By James deFrances
A warm nostalgic breeze was ushered into Hollywood last Thursday night by Ron Dante and “his friends.” Patrons at Catalina Bar & Grill on Sunset Blvd couldn’t help but feel the energy and sing along as rock ‘n roll legends of yesteryear performed their hits on stage. The audience was comprised of notable entertainment heavyweights too, ranging from record executive and radio host Jerry Sharell to former California governor and movie star Arnold Schwarzenegger.
On the bill with Dante (of the animated Archies) were the likes of Bo Donaldson (of the Heywoods), John Claude Gummoe (of the Cascades), Dennis Tufano (of the Buckinghams), Kyle Vinson and Frank Stallone. There was a very distinct aura in the club, for this wasn’t merely some cheesy cover show, these were the original arrangements performed by the original artists. I always find it enthralling to see how the bands have aged with their music and how their current interpretation differs from the studio version all these decades later.
As expected, there were many highlights of the night with each classic chart-topper evoking an emotional response among the audience. Songs like “Sugar Sugar,” “Kind of a Drag,” “Billy Don’t Be a Hero” and “Rhythm of the Rain” to name a few that had the fans on a trip down memory lane.
I could overhear some folks behind me saying: “Oh I remember this song from our high school prom!” and “Don’t you remember when your brother bought that on a 45 RPM single?” These songs and these performers defined an entire generation and it is kind of hard to fathom that they were all together on one stage. But they were, and furthermore still performed with the kind of intensity and quality that made them popular more than 50 years ago.
Each act brought something special to the stage. Dante jokingly remarked that the only reason he wore a blazer was because this performance was at a jazz club, eventually he took the coat off and seemed to be more relaxed. Toward the end of the evening he began a dialogue with the crowd explaining how grateful he was for his fans’ support and how he wanted to talk briefly about some of the highlights of his career.
He showed the audience a video montage of his many TV commercial jingles from the 1970s. On the projector roll were commercials for McDonald’s, Coca Cola, Yoplait, Dr. Pepper and more. Dante’s dynamic talents include singer, songwriter, arranger, composer and producer. He also mentioned his production work for Barry Manilow and Pat Benatar which he was particularly proud of.
With Dante’s never ending credit list and his evidently large rolodex, one can’t help but look forward to his next big hoorah. He is still in fine voice, good spirits and apparently great health.
Everyone got their 35 dollar’s worth and then some on this fine evening. I bet each act could have demanded that for a solo show alone. This wonderful event may not have been for the typical jazz fare at Catalina’s jazz room, but from what I could gather, no one seemed to mind!