I’ve always enjoyed a good ‘answer’ or ‘response’ song, a special type of piece that’s sometimes put together following a hit record. It’s something that has always been especially popular in country music — examples include records by Goldie Hill and Kitty Wells — but it occurs in pop music too. One of the cleverest was a comeback to the Shangri-Las’ 1964 monster hit, “Leader of the Pack.” It was recorded by a group calling itself the Detergents, which was part of the fun because the song was titled “Leader of the Laundromat.”
Not surprisingly, the whole thing was a well-planned and deliberate process that began with the veteran songwriting duo of Lee Pockriss and Paul Vance, who’d already had plenty of success by writing songs like “Catch a Falling Star” and “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polkadot Bikini.” The twosome saw the Shangri-Las’ big hit as a golden opportunity, and proceeded to write a witty spoof.
To transfer their vision to a record, the songwriters put together a trio that included Vance’s nephew Danny Jordan, Tommy Wynn, and Ron Dante (who would later find success elsewhere, including as the lead singer with the cartoon group The Archies on “Sugar, Sugar”). Since the song was about the “Leader of the Laundromat,” the group was christened the Detergents, and the record was made and issued. Although it didn’t quite make the Top Ten, it was a solid success.
It might surprise you to learn that the Detergents actually hung around for a while, recording enough songs to fill an album while also appearing on stage and in a movie. But even though the guys sold a few records with songs like the James Bond spoof “Double-O-Seven,” it wasn’t too long before the Detergents began to dissolve, and the group eventually circled the drain in pop music.