The Detergents – “Leader of the Laundromat”


Introduction to the Detergents

Specializing in comic parodies, the Detergents were a 1960s group whose record “Leader of the Laundromat” entered the Top 20 in 1965. The group comprised of Ronnie (Ron) Dante, Danny Jordan and Tommy Wynn — all had worked for Aldon Music. Paul Vance, who happened to be Jordan’s uncle, approached the three young lads to record a song called “Leader of the Laundromat” as the Detergents; Vance as well as Lee Pockriss wrote the song and would also serve as the producer. When “Leader of the Laundromat” was released in 1965, it became a Top 20 hit. The group also recorded and released another single called “Double-O-Seven,” which reached at the near-bottom of the Hot 100 in 1965.

The formation of the Detergents

The Detergents were formed in New York City, New York in 1964. The group consisted of Ron Dante, Danny Jordan and Tommy Wynn. The Detergents might have some backing to get into the recording business because Jordan’s uncle, Paul Vance, was one of their producers.

Jordan had actually cut a novelty record before in 1960 entitled “Just Couldn’t Resist Her with Her Pocket Transistor” which sounds akin Brian Hyland’s frivoulous 1960 hit “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini.” After this, Jordan took up a job as a staff writer and session vocalist for Aldon Music, owned by Don Kirshner. There Jordan met Dante and Wynn who both also had the same job like his. The three boys were all just teeners at that time but they were already writing their own material together. They actually wrote songs planned for their own act The Cabins, but Jordan’s uncle Vance had other ideas for them.

“Leader of the Laundromat”

It was Vance who wanted the three boys, now christened as The Detergents, to record “Leader of the Laundromat,” which was written and produced by Vance himself and Lee Pockriss — the same duo who composed “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini.” “Leader of the Laundromat” was The Detergent’s satirical version of the Shangri-La’s current hit at that time, “Leader of the Pack” whose story concerns a girl dating the head of a motorcyle gang. In the “Leader of the Laundromat,” the role is reversed where the guy is going out with the leader of a laundromat.

“Leader of the Laundromat” paced the Billboard Hot 100 charts in 1965, reaching its peak at #19. The release of the single preceded the release of the Detergents’ debut album, The Many Faces of the Detergents, which contained other silly pastiches of the current rock and pop hits of that era. The success of the song prompted the composers of “Leader of the Pack” — Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich and George “Shadow” Morton — to file a lawsuit against the Detergents. The matter was later settled out-of-court.

Later singles and projects after the Detergents

The Detergents had some other few singles such as “Double-O-Seven” (satirizing James Bond) which charted at #89 on the Hot 100, and “I Can Never Eat at Home Anymore” (parodying the Shangri-La’s again, “I Can Never Go Home Anymore”).

In seems that all was forgiven and forgotten in 1968 when Dante collaborated with Jeff Barry as the lead singer for the fictional music group The Archies. Dante also sang lead vocals for another non-existent group The Cuff Links, whose top 10 hit song “Tracy” was also written by Vance and Pockriss. After The Detergents, Ron Dante made another career as singer of several TV ad jingles and eventually worked as a record producer.

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