By permission of KENT KOTAL / THE60sSHOP / FORGOTTEN HITS I am posting this interview with Ron Dante this week. To subscribe to FORGOTTEN HITS, which is a great newsletter if you are like me and into music of the 60's, you can e-mail them at The60sShop@aol.com . Here is part one of the series.
Most people first became familiar with RON DANTE because of his involvement with THE ARCHIES ... their 1969 Hit SUGAR, SUGAR was not only one of the biggest records of the year, but became one of the biggest hits of the '60's.
RON's career dates back quite a bit further than that, however. His first chart record was the novelty / parody hit LEADER OF THE LAUNDROMAT, released by THE DETERGENTS back in late 1964. A take-off on the recent SHANGRI-LAS' #1 Hit LEADER OF THE PACK, LEADER OF THE LAUNDROMAT was popular enough on its own to go all the way to #11 on the Cash Box Chart. (It peaked at #7 here in Chicago, where novelty hits ALWAYS seemed to do well.)
DANTE had been working for DON KIRSHNER's ALDON MUSIC, cutting demo recordings of songs written by KIRSHNER's vast empire of songwriting geniuses like GERRY GOFFIN and CAROLE KING and NEIL SEDAKA and HOWARD GREENFIELD. In fact, LEADER OF THE PACK was written by noted songwriters JEFF BARRY and ELLIE GREENWICH. (The parody was composed by PAUL VANCE and LEE POCKRISS, who had already written a few hit songs of their own together, placing earlier efforts with material and artists as diverse as CATCH A FALLING STAR by PERRY COMO and ITSY BITSY TEENIE WEENIE YELLOW POLKA-DOT BIKINI by BRIAN HYLAND! Ironically, 45 years later, the version of ITSY BITSY TEENIE WEENIE YELLOW POLKA-DOT BIKINI that you currently hear all the time on TV advertising YOPLAIT YOGURT is sung by none other than RON DANTE!!!)
They had heard DANTE's voice on some of KIRSHNER's demos and enlisted him to sing the lead on LEADER OF THE LAUNDROMAT. VANCE's nephew DANNY JORDAN and vocalist TOMMY WYNN were also recruited to round-out the trio. Soon THE DETERGENTS were back in the recording studio, putting together an album called THE MANY FACES OF THE DETERGENTS. It included a couple of other parodies like MRS. JONES, 'OW ABOUT IT, a take-off on HERMAN'S HERMITS' big hit MRS. BROWN, YOU'VE GOT A LOVELY DAUGHTER and THE LITTLE OLD DOCTOR FROM IMPANEMA, poking fun at both the JAN AND DEAN hit THE LITTLE OLD LADY FROM PASADENA and the recent STAN GETZ / ASTRUD GILBERTO surprise pop hit, THE GIRL FROM IMPANEMA.
THE DETERGENTS even toured as part of DICK CLARK's CARAVAN OF STARS. A follow-up single, DOUBLE-O-SEVEN (which we featured a while back in FH as part of our JAMES BOND FOLLOW-UP SERIES) went to #74 on the Cash Box Chart ... and once again asked my lead question, "Who's That Bangin' On The Piano?" !!! (I always kinda liked this one ... thought it was pretty clever.) The B-SIDE to this single was an instrumental track called THE BLUE KANGAROO, a VERY cool little jazzy track that we will be featuring in our upcoming B-SIDES Series ... most likely along with a few ARCHIES' B-SIDES as well! (Keep those votes coming, folks!)
FORGOTTEN HITS: RON DANTE is probably MOST famous as the voice of THE ARCHIES. However, your career dates back further than this. (You may recall that my very first question to you a few months back was: "Who's That Bangin' On The Piano?" LOL.) How did you FIRST get involved in the record business? Who were some of YOUR early influences and inspirations and how did you first get your foot in the door in order to follow in their footsteps?
RON DANTE: My first real job in the music business was signing a songwriting deal with the legendary music man Don Kirshner's publishing firm Aldon Music. A few of his staff songwriters heard me audition and brought me in to meet "Donnie," as he was called. Don signed me that day and became a friend for life. I also was the staff demo singer doing demos for all his writers like Neil Sedaka, Carole King, Barry Mann & Cynthia Weil and tons of others. My early influences were Elvis, The Everly Brothers, The New York doo wop groups and Chuck Berry and, of course, Little Richard and Fats Domino.
FH: The first time most of us heard RON DANTE on the radio was in the novelty hit, LEADER OF THE LAUNDROMAT by THE DETERGENTS. Was that pretty much a studio band created solely for the purposes of making that record or had you guys worked together before?
RD: The other Detergents were Danny Jordan and Tommy Wynn. They were staff writers at Don Kirshner's Aldon Music and we wrote many songs together. Danny's Uncle was a hit song writer by the name of Paul Vance. He asked the us to come in one night and put our voices on Leader of the Laundromat. The next thing we knew it was out as a single and a hit. We did an album in a week to catch up with the single while is was on the charts.
FH: THE BLUE KANGAROO by THE DETERGENTS has been nominated as a FAVORITE B-SIDE for another series that I'm currently working on. This is an AWESOME track ... I love it!!! Can you tell us who performed on this piece? It seems totally out of place with all the novelty / parody stuff that you guys were doing at the time ... almost a "throw-away / filler" B-SIDE to make a single ... but it's a FANTASTIC track! Can you shed any insight on this one? Were you involved at all?
RD: That B-Side was done by the producers alone. We never heard it until the single was released.
FH: I read in your online bio that in the early '60's, while working at the Brill Building, you first did some background vocal work for NEIL SEDAKA. Can you tell us a couple of tracks that you performed on? (We recently covered some of SEDAKA's overlooked early '60's material in our LOCAL HITS Series ... some of which, I feel, is some of his best stuff!)
RD: I sang background on a single by Neil called Sunny and was on his I'm A Song album produced by George Martin.FH: I also read that you produced a couple of tracks for BOBBY VEE back in the late '60's ... coincidentally, BOBBY is ALSO in the process of doing a FORGOTTEN HITS interview with us. What was it like working with BOBBY back then? (By 1967, his career was pretty much winding down ... yet he is still a BIG touring attraction, especially in Great Britain ... where he's on tour right now with his sons!) How did you two happen to hook up?
RD: I wrote a few songs that Bobby's producer Snuff Garret loved and I made a trip to Los Angeles. Met with Snuff and Bobby at the session and got to play guitar in the band with then studio musician Glen Campbell sitting along side. I also did backgrounds on Bobby's records. Always was a huge Bobby Vee fan and was pretty well star struck when I met him in the studio. He was the nicest and warmest guy. Very friendly and made me feel like I had been his friend for a long time.
I asked BOBBY VEE what he remembered about working with RON DANTE back in the '60's and this is what he had to say:
I have some great memories of doing the Dick Clark tour with Ronnie Dante when he was with The Detergents and have followed his career over the years. Great talent, great guy!!! My producer (Dallas Smith) and I were looking for songs for the 'Come Back When You Grow Up' album. The production on (OBJECTS OF GOLD and A ROSE GREW IN THE ASHES) was a collaborative effort between Dallas, Bob Feldman (Strangeloves) and Ron. They turned out to be two of my favorite tunes on the album. As far as the connection ... I had recorded previous Feldman songs with Snuff Garrett producing including 'Bobby Tomorrow' which became a top ten record for me in the UK. I met Ron around the same time. We became friends on a Dick Clark Caravan of Stars Tour...'64 or '65. He was performing with a group called The Detergents. You only have to hear one song sung by Ron to know that he's among the best of the best 'pop' singers ever. I believed it then and I believe it now. He's a natural ... smart, easy to work with, terrific production qualities and a good guy. I was not surprised to see the incredible success that followed with Barry Manilow.
Best to you,
DIDJAKNOW?-1: When RON DANTE was eleven years old, he fell out of a tree and broke his arm. It literally became his "lucky break" ... amongst the different forms of physical therapy suggested by his doctor was taking up the guitar ... and RON DANTE has been playing music ever since!
DIDJAKNOW?-2: After THE DETERGENTS left ROULETTE RECORDS, they recorded another novelty single for KAPP. Once again, they mined THE SHANGRI-LAS' songbook, cutting a tune called I CAN NEVER EAT AT HOME ANYMORE. It never charted and now is a VERY rare, collectible single (worth about $60 if you can find a copy!!!)
Leader Of The Laundromat by The Detergents
Double-O-Seven by The Detergents
I Can Never Eat At Home Anymore by The Detergents
MORE RON DANTE:It looks like you can ALSO read my exclusive interview with RON DANTE on a website called On My Mind
and, you can get all the latest concert news, CD news and bio information on the awesome, OFFICIAL RON DANTE website here: Ron Dante OnLine - The Official Website