ANIMATION SPIN
November 30, 2021 posted by Greg Ehrbar

Christmas with Archie and the Gang on Records

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.”

GIVE A LITTLE LISTEN
“Christmas in Riverdale” – Ron Dante, Danielle van Zyl and Kelly Lynn

This is the song that Ron Dante mentioned as being written before the TV series was produced, so it’s a little bit of Archie history.


RON DANTE’S FUNHOUSE
Ron Dante
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.

SONGS:
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?

GIVE ANOTHER LITTLE LISTEN
“Rockin’ Christmas Party” – Ron Dante

In addition to the Funhouse and Archie Christmas albums, Ron appeared on another groovy Christmas album called Rockin’ Christmas Party Volume 1 (there is no volume two as yet). Hallmark gave Ron’s rendition of the title song the honor of playing inside one of its ornaments—a little record player with changeable vinyl discs! Rockin’ Christmas Party also features Ron’s pals Lou Christie, Tommy Roe, Bobby Vee, Gary Lewis and others.


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.”

Bob Hastings as Archie Andrews

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.


OTHER ARCHIE-RELATED ANIMATION SPIN ARTICLES

When the Animated “Archies” Ruled TV & Pop Music

50 Years Ago: When the Animated “Archies” Ruled TV & Pop Music

The Year Archie Rocked the World

The Year Archie Rocked the World

Filmation’s “The Archie Show” on Records

Filmation’s “The Archie Show” on Records

“The Archies” America on Records

“The Archies” America on Records

10 Comments

  • “Up on the Housetop” may be “traditional” in the sense that it’s become a Christmas tradition, but not in the sense that we don’t know who wrote it. It was written in the 1860s by a United Brethren minister named Benjamin Russell Hanby for a singalong at his church. He also wrote the Abolitionist torch song “Darling Nellie Gray”, his family having been active in the Underground Railroad. Hanby died young, in his thirties, and was buried on the campus of his alma mater, Otterbein College in Westerville, Ohio — mentioned, by coincidence, in this post as a current performance venue for the Archie Christmas Shopping Show. I’m very glad to see that. There weren’t a lot of entertainment options in Westerville the last time I was there some 30 years ago, and it’s a dry town.

    Bob Hastings was also the occasional voice of the wisecracking raven who lived in the cuckoo clock on “The Munsters”, filling in for Mel Blanc when the maestro was unavailable.

  • According to Steven “Booksteve” Thompson, who knew Bob Hastings, Filmation asked Bob to reprise the Archie role for their cartoon, but he was still angry about not being paid for doing extra voices in the “Superboy” cartoon, so he refused.

  • Preferred thge radio and comic,old shcool Veronica, to the cartoon, with all due respect, and I’ll tell you why..
    Veronica is the Verruca Salt, the ill tempered (usually..), rich quen bee (like fellow Archie girl Alexandra on Josie), but Filmationm never read the comic, for Ronnie NEVER acts anything but ditsy..for all of Josie’s faults, at least HB and Archie got Alexa (:)) RIGHT on THAT show..she’s a Veruca like word I will NOT say on this board..yes, Ron on Filmation does do the rivalry..don’;t even start me n how they cleaned up Reg for the cartoon..yesm, they did have the songs, the occasional fights, between tem pulling Archie away in music numbers..anyway, what I’d written is fact and only applies in general to the cartoon..

  • Harlan Stone, the radio Jughead, belonged to an old radio list I once subscribed to, and was always a bit resentful that the Archie TV show essentially borrowed his and the other radio cast members’ voices without acknowledgment. Or offering them the TV gig. He would complain that he would have loved to have played Jughead again if they’d just asked him.

    The Archie radio show is maddeningly formulaic, with most storylines built around Mr. Andrews suffering from the well-intentioned interference of Archie and his pals in whatever endeavor Mr. Andrews is trying to carry out that week.

    And virtually every episode of the radio show climaxes in a scene of utter chaos, with everyone yelling and shouting at once, until someone, usually Mr. Andrews, silences the group by shouting, “Quiet! Quiet!! Quiii-eeett!!! Now, this nonsense has gone far enough! Too far, in fact!”

    Fun fact: Arnold Stang is credited with playing Jughead during the period that Harlan Stone was in the army, though I don’t know if any examples of his work on the series survive. Archie was on radio for about ten years, but only some forty-odd episodes exist, most of them from the late 1940s.

    Another fun fact: the Archie radio series aired on Saturday mornings for most of its run, pre-dating the various Archie TV shows long run on Saturday AM, with the radio show getting occasional prime-time exposure as a summer replacement.

    Can’t say that the radio Archie gang ever formed a band or made records. About as musical as the radio show got was Bob Hastings’ Archie imitating Al Jolson singing, “Sonny Boy.”

  • I always thought Jughead was Jewish.

    • Why? Is it the hat?

  • Thanks for such a terrific article on The Archies.
    You are the best.

    Ron Dante

    • It is so great to see your comment here, Mr. Dante. I will always be grateful to you for all of your work but especially “Sugar, Sugar,” as that song takes me back to my childhood like no other.

  • THIS INGENIUSLY PUT TOGETHER ALBUM GETS ME UP AND DANCIN’ !!! RON HAS ALWAYS BEEN A MUSICAL GENIUS – AND THIS COLLECTION SHOWS IT OFF !!!!!!!!!!

  • I was obsessed with The Archie Show and “The Archies” during my childhood. No one could come near the TV set when it was on, and I spent every penny I had on the comic books and the record albums. Now several animation cels from the show decorate my bedroom walls. Thanks for this article!

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