Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Archies RON DANTE!

He sang a handful of number one singles in the 1960's but nobody knew his name! As the lead singer of the fictional group "The Archies", Ron Dante was their voice for five years with hits like "Sugar, Sugar" and "Jingle Jangle". At the same time with the Cuff Links, he scored another big hit with "Tracy". Ron has been busy ever since recording, producing some major artists, touring and still going strong to this day! I spoke to Ron from his California home prior to his upcoming concerts in New York...

MICK: Last week when we were scheduled to talk, your good friend Don Kirshner passed away. How long have you known him?
RON: I went to his funeral last week in Florida. I've known him since I was 16 years old. He signed me to my first publishing contract and really gave me my start into the music business. I learned so much at his publishing company which was an incredible place. I walked into the office and there was Neil Sedaka, Tony Orlando, Carole King..some of the greatest song writers ever! It was an incredible time! They walked me in and I stayed there for three years in the beginning and I went back after five years in the late 60's.
MICK: Was that in the Brill Building?
RON: No, we were actually across the street at 1650 Broadway. Today, the building is the Winter Garden Theater. It was full of managers and agents! it was just as busy as the Brill Building. I spent most of my time going back and forth between those two buildings over my career.
MICK: What was it like in the Brill Building back then?
RON: It was a beautiful building with great entrance ways! It was a long hallway with big golden elevators at the end of the hallway. The hallway echoed so there would be people or a group singing and they didn't chase you then. I remember talking to Pul Simon once and we discussed how we started our careers. He said "I used to take the elevator to the top of the building and walk down every flight and stop in every publisher, agent and record company's office trying to get a deal." He said it was easier to walk down than it was to walk up!
MICK: I interviewed Tommy James recently and he told me about his days at Roulette Records. I know early in your career, your band The Detergents were on that label too. Did you have any trouble with Roulette's owner Morris Levy?
RON: I didn't have any trouble with Morris Levy. He was a very outgoing, big gruff guy. I liked him. He was really interesting because he was very up front about making money. He said "You're not going to make that much money from these records. I will show you the books. We have two sets anyway". He was a big guy and he was laughing and he was happy to have us on the label. We sold over one million records for him. He said " You guys just go out on the road, you kids will make a lot of money". I was only 19 at the time with the Detergents. It was a great experience. Me and my two buddies, Danny Jordan and Tommy Wynn, made a good living for a couple years from the first album. We toured with Dick Clark and did every TV show at the time including Hullabaloo, Shindig, Dick Clark. Morris was a great guy. Kind of a lovable, Damon Runyon type of character.
MICK: Did you know Roulette was Mafia related back then?
RON: I felt it! Coming from an Italian family and knowing about mob being involved in a lot of things. I had heard the rumors about Roulette, especially when Morris said " We are going to put your record in every jukebox in America". I remember thinking who controlled jukeboxes in America! And it was true! Every city we played in, our record was in those jukeboxes!
MICK: When "Sugar, Sugar" was the number one song in America in 1969 and you also had "Tracy" in the top ten at the same time, were you upset that you received no credit as the voice singing those hits?
RON: I was kind of used to being in the background. I was a studio singer at the time. I did tons of demos for people (some famous songs), jingles, commercials you would heard every day on the radio..Coke, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, suntan name it. I was the king of the tenors in those years. I signed on to be anonymous with The Archies and The Cuff Links. It was a little frustrating when "Sugar, Sugar" was number one and "Tracy" was number five! Don Kirshner , at that time, promised me that I would do a solo album and he would do the biggest advertising campaign connecting me with the hits that I had. He did exactly that! He came through on his promise!
MICK: You worked with Barry Manilow for many years. Are there any plans to work with him again?
RON: I've been helping him with his last four or five albums..those decade albums he put out 50's, 60's, 70's. I asked me to help him with vocals. I did it as a favor since he's learned all my production tricks, he doesn't need me anymore as a co-producer. We are still friends. We just finished up an album called "Fifteen Minutes" which is about fame. He wrote every song on there and I helped him do vocals and backgrounds on that. So we still do some work together and we've remained friends since 1973. I took him away from Bette Midler and I had him record a solo album. By 1974, "Mandy" hit and the rest is history. We did 10 albums together as producer and co-producer.
MICK: You were also the publisher of "The Paris Revue", the famous literary magazine from 1978 to 1985. How did you get that position?
RON: It was actually a freak accident. In Manhattan, my next door neighbor was the famous writer George Plimpton, who was also the editor of 'The Paris Revue". One day, he had a fire in his apartment. His wife was waxing her eyebrows and started a fire! We ran in and helped her get out. She had a young baby at the time that we helped also. George came home and we struck up a friendship! He had a great pool table and we used to play pool every Sunday. He would talk about the publishing business and I would talk about the music business and show business in general. He said to me once "Can I do something in show business?" I said "Sure George, why don't you do some commercials. So I helped him get some jobs like being a spokesman for Disney, the Daily News, The New York Times. He got into movies. He was in the movie "Reds" with Warren Beatty. He got a lot of work! Then he once said "The Paris Revue has been around for 30 years and we have no more financing to publish and it's a great magazine". I volunteered to become the publisher! It was great because we kept the magazine alive for those years. Got to interview some great writers and up and coming writers. It was a pleasure to get involved in that area of literature. My music business is very narrow with the people you meet. With the magazine, I got to meet people like Norman Mailer, Jackie Onassis, Teddy Kennedy...they would all come to George's parties as he was friends with everyone! He was quite a guy, God rest his soul!
MICK: You produced to big hits on Broadway "Ain't Misbehavin" and "Children Of A Lesser God". Was that a big challenge for you?
RON: Not really, especially "Ain't Misbehavin" as it was music based. A friend of mine who has a TV show called "The Actor's Studio" James Lipton called me one day and asked if I'd be interested in reading a script for a show that the Schubert's are interested in and needed a third partner. He sent me the script about a black street gang called "The Mighty Gents". Morgan Freeman was in it and a few up and coming people. I jumped on it and worked on it. The next year, James called me up and said to go over to the Manhattan Theater Club and see this little five piece thing called 'Ain't Misbehavin". I saw it and said "I'm in". I saw Nell Carter, Andre DeShields and these other fabulous actors. I love the music of Fats Waller and the whole Fats Waller catalog. I helped it get to Broadway and became one of the major producers of the show. It ran three years and every ten years we take it out again.
I knew what to do with a musical. The following year we got involved with "Children Of A Lesser God" which many of my friends said nobody wants to see a show about deaf people. I told them it is a beautiful show and sure enough it won a Tony Award. It became a beautiful film with Marlee Matlin!
MICK: Are there any plans to do more work on Broadway?
RON: I'm developing a few new properties. One is based on the song "Rhinestone Cowboy". My friend Larry Weiss wrote that one. He's developing a script based on his song and the story of the song. I think we have a good chance with "Rhinestone Cowboy".
MICK: You've written hundreds, maybe thousands of songs. Do you have a favorite?
RON: I've written for a lot of people but I've never written a hit song. I've always been the writer of the B-sides. My favorite people to write for are Johnny Mathis, Gary Lewis and the Playboys, Bobby Vee. Gene Pitney is one of my favorites. I wrote one song called "Objects of Gold", a Gene Pitney and Bonny Vee song. They both recorded it and I recorded it. That's one of my favorites.
MICK: What do you do when you're not doing music?
RON: I go to movies, Broadway shows, go to the beach, the mountains. The thing I enjoy the most is being involved with something musically. I also love to sing live. Once a month I try to go out and do some shows. Singing has brought me everything as a singer, background singer, commercial singer. I've been very fortunate to do this my whole career.
MICK: Are there any of today's artists that you like?
RON: I like Michael Buble, Josh Grobin. I like the guys who sing the songs. I'm a big fan of groups like Train and country artists like Shania Twain, Faith Hill. Garth Brooks is one of my favorites. It's tough to do what I do and take time to listen to other artists. You don't want to copy. It washes over you and you don't know you are using it in your own production. I have to be careful on what I listen to and how much of it I listen to. I want my music to spring from my insides and touches my heart.
MICK: What are your future plans?
RON: To continue making music. I'm working on a children's project called "Shushybye" which will be on PBS. It's for toddlers ages 1-4 years old. It's wonderful area where you can make great natural sounding songs that appeal to the kids. I will probably tour some more this year. My latest project is I'm recording and producing the legendary Steve Lawrence. Steve is still singing beautifully and I've just completed the first six cuts on him. I'm shopping a deal for him and it will probably be out this spring! Who knows who will come after him! He's the last of the Rat Pack, he has great stories and he's one of the nicest people I've ever worked with!

Ron Dante is among the legendary performers in "Back To The 60's" at the Queensboro Performing Arts Center this Sat. Jan. 29 at 8:00PM.
For more information about this event and other upcoming shows, call the QPAC Box Office at 718-631-6311; tickets are available online at
Appearing with Ron are Sonny Geraci of “The Outsiders” (and “Climax”) who turned-out four Top 40 hits and is best known for Time Won’t Let Me, Precious & Few and Bend Me, Shape Me. Dennis Tufano of “The Buckinghams” also had many hits, including the chart-topping Kind of a Drag in 1967, as well as Don’t You Care, Hey Baby (They’re Playing Our Song), Mercy, Mercy, Mercy and Susan. Joining this exclusive group is the band Bo Donaldson & The Heywoods, who will bring down the house with their gold disc record, Billy Don’t Be A Hero, as well as Who Do You Think You Are, The Heartbreak Kid and more. These timeless songs will be featured along with tributes to Elvis, Buddy Holly and the Beatles.
The same show will be at BB Kings in NYC this Sunday Jan. 30 at 7:30PM.
Find more on Ron Dante at:

Monday, January 24, 2011

ODDS and ENDS on LI......

Here are some tidbits of information that you may like!!!
Watch for Long Island's own STEVE GUTTENBERG, TED DANSON and TOM SELLECK to be reunited once more in "Three Men and a Bride" in 2012, 24 years after their smash hit "Three Men and a Baby".....Levittown's KEVIN COVAIS, a fifth season American Idol finalist, is keeping very busy these days! He is co-starring with KURT RUSSELL in a football drama called "Touchback" to be released later this year; he just finished a small role in "Men In Black III" to be released next year; and he is taking theater classes in NYC and looking to record some demo tracks within the next few months! Go Chicken Little go!!!.....Peter Sloggatt, publisher/managing editor of Long Islander Newspapers, is handling public relations for the new Paramount Theater in Huntington, formally the IMAC. The theater is currently being renovated with completion expected in 2012. The Paramount will have 1666 seats, more than double that of the old IMAC, and the stage will be retractable to accommodate all kinds of entertainment. Live Nation will be doing the programing! It should be nothing short of awesome!....JIM FAITH reports that there are no plans for concerts at the Brookhaven Amphitheater this year due to politics and politicians. Expect more to come on this matter. Jim also says the Great South Bay Music Festival is coming along great and there will be some big names on the bill. The Great South Bay Music Festival will be held at Shorefront Park, Patchogue, New York on July 15, 16, 17, 2011. Also, The Long Island Music Hall of Fame will have a fund raiser on April 3rd at the Port Jefferson Village Center with some surprise guests!...Longtime Long Island resident RITCHIE BLACKMORE, who was instrumental in the Rock Aid Armenia Project, was just awarded `Honorary Medal of the Prime Minister of Armenia’.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the charity in which classic rock stars from all over the world gathered to contribute their talents on to Ritchie's classic anthem Smoke on the Water . All proceeds were donated to the Armenian Earthquake victims.....Look for new releases from YES, JOURNEY, THE CARS, THE STEVE MILLER BAND, BLONDIE, PAUL SIMON and JOE WALSH (Jeff Lynn is producing!).... JUDAS PRIEST will begin a long farewell tour...Possible tours from THE WHO and THE ROLLING STONES...Reunions for classic rock bands THE ZOMBIES, THE CARS and TOTO....Possible but not certain reunions for PINK FLOYD and BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD....SAMMY HAGAR will publish his autobiography....What do BOB DYLAN, JOAN BAEZ, PAUL SIMON, ART GARFUNKEL, DAVID CROSBY, CHARLIE WATTS, DAVID CLAYTON-THOMAS and MIKE LOVE have in common? They all turn 70 this year!!...Congratulations to Syosett's NATALIE PORTMAN on her Academy Award nomination for best actress in "The Black Swan" and also to MELISSA LEO on her nomination for Best Supporting Actress in "The Fighter". Melissa spent her childhood in East Hampton where her parents still live!!

Monday, January 3, 2011


Acappella is defined as choral singing without instrumental accompaniment. When you combine "rock" and "acappella", you get a very unique and versatile combination called Rockapella, one of the best modern acappella groups of our time. Rockapella has been together for over 25 years while putting out 16 successful albums. Their world tour stops in Bay Shore this friday evening at the Boulton Center. I had the good fortune to speak to Scott Leonard, the band's high tenor, about their tour and their new album "Bang"....
MICK: "Bang" Is Rockapella's latest album, the first since 2002. Why so long between albums?
SCOTT: We did do a live album in 2004. I was busy with other projects. Had a couple solo records come out. I guess we were in a transition going into the lineup we have now which I feel is the best we've ever had. This is an all original album, the first since the mid 90's. The thing about Rockapella, playing live the audience always gets it and I'm not sure we ever captured that on a record yet. There is always something missing. This album comes close because it's a more different approach than it has been in the past. Very polished with an engineer. It really captures the energy of Rockapella without being overproduced.
MICK: Is the album out now?
SCOTT: Yes, it came out in October. It was just available digitally through I Tunes but now the CD is out, just like the old days!
MICK: When you recorded "Where In The World Is Carmen San Diego", did you have any idea how popular it would become?
SCOTT: No, we really didn't. I thought I'd only be doing this for a few years. It didn't start out big as it was on PBS. The producing was so good and the creative team was so good. There wasn't anything else like it on TV for kids and their families. The learning and geographical aspect really stuck and lasted for a lot of years. It was our first national exposure. Before that, we all had day jobs. It really was a platform from which we were able to make a career and see the world!
MICK: Being that Rockapella uses no musical instruments, when you write a song, do you use an instrument and what exactly is the process?
SCOTT: I use the piano. Writing a song is like writing any song. There's chords and a melody. The difference is that when arranging for Rockapella, it is similar to a band as there is a bass with drums with guys doing it with there mouth. There is a melody like any song has. The other two guys fill in creatively so the people don't miss the rhythm guitars and other instruments. It's a craft I've been doing for over 2o years and it's like breathing for me now! It's very unique to use just these five elements and keep it interesting. It's like a puzzle where you try to melt the inspiration musically from your heart with your brain. It's a mathematical creative challenge that I enjoy.
MICK: I've read that after working in Japan for 2 years in the 1980's, you became fluent in Japanese. How hard was that language to learn?
SCOTT: I sang with a Japanese band over there so I was kind of immersed backstage in Japanese, which is the best way to do it! The best way is to be thrust into the atmosphere where that language is all around you. That is a fascinating country, especially for a guy who grew up in Indiana. To this day, Japan is like a second home to me. We go there on tour every year. We also go to Germany a lot and I am from German ancestry so I took an interest in their language. After a while, I was able to do a show over there in German. It shows the people that you care when you learn their language. We not just ugly Americans!
MICK: Has Rockapella ever recorded a song in Japanese?
SCOTT: Yes we have! When we were doing Carmen San Diego, we were offered a deal here to do kids records for some big companies. But we had original music. I had just recorded a record in Japan and I hooked up my record company with Rockapella. Japan had never been exposed to contemporary acapella. The way Rockapella did it really caught on in Japan to the extent that they had an American Japanese Idol Show with all acapella groups and it was a number one show! The music on the radio over there wasn't as regimented as it is here so they would play our music along with all kids of other music. Our first hits over there were English versions of there own hits over there. We did a Christmas song where I sang in Japanese.
MICK: I've read that Stevie Wonder was a big influence on you. Have you ever performed with him?
SCOTT: I've never even met him! He is probably the reason I got into music. I just love the way he sings and I've tried to emulate that. Beyond the singing, his creative juices were so into me. His is our generation's or century's Mozart. His music seems like it has always existed and he just plucked it out of the air and it is perfect! And I've always been fascinated by the great lyricists from Cole Porter to Johnny Mercer to Stephen Sondheim. I love how they transfer that intellect and importance on the words into pop music. Somewhere between Stevie and Stephen is my approach to writing original music.
MICK: Do you keep in touch with former members of Rockapella?
SCOTT: Yes, all the time! Sean, who was one of the first guys in Carmen San Diego and is the godfather of Rockapella as far as I'm concerned, I hear from all the time. He has his own band and is very active in the music world. Elliott has a jazz trio and I hear from him a few times a year. Berry does a lot of voice overs as he has a very deep voice. He was the voice of Tony the Tiger! He is doing well. Everybody is still in touch and friendly. Kevin Wright, who had replaced Sean, retired a year ago. As each guy retires, you lose some of the personality and whatever he added to the band. But we get to hand pick from the stellar talent that is perfect for that slot. So you lose some of the original recipe but technically, Rockapella has never been better than it is right now.
MICK: What would you consider your most memorable moment?
SCOTT: In the first year that we did Carmen San Diego, we did a Whoopi Goldberg HBO special, we did Madison Square Garden with Billy Joel, we did a Taco Bell commercial, we did the Tonight Show on New Year's Eve! This was when Jay Leno had just taken over for Johnny Carson. I remember being behind that curtain on the show and that moment really sticks in my brain.
MICK: What is your favorite Holiday song?
SCOTT: I love Christmas songs. In the beginning, Rockapella was three Jews and me! Japan equates Christmas music with acapella music so we did a Christmas album. I really like the Chipmunk Song and we do that song now in a newer funky version.
MICK: Are any of your children musically inclined?
SCOTT: They really are! My son, who is a senior in high school this year, is going to pursue a career in percussion as he's a percussion major. He has a band and wants to go for the whole thing. My daughter is an incredibly gifted dancer and singer. She's 11 and just getting her feet wet. My wife was a dancer at Disney World when I was singing there so I don't think there's any hope for our children to go any other way!
MICK: What's happening in 2011 for Rockapella and yourself?
SCOTT: We want to do a new Christmas record. We will be promoting "Bang" around the world. There is a new Rockapella cruise this month. We will be touring Europe and Asia again. We've been speaking with the Boston Pops and will be doing the holidays with them this year. That's a thrill for me as I grew up with Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops. If I'm with the Boston Pops and they do "Sleigh ride", I just might have to retire after that happens! That's still in negotiations.

You can catch Rockapella this Friday, January 07 at 8:00PM at YMCA Boulton Center for the Performing Arts
37 West Main Street, Bay Shore, NY 11706
For more information on Rockapella....

Sunday, January 2, 2011


As we enter 2011, we look ahead to a new beginning and often set goals or resolutions for ourselves. Some are attainable and some just just crazy but it's always a lot of fun. It with great pleasure that for the second year in a row, I bring you my celebrity New Year's resolutions!!
AUDREY QUINN is an American actress/model, TV spokespersonality and writer. For 2011, Audrey says "My New Year's Determination (I do not think the word Resolution is to meet the love of my life and to experience as much bliss in my life as possible! This would be fabulous and it's about time too!"
Our favorite folk singer CAROLINE DOCTOROW says "My New Year's resolution is to learn to sing so that the sound of my voice evokes the history of folk music and all it's artists, somehow all rolled up into one sound. My own sound! This will always be a work in progress, and will always be what I am working towards!"
Legendary jazz singer BOBBY CALDWELL'S resolution was "To get my wife a new bulldog puppy". [She already got the puppy!]
Our favorite artist MIKE STANKO says "My resolution this New Year will be the same as it has been in years past. I hope this year brings plenty of good people, good art and good music my way. After losing so many family and friends, some at a very young age, I truly appreciate the everyday things and I only want the best things for all people. Karen, my wife, my soul and my truly biggest inspiration, and I wish everyone a warm, loving and peaceful year and hope everyday is colorful!"
Nassau County Executive EDWARD P. MANGANO says "My New Year's resolution is to attract even more film and television production shoots to Nassau County so that we can continue to create jobs and generate revenue for the local economy".
WABC's Eyewitness reporter, the beautiful LAUREN GLASSBERG says "I'd like to burn off all of the food I eat while shooting my "Neighborhood Eats" segments!"
Pure Jazz Radio's RICH KEITH says " This coming year I'm basically looking to have a more positive outlook on things. Also to be more tolerant of people...even if they like "smooth jazz"!"
American singer and actress GLORIA LORING says "To keep learning more about singing and my voice...and to be more patient!"
The gorgeous Publisher and Editor NADA MARJANOVICH says "I'm not one who usually makes New Year's resolutions, but have definitely made it a goal to work less in the coming year (80 hour weeks instead of 100 and focus a little more on completing personal writing projects."
Last, but surely not least, is legendary comedian DAVID BRENNER who vows "When we're young and naive, we make long lists such as "This year I am going to go through college, meet a great woman, get married, have two children, make a few million, travel, buy a house and a yacht, maybe become an astronaut". When we get older, we are more realistic and my resolutions that we know for certain we can keep- Mine for 2011 is "I am not going to slap a giraffe on it's ass!"
As your humble writer and interviewer on, my resolution is to bring you more interesting interviews and articles, lose some weight, get more organized and to translate my interviews into Japanese and Swahili! Only kidding!!!
May all of our resolutions find success in our lives and if they don't, there's always next year!!