Ron Dante, recognized as the lead singing voice for the animated group The Archies, will round out the 19th season of Evening Shade Concerts in the Park series Friday at 6:30 p.m. in Johnston Park.
Presenting sponsor for the May 31 concert is Logan-Thompson. The series is made possible each year by the Allied Arts Council of the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce. It is funded in part by local sponsors and under an agreement with the Tennessee Arts Commission.
Review for Ron Dante:
Dante knew he wanted to be a singer from a very young age. A childhood fall from a tree resulted in a broken arm and, fortuitously, the choice of either squeezing a rubber ball in the afflicted hand or taking up guitar as a means to keep the muscles from atrophying. Dante chose the latter.
Making the rounds at New York City’s famed Brill Building, where tunesmiths worked diligently in cubicles cranking out hit songs, Dante met several folks who had a hand in shaping his career. One was Don Kirshner, who along with his partner Al Nevins, had founded the publishing company “Aldon Music.” He also met Paul Vance and Lee Pockriss, a songwriting team who had had a few successes with such tunes as “Catch a Falling Star” and “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka-Dot Bikini.”
After recording several singles under the name “Ronnie Dante,” this week’s artist teamed up with two other staff writers/session singers, Danny Jordan (Vance’s nephew) and Tommy Wynn, to record a demo of a hilarious parody of The Shangri-Las’ hit “Leader of the Pack,” written by Vance and Pockriss and titled “Leader of the Laundromat.” The song charted, and the three young men toured the country as the group The Detergents, often actually appearing on the same bill with The Shangri-Las.
In 1968, when his old buddy Don Kirshner was tapped as music director for the upcoming Saturday morning cartoon “The Archie Show” (1968), Dante auditioned for and won the role as the lead singing voice for The Archies. Over the next three years, Dante, along with songwriter-producer Jeff Barry, cranked out over 100 Archies tunes, the most popular unarguably being the #1 hit of 1969, “Sugar, Sugar.”
While this single was at the top of the charts, Dante also had another single in the Top 10 at the same time, the Vance/Pockriss-penned “Tracy.” Dante was anonymous on both records; “Tracy,” along with a whole album’s worth of material recorded by a multi-tracked Ron, was released under the name The Cuff Links.
During and after his stint as The Archies and The Cuff Links, Dante also worked as a jingle singer, recording commercials for such companies as Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Coppertone. He briefly enjoyed a solo career before turning his sights to production.
During a studio session, he met the writer of the jingle he was working on. The product they were pitching was a new soft drink that very quickly went flat, but that day the die was cast for a friendship and lucrative partnership between Dante and Barry Manilow. He listened to some of Manilow’s compositions, liked what he heard and offered to work with the talented young man if Manilow would break away from Bette Midler, with whom he was working as arranger and pianist, and record under his own name. The rest is music history. Dante produced all of Manilow’s platinum LPs and 18 Top 10 singles from 1973 through 1981. He also did production work for Cher, Irene Cara, Pat Benatar and John Denver.
After years of production work, Dante decided to pick up the singing career he had put on hold. His CD, “Favorites,” remakes of several tunes from the ’60s originally recorded by The Grassroots, The Association and others, hit the stores in late 1999, and his newest CD, “On Dante's Saturday Night Blast,” featuring such tracks as “Old Time Rock and Roll,” “Rockin’ Robin” and “Angels Among Us,” was released in September 2004.
Ron regularly performs in concert with other classic pop music luminaries such as Andy Kim and Peter Noone, and he is once again doing production work in his adopted hometown of Los Angeles.
Stevie G and the Rockerz, the band that played for Dennis Tufano last season, will open and play for Dante.
“The forecast for Friday looks good,” Kyle Elrod, concert organizer, said, acknowledging that the weather impacted the first three concerts of this year’s series. “We’re planning for a great concert Friday night. Bring your chairs and a picnic and help us celebrate a terrific season of music.”