Ron Dante performs his Archies' classic "Sugar, Sugar"
Everyone involved will tell you that the decision to continue the Turtles’ annual Happy Together Tour featuring Flo & Eddie was not an easy one, not with Turtles lead singer Howard Kaylan--a.k.a. Eddie--unable to participate this year due to health issues.
But everyone--including remaining Turtles co-frontman Mark Volman (Flo)--will also tell you that no better substitute for Kaylan than Ron Dante exists.
Dante, of course, is the voice behind The Archies’ massive 1969 bubblegum rock classic “Sugar, Sugar” as well as the Cuff Links’ big hit “Tracy” the same year--not to mention thousands of commercial jingles for clients like Coke, Pepsi, Budweiser, KFC, Campbell’s Soup and Lifesavers.
“I knew that The Turtles’ songs were in my wheelhouse,” says Dante. “I could have sung those hits! I used to double track harmonies the same way on my songs like ‘Tracy,’ and even did a commercial some years ago where they used ‘Happy Together’ and doubled the voices, and Mark and Howard sued because it seemed like a soundalike--and they won!”
Even so, Dante, who impressed both Volman and Kaylan during his solo spot on last year’s Happy Together Tour, rehearsed The Turtles’ songs for months after agreeing to sub for Kaylan this time out.
“As soon as Mark called and asked, ‘Will you do this?,’ I said, ‘Absolutely.’ And when he said, ‘Here are the six songs we’re going to do,’ I listened to the originals and live versions and wrote down the lyrics and every day went over the set. I was very diligent about showing up and knowing the songs and singing in the keys they played in for Howard--and was very excited about it.”
Since the tour began, Dante has been “singing the songs like they’re brand new, which they are--to me,” he says. “But I think I’ve brought new energy to it with my participation, and everybody else stepped up: All the acts--The Cowsills, Mark Lindsay, The Association, Gary Puckett and Chuck Negron--have brought their best vocals and have been working really hard to do it right from the get-go.”
Meanwhile, Dante remains busy with the production side of his career.
“I just completed co-producing a family rock ‘n’ roll band, The Fulcos--a really cool group from Lancaster, Calif.,” he says. “The mom plays keys and dad plays guitar, and there are four kids, ages 13 to 21, with the main lead singer, Joey, who’s a combination of Adele and Wynonna. I’m very excited because they’re so different from anything in the marketplace.”
Dante is also producing Jeremy Gaynor, a near-winner on The Voice in 2015, also a staff sergeant and lead singer in the West Point Band.
“He’s a classic crooner like Peabo Bryson, and we’re looking for an inspirational label,” says Dante, calling both productions “labors of love.”
A producer of the Tony Award-winning Broadway shows Ain’t Misbehavin’ and Children of a Lesser God, Dante also has a pair of musical productions in the works: In a Booth at Chasen’s: The Real-Life Love Story of Ron and Nancy Reagan, with music and lyrics by Al Kasha and Phillip Swann and set to open in November at the El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood, and Name That Tune, a show based on the 1950s TV game show, with a book written by Rupert Holmes.
But Dante’s continued focus is on The Happy Together Tour until it ends next month.
“I just love doing the show! It’s a thrill singing [Turtles songs like] ‘Elenore’ and ‘Happy Together’ every night,” he says. “They’re real ‘singer songs,’ and people are getting it and like it. I’m so glad I could step up to the challenge after being offered it by Mark and Howard, and I’m really living it up!”