No entertainer can move and excite an audience like Tony Orlando. He is one of America’s most endearing and enduring star
Tony recently finished filming a star cameo in Billy Bob Thorton’s Wakin Up In Reno, to be released this April, in which he sings Knock Three Times. In October he recorded a pop /dance version of Knock Three Times with Deborah Gibson which will be released on her new album in February The alternative rock group Yo La Tango released the song Let’s Save Tony Orlando’s House.
The subject of a 1998 VH1 BehindThe Music, Tony’s episode is one of the highest rated series and continues to air this day. (90 airings as of December 2000 In 1999 Tony returned to Broadway in the hit musical Smokey Joe’s Café featuring the music of Lieber and Stoller. Tony Orlando brings to the stage a warmth and exhilarating energy that electrifies an audience. From million selling records (five number one hits), a popular television variety series, movies and Broadway, Tony Orlando has conquered every facet of show business. Orlando, born and raised in New York City, began hitting the national charts at the age of 16 with Halfway To Paradise and Bless You as the first vocal artist to sign with Epic Records. He later routed his musical career to the non-performance side and became one of the youngest vice-presidents for CBS Records, heading their April-Blackwood music label. Through no plans of his own, Tony was coaxed into putting his voice on a demo record for a song titled Candida for his friends Mark Meddress and Dave Appell at Bell Records. The record was released under the name of the record promotion director’s daughter, Dawn.
“I think it is really the rule of show business that every big break you get, you back into it without knowing it at the time. A few weeks after recording Candida I had forgotten all about it. And then Hank Neddress calls me and says ‘Hey man, we’ve got a hit.’ The crazy thing was the song kept climbing the charts till it hit number one,” said Orlando. Hoping lightning would strike again Medress had Orlando record Knock Three Times. The song not only became number one, it was the top song of 1971, selling over six million copies world wised. The immense popularity of the song is still evident today. Tony’s recording of the song was featured in the hit movie Now and Then.
Realizing it was probably safe to give up his successful career at CBS Records, Tony decided to jump full force into what was already a meteoric rise to the top. Along with Thelma Hopkins and Joyce Vincent Wilson, Tony Orlando and Dawn became an international success.
Amazingly enough, Tony hadn’t, even begun to scratch even begun to scratch the surface of his stardom. In 1973 he recoded Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The ole Oak Tree. The song was number one for the year, became Orlando’s theme song and grew into an American anthem of hope and homecoming, reunion and renewal.
A string of hits continued including Sweet Gypsy Rose, He don’t Love You, Who’s In The Strawberry Patch With Sally, Cupid, Steppin Out (Gonna Boogie Tonight) and Mornin Beautiful.
Orlando then set his sights on television which resulted in his highly rated weekly variety series on CBS. Breaking new ground, it was the first multi-ethnic variety show on television. Orlando of Hispanic and Greek origins and Hopkins and Wilson, African Americans, were an instant hit.
The show, which ran for four seasons, welcomed the biggest names in show business each week as Tony’s guests, including his boyhood idols, Jackie Gleason and Jerry Lewis.
The friendship forged by Orlando and Lewis was a strong one. Tony has guested on Jerry’s Labor Day Telethon for 23 years, nine of those as the New York host. Orlando and Lewis also teamed for an unforgettable series of shows in the early 1990’s, taking the stage at the Las Vegas Hilton and Riviera hotels. Only two other entertainers share the distinction of performing with Lewis, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr.
Like a painter, Tony is an artist who steps onto a stage as if it were a blank canvas. Each show he weaves colorful emotions set to music touching the deepest part of a person’s heart.
Orlando remains one of America’s best loved personalities. He has been a recipient of three American Awards and a People’s Choice Award. For his outstanding achievements to the entertainment industry, Tony was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1990.
Tony has played to packed arenas and for five Presidents. His universal appeal has bridged many a generation gap.
Since 1993, Orlando has been a resident of Branson, Missouri where he has performed close to 2,000 shows. Tony has been named Branson’s Entertainer and Vocalist of the Year many times.
Orlando has a wife Francine, a daughter Jenny Rose and a son Jon.