Today I woke up to the sad news that Dante Rossi passed away.

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Dante Rossi with author Joe Milliken. January, 2019.

I had the pleasure of meeting Dante in Cleveland less than six months ago, where he was hale and hearty (and very charming!) and having the time of his life. We were all gathered to celebrate the release of the book, Let’s Go! Benjamin Orr and The Cars. Dante played a significant role in Ben’s career back in Ohio in the 1960s, and it was fitting for him to shine in the spotlight at that event. Many of us were eager to thank him for his music, his meaningful relationship with Ben, and for coming and honoring Ben’s memory with us.

Dante was the vocalist and rhythm guitar player who originally started The Grasshoppers, securing Joe Mayer as manager and lining up a record deal for the band. When he decided to leave the group in 1964, it opened the door for Ben to audition to take Dante’s place. As we now know, Ben got the job, and the popularity, exposure, and experience of playing with The Grasshoppers were instrumental in helping Ben achieve his rock-and-roll dreams.

As for Dante, he joined up with another group of great musicians and formed The Dantes, which were renamed The Tulu Babies before ultimately settling in under the name The Baskerville Hounds. Between 1964 and 1972 the Hounds (as they were sometimes known) revelled in much local and national success, playing extensively in the greater Cleveland area and opening for such acts as The Rolling Stones and Sonny & Cher. In turn, The Baskerville Hounds had acts like The Shangri-Las, The Tree Stumps (featuring Michael Stanley) and The Grasshoppers open for them during the peak of their popularity.

The first hit for the guys was recorded in 1965 while they were still The Tulu Babies. It was called “Hurtin’ Kind” and not only was it a local smash, but it was popular in the UK as well, being covered by many British acts and even appearing in the soundtrack for the 2000 film Gangster No. 1 starring Malcolm MacDowell.

In 1967, the fame of The Baskerville Hounds continued to climb with the release of their self-titled album, which featured two singles that put them on the Billboard Hot 100 chart: “Debbie,” (#99) and “Space Rock part 2” (#60). The popularity of the latter track was reinforced when it was played so often on Cleveland’s hit television show Ghoulardi it became an unofficial theme song. The Hounds had a third song grace the Billboard chart in 1969 when they released “Hold Me” (#88).

[I’ve been listening to many of their songs today as I write this. If you’d like to explore their sound, the playlist I’ve created should help you get started.]

The band ultimately dissolved in 1972 (though there would be some reunions in later years) and Dante changed professions, opening Dante’s Barber Shop near Ben’s childhood home in Parma Heights. Dante and Ben stayed close long after Ben left Cleveland and hit it big with The Cars, and Dante was one of the speakers at Ben’s memorial service in 2000.

Dante said in Let’s Go!, “When The Cars finally got their record deal, I remember being invited to a Christmas party at Benny’s mother’s house and everyone was just so proud. Benny was thrilled; he just sparkled! All the hard work and fighting through adversity had finally paid off. Think about all the talented musicians out there that never make it, never end up being heard, but Benny had the tenacity and determination to see it through, and I couldn’t have been more thrilled for him.”

I’m so grateful I got to meet Dante in person and shake his hand; I’m thankful I got to tell him how much I appreciated all he did for Ben. It’s comforting to think that Dante and Ben may now be reunited and rocking together in their prime. May it be so.

Rest in peace, Dante Rossi.

[If you’d like to leave a note of condolence for Dante’s family, you may do so through Legacy.com.]

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L-R: Bill Emery, John Kirkpatrick, Larry Meese, Dante Rossi (seated), Doug McCutcheon, 1965.  From the Baskerville Hounds’ official website.

Main Sources:

  1. Dante Rossi’s contributions to Let’s Go! Benjamin Orr and The Cars by Joe Milliken.
  2. This great interview at History of the West Park Neighborhood with Baskerville Hounds member Doug McCutcheon.
  3. The Baskerville Hounds’ official website.
  4. The band’s Wikipedia page, of course.

 

4 thoughts on “Rest in peace, Dante Rossi.

  1. Thanks for the article, Donna. Dante… thanks for your music, your kindness and contributions to my book, and your friendship and loyalty to Benny! Please tell him what we’ve done for him… while we praise you now. Rest in Peace

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Dear Donna,
      Thank you for sharing these sad news.
      My thoughts go to Dante’s family and loved ones and like you dear friend , I would like to think and imagine that now Dante and Benjamin are rocking it together in their prime. What a wonderful image that is 🙂 ❤
      I am also sure Dante would be telling Ben how much he is still loved and remembered and how new fans are finding their way to his music and all that you and Joe have done to honour his memory and how many of Benjamin's friends have contributed with their stories in the wonderful biography.
      Hugs to you all,

      Tia

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This article and the out pour of love for my father has been so very heartwarming to myself and his other daughters. We truly appreciate all the kind words and the amazing stories. Our father will be greatly missed by so many, and I do hope our Father and Benny are jamming up there 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

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