits, is no longer with the band, and while Puckett's accompaniment is billed on the tour as the Union Gap, the original members have gone their separate ways.

But the hits endure, and the Happy Together Tour — which advertises itself as having exactly 59 Billboard chart hits in one evening — keeps them coming at a fast clip. Davis, the guitarist and founder of his eponymous group, said he performs the same four tunes in the same order every night: "Keep on Running," "Somebody Help Me," "I'm a Man" and "Gimme Some Lovin.'"

"It's a very fast-moving show," said Davis, 77. "The way I would describe it is as a three-dimensional, mobile jukebox."

The tour takes its name from the Turtles' 1967 hit "Happy Together," and, according to Puckett, that camaraderie isn't in name only. Most of the musicians share a bus from gig to gig and have dinner together before shows. When one act is onstage, the members of others are often dancing in the wings.

"It really is happy together," Puckett said. "I don't know any other way to describe it."

Davis, meanwhile, said he loves joining his comrades on the bus — though for reasons that have as much to do with 2016 as 1966.

"There's no bloody way I would drive myself around," the avid Bluetooth user said. "Besides, I like to play with my technology."

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What: "The Happy Together Tour"

Where: Pacific Amphitheatre, OC Fair & Event Center, 88 Fair Drive, Costa Mesa

When: 8 p.m. Sunday

Cost: $18 to $40

Information: (714) 708-1500 or ocfair.com

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Miller is a contributor to Times Community News.

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