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Ron Dante of The Archies
By Laura Pinto
(Of Laura's Ron Dante Fan Page)
Ron Dante of The Archies.
That's how he's best known. Ron Dante. Lead singer for The Archies, whose recording of Sugar, Sugar was the #1 hit of 1969. But Ron was also lead singer (actually, all the singers!) on The Cufflinks' Tracy, which was in the Top Ten at the same time that "Sugar" was in the top spot. AND Ron was the producer whose Midas touch helped Barry Manilow's first ten albums sell in the millions. Yet he continues to be known as "Ron-Dante-of-the-Archies," all one word, not even a breath of air between syllables. This despite the fact that Ron's Archies work constitutes just a small part of a resume that's as vast and varied as the city that birthed him.
There's a lot more to this guy than Archie, Reggie, and Jughead.
Ron Dante was born Carmine Granito in Staten Island, New York, literally into an atmosphere of music. From his babyhood on, it was all around him. His dad and uncles all sang, although not professionally, and there were always pop records spinning on the turntable, always a family member belting out a tune. It wasn't long before the child was lending his voice to the familial harmonies. But singing as a livelihood wasn't first and foremost in the child's mind. Not just yet.
Then three things happened which directed the course of the youngster's life. First was the advent of rock and roll music. Elvis. Chuck Berry. Little Richard. What normal red-blooded American adolescent boy could resist that sound? Next was a fall from a tree which resulted in a broken arm and could well have caused that arm to stop growing along with the rest of him were it not for the physical therapy suggested by the doctor -- take up guitar! (Talk about making lemonade out of lemons!) The third event and the one which really "fueled the fire," as he would later put it, was being taken to an Allan Freed rock 'n' roll show by the bass singer of the Elegants (who worked with the boy's dad), then backstage to meet his idols (the aforementioned Messrs. Berry and Richard), THEN to a recording session where he could actually witness the magical process by which platters were made. If the boy had harbored any doubts about becoming a part of this world, they flew away and never returned. He mastered the guitar, formed a group, The Persuaders, and eventually changed his name to the less-ethnic-sounding Ronnie Dante. Ronnie because he idolized a guitar-playing classmate named Ronnie, and Dante because he liked the sound of the word from the movie "Dante's Inferno."
Ronnie had the advantage of living within singing distance of the music mecca of the times, the Brill Building, on Broadway in Manhattan. Guitar in hand, he would take the elevator to the top floor of the building and work his way down, offering to sing and play for anyone who would listen. At first, many threw him out. But Ronnie persevered. Eventually, when the powers that be saw he was serious (and talented!), they began listening. And Ronnie began compiling an impressive contacts list. He met impresarios Bobby Breen and Don Kirshner. He met staff writers Paul Vance and Lee Pockriss. He met singers Connie Francis and Neil Sedaka. And almost before he knew it, the teenager was a session singer, doing backgrounds for established talent (Sedaka, Bobby Vee, Johnny Mathis), and cutting demos for other staff writers. Ronnie's demo work led to the recording of a Vance / Pockriss-penned parody of Leader of the Pack called Leader of the Laundromat, which Ronnie recorded with Danny Jordan and Tommy Wynn as The Detergents. Which in turn led to a tour and the opportunity to become a performer as well as a studio singer.
In 1968, when Don Kirshner was tapped as Music Supervisor for the upcoming Archie Show, Ron auditioned for Don and another old friend, Jeff Barry, who was to be the producer of the sessions. Ron's light, youthful tenor and enormous vocal versatility won him the job, and for three years and five studio albums (released under Kirshner's own label, Calendar Records, later renamed Kirshner Records, under the RCA umbrella), Ron was THE voice of the group, singing all the lead vocals and many of the backgrounds as well. The following spring, as a favor to his old friends Vance and Pockriss, Ron recorded a demo of a song the duo had written, doing the lead vocal and all of the backgrounds, overdubbing his voice some nine times. When that song, Tracy, released under the name The Cufflinks, hit the charts, Ron returned to the studio to do an entire album's worth of material as the Cufflinks. In the meantime, The Archies' third single, Sugar, Sugar, soared to the top of the charts.
In 1970, Ron released his first solo album, "Ron Dante Brings You Up," for Kirshner. During this time frame Ron was busier than a one-legged man in a butt-kickin' contest. In addition to his Archies work and his burgeoning solo career, he was writing and singing TV and radio jingles for such products as Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, and Coppertone. It was at a jingle session in 1973 that Ron met Barry Manilow, who'd composed the ditty they were recording for a new soft drink. As Ron would later say, the drink was terrible but the song was terrific. Barry played some of his original compositions for Ron, Ron liked what he heard, and the rest is music history. After a sluggish start, the duo hit solid gold in early 1975 with Barry's lovely rendition of Mandy, and the momentum continued on for some eight years and ten albums.
Ron wasn't always in the background during these years. From 1972-74, Ron voiced another cartoon group, The Chan Clan (from the Hanna-Barbera series "Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan"). In 1975, Ron recorded a disco version of Sugar, Sugar, produced by Barry Manilow for RCA Records. He recorded the singles Midnight Show and Charmer for Bell Records (both of these gems frequently pop up on Ebay!). Ron also released numerous other recordings under different names (Bo Cooper, C.G. Rose, Ronnie and the Dirtriders, etc.). In 1979 Ron released a disco album under the name "Dante's Inferno," and in 1981 a solo album, "Street Angel." Ron went on to do production work for Cher, Irene Cara, Pat Benatar, and John Denver.
(Yawn) Ron-Dante-of-the-Archies has had such a boring and one-dimensional career.
In the early 90's Ron relocated to Los Angeles and has since worked on projects for The Family Channel, Showtime, and Disney. His first solo effort in nearly two decades, "Favorites," was released in 1999 on RKO/Unique. Ron also produced and sang on the Legends Live CD series for the label (which featured new recordings of old hits by Mark Lindsay, Lou Christie, and others). As of this writing, Ron's planning a "Favorites II" CD and is currently touring with artists like Bo Donaldson and Andy Kim. (Ron's life continues to be very boring.)
Ron's also hoping to get some of the more obscure Archies material out on CD. Ron recorded well over a hundred songs as The Archies, but only some 60 or so made it to vinyl; the rest were never released in any format and are presumably languishing in vaults somewhere. The Archie Show presented an original dance every week for the kids to "watch and learn;" the dances were demonstrated with a short song being played over the animation. Ron's looking to get the Archie dances on CD, at the very least; and hopefully at some point he'll be able to get the excellent but heretofore unreleased songs like Love Vibrations out in the ether as well.
After glancing at this man's credentials, one can see that his last name is NOT Dante-of-the-Archies. Ron Dante is a man of many talents and many accomplishments, and very comfortable in his own skin.
Click here to go to Laura's Ron Dante Fan Pages:
And her profile of Jeff Barry on this site!