As Tony Orlando told us Tuesday Night at The Arcada Theatre, he has spent the past 58 years of his life in show business. Some artists last 58 days ... some 58 minutes ... but Orlando has been able to sustain a successful career doing what he loves best ... and that longevity is not lost on him as he looks back over a pretty remarkable career.
Tony had his first chart hit at the ripe old age of 17 in 1961 when "Halfway To Paradise" (#17 Cash Box / #39 Billboard) and "Bless You" (#11 Music Vendor / #15 Billboard) reached The National Top 20. (In fact, Forgotten Hits Favorite Bobby Darin was an early mentor.)
First marketed as a teen idol, Orlando wouldn't have another Top 20 Hit for nearly ten years. (As a "ghost vocalist" on the 1969 hit "Make Believe," released under the band name Wind, he would hit #17 in Record World / #28 in Billboard) ... and he filled those in-between years working in other areas of the record business to make ends meet and keep his foot in the door, singing jingles, doing promotional work for the labels (and a guy by the name of Clive Davis) and helping young artists get their start in show business. (Barry Manilow, anyone???)
Along the way, he pretty much learned all the ins and outs of the record business ... but NOTHING could have prepared him for the success he would enjoy after teaming up with two young soulful background singers, Telma Hopkins and Joyce Vincent, in the group Dawn. (When asked after the concert how they came up with the name "Dawn," Tony explained that it was a very calculated move. They had learned that one of the big record company executives at Bell Records, who had signed the group, had a daughter named Dawn ... and they figured that if their band also had that same name, he just might push a little bit harder to make them successful.)
It worked. Their first two singles, "Candida"* (1970) and "Knock Three Times"* (1971) both went straight to #1, selling millions of copies. More Top 20 Hits followed ("I Play And Sing," #20, 1971; "Summer Sand," #19, 1971; "Say, Has Anybody Seen My Sweet Gypsy Rose*," #3, 1973; "Who's In The Strawberry Patch With Sally," #13, 1973; "Steppin' Out (Gonna Boogie Tonight)," #7, 1974; "Look In My Eyes Pretty Woman," #11, 1975; "Mornin' Beautiful," #14, 1975 along with two more #1 Hits, "Tie A Yellow Ribbon 'Round The Ole Oak Tree*" (1973) and "He Don't Love You (Like I Love You")*, 1975. They also hosted a very successful hit television variety series, which ran from 1974 to 1976.
The trio split up in 1977 and have only done a handful of reunion shows since ... but this full-blown reunion was woven around a Christmas Program Theme. (In fact, a good 80% of the songs featured Tuesday Night was Holiday Music.) [Songs shown above with an asterisk* were the hits from their own catalog that they performed Tuesday Night.]
Telma Hopkins, who has never really been off television since ... and will be starring in TWO new Netflix series next year, said that their debut program attracted an incredible 39 million viewers! And Joyce Vincent, who probably had the strongest and most consistent vocals throughout the night's performance, just got back from England where she now performs as a member of the current line-up of The Supremes ... having come full circle after singing background vocals on SO many Motown hits of the day back in the late 1960's.
We've seen Tony Orlando a couple of times before and he always puts on an entertaining show ... the guy's a seasoned pro ... so there was no way we were going to risk missing what likely will be a once-in-a-lifetime reunion at this stage of the game. (They had a ball ... I kept thinking that they should have filmed the entire show to air as a Christmas special on television ... it would have been a welcome return for such a prime act ... and probably a ratings bonanza!)
VERY special thanks to Arcada CEO Ron Onesti for having us as his guests for this very special, one-of-a-kind performance ... and to Arcada Theatre House Photographer Luciano Billotti for sharing these great photos with our readers from this very special event. (kk)