Most of us remember the Monkees, a 1960s group that was cobbled together for TV and went on to become a veritable hit machine, eventually rising above its origins to become a respected musical combo. But what you might not remember is how music supervisor Don Kirshner went on to create another pop music success, one that was inspired by a cartoon show spun off from a comic book.
It might sound strange to us now, but when Kirshner was hired to bring music to the cartoon show based on the Archie comics, it seemed to fit right into the inventive pop music scene of the late 1960s. But unlike the Monkees, the Archies became a hit musical group while remaining cartoon characters on the TV screen, even after hitting the top of the charts with “Sugar, Sugar.”
A number of different musicians were used behind the scenes during the run of the show, with lead vocalist Ron Dante fronting and female lead singing duties mostly handled by Jeannie Thomas and later Toni Wine (and later still, Donna Marie). The group’s first record, “Bang Shang-a-Lang,” was a minor hit, but when “Sugar, Sugar” came along a little later it was a sensation. It topped the charts for four weeks and ended up as Billboard’s song of the year for 1969.
The Archies would follow with Top Ten hit “Jingle Jangle,” and a year later with “Sunshine” and “Who’s Your Baby?,” but things slid downhill rapidly after that. More personnel changes ensued, but by the early 1970s the Archies had pretty much become a memory, although some of the participants used the experience as a springboard to later careers — but that’s another story.