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Ron Dante on Disc & Dat

In August of 2004, Ron Dante was  interviewed by Stephen Meyer for his newsletter, DISC & DAT.  Below is the writeup in its entirety, just as it appeared in the newsletter.  A big THANK-YOU to Stephen for granting permission for me to post the interview here.

DISC & DAT
A New Media Newsletter - Vol 2. #34 - 8/28/2004
Commentary - News - Top 20 Albums - Top 20 TV Shows - And More
 
 
 
"Today as always, there are singers, songwriters, and great bands rehearsing in little rooms and garages around the world, getting ready to set the world of music on fire. We in the music business just have to listen. We just have to be open to what's new and different." - Ron Dante
 
 
This week, I had the pleasure of talking to Ron Dante, a man with incredibly diversified talents. Ron has been honored with gold and platinum singles and albums, two Tony Awards, a Clio Award and a Grammy, but is probably best known world-wide as the voice on such hits as the Archies' "Sugar Sugar" and the Cuff Links' "Tracy."  As one of the most influential producers of pop music, Ron has worked with Barry Manilow, Cher, Ray Charles, John Denver, Dionne Warwick, Pat Benatar, Paul Schaffer (David Letterman's musical director) and more.  Ron also co-wrote many songs performed by the Archies, Barry Manilow, Jay & the Americans, Johnny Mathis, & 8th Day to name just a few and was also musical producer for Disney's TV series "The Little Mermaid."  In addition, Ron has sung background on numerous hits by other artists as well as the Manilow hits of the '70's. His voice can also be heard on dozens of radio and TV commercials and he was the publisher for the acclaimed Paris Review and is a talent developer for RKO/Unique.
 
 
 
SM: I think many readers would be surprised that besides the many Gold and Platinum albums you have to your credit, you've also received two Tony Awards.  What were they for?

RD: I won Tonys for producing Ain't Misbehavin' in 1978 [for Best Musical] and in 1980 for Children of A Lesser God [for Best Drama]. I produced or co-produced over 20 shows on Broadway including Neil Simon's Little Me, Duet For One with Anne Bancroft and Max Von Sydow and was the angel for Whose Life Is It Anyway with Mary Tyler Moore in the lead. My very first show was in partnership with my old friend, James Lipton, who of course now does the Actors Studio interviews on Bravo.
 

SM: So you've come a long way from The Detergents and "Leader of The Laundromat."  Tell us about how that came about?

RD: The Detergents were put together by producer/songwriters Paul Vance and Lee Pockriss. They came up with this parody of The Shangri-La's' "Leader Of The Pack."  The group was made up of Paul's nephew Danny Florio, Tommy Wynn and myself. Danny, Tommy and I were writing songs at Screen Gems Music at that time and Paul and Lee were hit song writers with hits like "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polkadot Bikini" and "Catch A Falling Star" among others, so I was not surprised that this one became a hit.  I toured with the group for over 2 years. It was a learning experience for sure.
 

SM: What came next? You've won Clios (The Advertising industry award for creative excellence) as well as Grammys ... tell us about those.

RD: When I returned from the road I signed with Bobby Darin's publishing company located in the Brill Building in Manhattan [the Brill Building, a legendary songwriter's landmark, was also the home to others like Neil Diamond, Carole King, etc.] and proceeded to write songs for many of the top names in pop at the time.  My songs were recorded by: Bobby Eve, Jay & The Americans, Gary Lewis & The Playboys, Johnny Mathis, James Darren and Gene Pitney.  During that time I also became one of the first call Jingle singers in NYC. I sang thousands of commercials from 1968 until this year.  Some of my spots that won Clios were: Pepsi's "You've Got A Lot To Live,"  McDonalds' "You Deserve A Break Today," Coke's "I'd Like to Teach The World To Sing" and many, many more.  I also produced with Ron Frangipane the award winning "Volkswagen Auto Show of 1949" spot that showed the car's evolution through the years.  Speaking of commercials, I was recently the singer on Yoplait's "Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polkadot Bikini" TV campaign and Applebees' "Happy Together" spots.

SM: How did you become involved in The Archies ... did you think "Sugar, Sugar" was going to be as big as it was?  ['Sugar, Sugar' spent four weeks at #1 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 Singles Chart in July 1969]

RD: Don Kirshner had gotten the rights to do the music for a new Saturday morning animated TV show based on The Archies comic book characters and he and producer Jeff Barry were looking for the singing voice of Archie. Since I had been a staff writer for Kirshner years before and had worked with Jeff on sessions and a Broadway show, I called them up and auditioned for the job. I got it the same day and started recording that night. We recorded over 100 songs in the 2 years I worked on the show.  Kirshner launched a huge publicity campaign when the first single and album came out. The first single did pretty well but nothing like the success of "Sugar, Sugar." Kirshner really knew how to promote his projects. Don Kirshner and Jeff Barry were two of the most successful music people in the business. Kirshner's publishing empire dominated the 60's with his staff of hit songwriters like Mann & Weil, Goffin & King and Sedaka & Greenfield. Jeff Barry of course had written and produced hundreds of hits all through the 60's so I knew going in we had a good chance making this all happen. He and Don teamed on The Monkees and I knew that kind of success could happen to The Archies.
 
SM: What brought you and Barry Manilow together? Where did 'Mandy' come from ... was it something Clive Davis found?

RD: I met Barry Manilow on a commercial for some new soft drink that Pepsi was trying out. He was the writer and arranger. I was very impressed with Barry's writing and singing and we decided to make some demos together and the rest, as they say, is history.  I co-produced all his hit albums from 1974 until 1981.  Everyone asks about "Mandy" and how it came about. Barry and I were working on his second album and Clive Davis gave us this 45 by Scott English. The song was called "Brandy" and the arrangement was uptempo. We all decided to change the name and someone in the room, I think it was Barry, said "Let's call it 'Mandy.'"  That night we recorded it and as they say 'Lightning struck.'  We just had a piano, drum and bass with Barry's live vocal, but you could just tell this was something special. I mixed the final a week later after adding strings and Barry's and my background vocals with our engineer Michael Delugg, we had it. A few months after the release of Barry's second album "Mandy" was number one and with our follow-up of "It's A Miracle" and "Could It Be Magic," Manilow was on his way big time.

SM: Let's talk about others you worked with briefly. Cher?

RD: I worked on Cher's Take Me Home album. She was the total professional. Very good singer, always ready to work and a sheer delight to be around.

SM: Pat Benatar?

RD: I was the first to record Pat Benatar. Chrysalis
records A & R called me to come down to a local nightclub to see her.  She was basically singing big ballads with a few rock songs in between. The highlight on her act was "Cryin" which I recorded with her but when she did "You Better Run" I knew this was the direction for her.

SM: Others?

RD: During my Manilow years I got to record some incredible singers for his TV specials. Dionne Warwick, Ray Charles and John Denver were especially nice to have in the studio. 'Brother Ray' was the most fun and John Denver could sing the lights out. He had one of the strongest voices I've ever recorded.

SM: What did you work with Paul Schaffer (David Letterman's musical director) on?

RD: I met Paul Shaffer at Don Kirshner's office when we were both up for a TV show he was producing. I thought Paul was one of the best keyboard players I had ever heard and I started using him on all my sessions including Manilow, Cher, Benatar and everyone else I was producing at the time. Paul did the arrangements on Pat Benatar's very first session. He's an incredibly talented man and is obviously enjoying his stint with David Letterman. I think the band he's put together is fantastic! [Ron's third album, Street Angel, was also co-produced by Paul Shaffer]

SM: Who would you like to work with today and are there any artists you always wanted to work with but never got the opportunity?

RD: Well, Streisand of course. I'd still like to work with Whitney Houston. Celine Dion ... Norah Jones. I wish I'd had the chance to record Sinatra and Elvis.

SM: What do you think of the music business today?

RD: I still have great hopes for the music industry today. The new technology allows instant downloads of any music that has ever been recorded. I think what Steve Jobs has done with iTunes is incredible and it will be the model for much of what comes next. Today as always, there are singers, songwriters and great bands rehearsing in little rooms and garages around the world getting ready to set the world of music on fire. We in the music business just have to listen.  We just have to be open to what's new and different.  I know that right at this moment the song is not the most important thing for a lot of what's going on, but that will change and the song and the artist focus will return bigger and better.

SM: What are you doing now to keep busy?

RD: I'm thankful I get to do the things I really love. I have a brand new CD coming out the end of the month called Saturday Night Blast. It's filled with songs I've always wanted to sing. I also have some guests on it. My friend Peter Noone [Peter was lead singer in Herman's Hermits] sings on "Rockin' Robin," Andy Kim guests on his own song "Rock Me Gently" and the original girl voice on "Sugar,Sugar", Toni Wine, helps me out on the Lovin' Spoonful's "Summer In The City."  If that's not enough, I've just been appointed president of a new label called DreMak Records and we will be releasing new artists later this year. My time in the music industry has been a great ride and I'm looking forward to a great second half!
 
 
For more information about Ron, visit his website
www.rondante.com

Copyright 2004, DISC & DAT, A New Media Newsletter, Published By Steve Meyer
 
This newsletter goes to over 400+ music and entertainment industry people in all types of capacities: label people, managers, artists, producers, songwriters, trade press people, TV people, radio people, etc.
 
Stephen Meyer is a music industry veteran of some 35+ years.  He worked at Capitol Records from 1969-1983, then a Sr. VP of Promotion at MCA Records from 1983-1992.  He started his own company, Smart Marketing after that, and the newsletter last year.
 
 
 

Laura's Ron Dante Fan Pages was my first website, but I've got a bunch of others!
Please visit:
Laura Pinto Online (this lists all of my sites and social networks)
Laura's Oldies Sites (links to my oldies-related websites)
Life Rocks On (website for my novel)
The D.A.'s Forever (website for my novel)

Visit Ron's official site, Ron Dante Online
 
 
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