Betty and Veronica take center stage, Archie goes shopping, music legend Ron Dante opens the Funhouse, and it’s all recorded here.
THE ARCHIES CHRISTMAS ALBUM
FEATURING BETTY AND VERONICA
Ron Dante as Archie
Danielle van Zyl as Betty and Kelly Lynn as Veronica
Fuel Records (Varese Sarabande) 302-062-739-2 (Compact Disc)
Released on September 30, 2008. Producer: Ron Dante. Recorded at The Ranch and Westlake Studios, Los Angeles. Running Time: 38 minutes.
Musicians: Ted Perlman (Programmer, Keys, Guitar); Scott Erickson (Programmer. Keys); Tim Pierce (Guitar); Bo Donaldson (Keyboards); George Eisaman (Guitar); Rick Thibodeau (Bass); Billy Haarbauer (Drums).
Original Songs: “Archie’s Christmas Party,” “Christmas in Riverdale” by Ron Dante.
Other Songs: “A Holly Jolly Christmas,” “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” by Johnny Marks; “Jingle Bell Rock” by James Ross Boothe, Jim Boothe, Joe Beal; “Here Comes Santa Claus” by Oakley Haldeman, Gene Autry; “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” by Tommie Connor; “Run Rudolph Run” by Chuck Berry; “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” by J. Fred Coots, Haven Gillespie; “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” by Ralph Blane, Hugh Martin; “Sleigh Ride” by Leroy Anderson, Mitchell Parish; “Up on the Housetop” (Traditional).
The Archies had not released a brand-new album for 37 years (since This is Love, which we discussed in this Animation Spin). They had also never done any holiday music, nor had Betty and Veronica really been given lead vocals. Singer/songwriter/producer Ron Dante decided it was long overdue.
“I had the idea that since female singers were so popular I would feature them on that album,” he explained. “Archie Comics also liked the idea and gave me cartoons to use for the artwork.”
Most of the songs are well-known holiday hits tailor-made for the funtime rock of The Archies, plus two songs never recorded before. “I wrote a few songs for the compilation. Ron said. “Christmas In Riverdale’ was written before the TV show debuted.”
Ron Dante was the first and most successful Archie studio singer since the group was established in 1968 to tie into Filmation’s breakaway Saturday morning hit CBS series, which earned over a 40 share most weeks. Dante was already in demand as a New York demo singer for the biggest names in music, as well as the secret voice behind both The Detergents, The Archies and The Cuff Links, the latter two providing him with two simultaneous number one hits in anonymity.
Of course, today Ron Dante shares the spotlight with other great music legends of classic rock and pop, touring regularly to packed houses. His next concert is on December 11th at the Bergen Performing Arts Center [in Englewood, NJ].
What was it like to record an entire new Archies album? “I really enjoyed the sessions, since Danielle and Kelly were such good singers and so easy to work with.”
RON DANTE’S FUNHOUSE
Sunset Blvd. Records SBR-7985 (Two Compact Discs)
Released on October 30, 2020. Executive Producer: Ron Dante. Songwriters: Gene Allan, Howard Greenfield, Neil Goldberg, Andy Kim, Donna Marie, Linda November, Ellie Greenwich, Roo Morgan, Jeff Barry, Barry Manilow, Howard Ashman, Alan Menken. Recording Executives: Ken Fico, Don Kirshner. Album Coordination/Tape Transfers/Editing: Jesse Obstbaum. Mastering: Eric Carlson. Cover Art: Dan Parent. Photography: Bobby Bank. Design: John Sellards. Recorded at Media Sound, RCA Studio C, Sound Ideas, New York. Running Time: 93 minutes.
Vocalists: Toni Wine, Jamie Carr, Merle Miller, Lesley Miller, Susan Morse, Jean Thomas, Andy Kim, Donna Marie, Linda November, Ellie Greenwich, Roo Morgan, Jeff Barry, Barry Manilow.
Ron Dante: “Let Me Bring You Up,” “California Nights,” “Rock Me Gently” (with Andy Kim); “All Summer Long” (with Bruce Johnston); “Summer in the City” (with Toni Wine); “Kiss the Girl” from The Little Mermaid; “Theme from Spider-Man” (1972 Version); “Stronger the Man (Spider-Man);”
The Archies: “Sugar, Sugar,” “This is Love,” “Melody Hill,” “Sugar, Sugar (2020 Euro Dance Mix)”
The Cuff Links: “Tracy”
The Chan Clan: “”I Got My Eye on You,” “Number One Son,” “Happy”
Archie’s Funhouse: “Theme,” “Honey,” “Sweet Saturday Night,” “Oh Sweet Susie,” “Somebody Loves You,” “The Laughing Song,” “Looks That Say I Love You,” “Ballad of 51st Street,” “Lucky Me,” “Anyone Can Be Anything,” “Closing Theme”
Archie Show Dances of the Week: “The Stick Shift,” “The Rocket Ship,” “The Grundy,” “The Angel,” “The Milkshake,” “The Jughead,” “The Beanie,” “The Surfer,” “The Weatherbee,” “The Hamburger Hop,” “The Veronica Walk,” “The Banana Split,” “The Betty (Intro with Dal McKennon);” “The Betty;” The Bubblegum,” “The Touchdown (Intro with Dal McKennon),” “The Touchdown.”
Commercials: Dentyne, Yoplait, Bright Side Shampoo, Kent Cigarettes, General Tire, Archies Tang Commercial #2.
The number of performing, production and writing credits of Ron Dante is staggering. This is the first album he put together that offers a comprehensive sampling, but does not even begin to scratch the surface. There’s also Broadway and much more that he did for other singers, actors and most every studio, big and small.
The two discs of Ron Dante’s Funhouse also avoid the obvious. While it opens with “Sugar, Sugar,” the number one hit of 1969, it does not become the typical “Best of The Archies” collection. He made this for the people who really want more, those who asked him about the material and wished it could be collected on discs. Not an easy task since so many of the original elements are either missing, unavailable or long gone.
The Archies are also represented by two of their finest lesser-known songs, “Melody Hill” and “This is Love,” plus a contemporary take on “Sugar, Sugar.” The Cufflinks are represented by “Tracy,” probably the only other obvious choice.
Then there are a few from the hundreds of commercials Ron recorded, produced and sang in (you can hear him in “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” and he sings for David Naughton in the Dr. Pepper spots too). The three songs from Hanna-Barbera’s The Amazing Chan and The Chan Clan are clear of dialogue and sound effects.
The Filmation tracks were only available as final tracks, however, so they sound as good as they can from the best available sources, collected in one big group. Perhaps one day the songs can be recovered in their complete form, if such a thing exists. For now, it’s great fun to hear them all. (I don’t think it’s humanly possible to do most of those dances.)
The two-disc set also sports original art by the great Archie artist Dan Parent. Dan depicts Ron in his rightful place, a cozy spot in the classic Archie world. It’s just one place where Ron Dante brought a vast amount of entertainment into our world for… has it really been all these decades?
There was one other Archie Christmas record of sorts, a vinyl edition of The Adventures of Archie Andrews on Mark 56 Records. It featured a 1947 episode of the NBC children’s radio show called “Christmas Shopping.”As had been done with their animated New Adventures of Superman, Filmation clearly used the Archie radio show as the voice casting template for the animated cartoon. But while the radio show had an actor for each role, Filmation could only budget for four actors doing multiple roles.
Bob Hastings plays Archie in the Christmas show. He’s familiar to TV viewers as toadying Lt. Carpenter on McHale’s Navy and Kelsey on All in the Family, as well as countless voices including Henry on Hanna-Barbera’s Jeannie and Commissioner Gordon on Warner’s Batman: The Animated Series.
Though Bob Hastings was preceded as the voice of Archie by Charles Mullen, Jack Grimes and Burt Boyar, the Hastings “Archie” sounds like a precursor to Dal McKennon’s version, as was Howard Morris’ Jughead from Harlan Stone (with a dash of Buddy Hackett). Jane Webb played both Betty and Veronica on the cartoon, giving Veronica an even more exaggerated southern accent to differentiate her from Betty. Rosemary Rice and Gloria Mann voiced B&V on this radio episode.
The Archie Christmas Shopping show is apparently popular as a school and community stage play, performed in such cities as Portsmouth, NH and Westerville, OH. It’s the quintessential sitcom mix-up, building to total zaniness and an “oh, no, not again!” ending. The timing is very clever, getting the kids involved as each calamity becomes obvious to the audience always a few minutes ahead of the characters.
When the Animated “Archies” Ruled TV & Pop Music
The Year Archie Rocked the World
Filmation’s “The Archie Show” on Records
“The Archies” America on Records