What's In A Name? Musicians Birth Names, Who Are They?
Lobo, Tommy James, Ron Dante
Who are they? I never heard of a musician by that name. Let's explore some very popular musicians, who went by a different name, names we will instantly recognize.
Roland Kent LaVoie - Lobo
Roland Kent LaVoie was one of many popular soft pop musicians of the early 1970s. We know him better by his stage name Lobo and the instantly recognizable song "Me And You And A Dog Named Boo," which peaked at #5 on the Billboard charts in 1971.
Born and raised in Florida, he began his career in music in 1961 as a member of a local band The Rumours, who also included Gram Parsons (later with the Byrds) and Jim Stafford (#3 hit in 1974 "Spiders And Snakes"). While attending college in 1964, he hooked up with a band called the Sugar Beats and it was when he met producer Phil Gernhard, a friendship that would serve him well later on in his career.
During the 60s, Lavoie played with many bands and by the early 70s he started calling himself Lobo (Spanish for wolf). In 1971, he teamed up with Gernhard, who was an executive at Big Tree Records and the company released, what is now his signature song, "Me And You And A Dog Named Boo."
Several albums followed and in 1972 he released the LP Of A Simple Man, which included back-to-back US Top 10 hits, including "Don't Expect Me To Be Your Friend," which reached #8 in the US charts, and "I'd Love You to Want Me" which proved to be his biggest hit, reaching #2 in the US and #1 in Germany.
Lobo had three more Top 40 hits, "It Sure Took a Long, Long Time,"(#27 in 1973) "How Can I Tell Her," (#22 in 1973) and "Standing at the End of the Line" (#37 in 1974) and after recording with several other labels, Lobo was signed to MCA Records in 1979. He released his first US album in four years, Lobo which included his last big hit "Where Were You When I Was Falling In Love," which reached #23 in 1979.
Lobo has remained very active in the industry, as he has built up quite a fan base out of the US and is very popular in Asia. Fanned by this new interest in his music, Lobo released his first new album in 10 years, entitled Am I Going Crazy in 1989, followed by a number of other releases. As recently as 2006, he toured Southeast Asia and in 2008 Lobo released the album Out of Time, which features some of his old favorites and also some new songs and is a tribute album to the original era of the original Lobo recordings. It was made available exclusively from the web site www.fansoflobo.com.
Thomas Gregory Jackson - Tommy James & the Shondells
Thomas Gregory Jackson was not a household name in the late 60s, but his music helped to define an era. As leader of the 1960s pop-rock band Tommy James and the Shondells, his name was synonymous with many of the signature hits of the 1960s including "Hanky Panky" and "Crimson and Clover" (#1 in 1968).
Tommy James grew up in Michigan and played in several bands, forming his first band The Echoes at age eleven. A year later he formed his second band called Tom and the Tornadoes which would later become The Shondells. In 1964, a local DJ in Niles Michigan formed his own record label, Snap Records and the Shondells were one of the local bands that the DJ recorded. One of the cuts was a Jeff Barry/Ellie Greenwich song called "Hanky Panky" which was recorded as The Raindrops. The song was a hit locally, but the label had no resources for national promotion and it was soon forgotten.
In one of rock and roll's true anomalies, in 1965 a DJ in Pittsburg got a hold of a copy of the record and started playing it and listeners went crazy asking where they could get a copy of this new single. So, responding to this demand, a resourceful bootlegger taped the song off the radio and began pressing copies of "Hanky Panky." It's estimated that over 80,000 record were sold, making it the #1 record in the area. DJ "Mad Mike" called Tommy James and told him the record was #1 and that he had to come to Pennsylvania to promote it. Soon, James secured a contract with Roulette Records in New York and by the late summer of 1966, "Hanky Panky" was the top selling single in the nation.
Having to promote the single, James needed a band, but The Shondells had long since broken up. James flew to New York alone and soon hired a local band named The Raconteurs to become the replacement Shondells. They also needed a follow-up song and selected the cut "Say I Am (What I Am)" which reached #21 on the charts later in the same year.
From 1967 to 1969, the group turned out hit after hit on the Roulette label, top ten hits like "I Think We're Alone Now" (#4 in 1967), "Mirage" (#10 in 1967), "Mony Mony" (#3 in 1968) "Ball Of Fire" (#19 in 1969), "Sweet Cherry Wine" (#7 in 1969) and "Crystal Blue Persuasion" (#2 in 1969). James hated to be labeled as a bubble gum rock artist, and therefore, changed his style to psychedelic rock to avoid any more bubble gum images, an image that fit perfectly in the Summer of Love era. Interestingly, Tommy James and the Shondells declined an invitation to play at the Woodstock Festival on the advice of their agent, who felt it would be a career killer. It was... they should have gone.
Tommy James and The Shondells broke up in 1970, partly due to James' drug problems. James then went solo and had two further chart hits with "Draggin' the Line" (#4 in 1971) and "Three Times In Love" (#19 (Adult Contemporary #1) in 1980). James has had twenty three gold singles, and nine gold and platinum albums. He also wrote and produced the million-selling 1970 hit "Tighter, Tighter" for the group Alive 'N Kickin'.
In October 2007, Tommy James and the original Shondells reunited in a New Jersey studio to record once again. Their music is timeless and is remembered as some of the 60s most influential and instantly recognizable songs of the era.
Carmine Granito - Ron Dante - (The Archies and Cuff Links)
Somewhere, in one way or another, you have heard the voice of Carmine Granito; however, you would not recognize that name. If you have ever heard any music by the Cuff Links or the comic book band the Archies, Dante's voice and music can easily be recognized and heck, you might even know all the words!
Carmine Granito was born on August 22, 1945 in Staten Island, New York and a member of the Archies, from 1968 to 1971. He also provided lead vocals for the group The Cuff Links. However, before his tenure with the Archies, Dante was a member of the parody band called The Detergents who recorded the silly cut "Leader of the Laundromat" (a take on the Shangri-Las' 1964 #1 hit "Leader Of The Pack"), a song that reached #19 on the charts in 1964. In addition, he was also a session singer, and sang on many television and commercial jingles including advertisements for Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Coppertone, and American Airlines. He also wrote, recorded and produced a catchy jingle for the breakfast drink Tang.
In 1968, Dante won the spot of lead vocalist for The Archies. However, one of the conditions of his duties was anonymity; Dante's name would not appear on any of the records, or on the credits for the TV show. But Dante did not have any issues with that, on the contrary:
"I lobbied for the job," Dante recalled. "I felt it [The Archies project] was going to be a huge success what with the TV exposure and the people involved. I knew Don Kirshner and [producer] Jeff Barry were hit makers and my sound would be perfect for the show."
From 1968 to 1972, with Ron recording both leads and backgrounds, The Archies released five studio albums, a greatest-hits LP, along with eleven singles. Their third single, "Sugar, Sugar," due in large part to Dante's brilliant vocals and irresistible melody, was the #1 song of 1969 (which beat out "Honky Tonk Women" by the Rolling Stones out of the US #1 spot).
Dante recorded an album in 1969 under the band name of the Cufflinks and providing lead and background vocals through overdubbing, landed a Top Ten single with the song "Tracy" (#9 in 1969). Dante released an LP in 1970 called Ron Dante Brings You Up on Don Kirshner's label and in 1972 convinced Dante to become lead vocalist for another cartoon group, The Chan Clan. Dante also recorded a disco album and in 1981, Dante released his second solo effort Street Angel and from 1973 to 1981, we again heard Dante's voice, and again he was anonymous while singing background for Barry Manilow including the epic hit "Mandy." He also produced Manilow and produced "Heartbreaker" for Pat Benatar.
Dante remains active as a singer, producer, and concert performer record sporadically and released a dance version of "Sugar, Sugar," with Manilow producing in 1975. In 1978, Dante produced the Tony Award winning musical revue Ain't Misbehavin' on Broadway. He has released a few solo efforts including Favorites (1999), Saturday Night Blast (2004) and 2006's California Weekend. Bubblegum pop would have never been the same without Dante's distinctive vocals and catchy songs.
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Article by: Robert Benson
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