|Origin||Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.|
|Past members||Rosetta Hightower
Shirley Brickley (deceased)
Marlena Davis (deceased)
Audrey Brickley (deceased)
The Orlons are an American R&B group from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania that formed in 1960. The group won gold discs for three of their singles which sold over a million copied. In 2010, the Orlons became one of first US Top 100-charting groups to have a career spanning 50 years.
The quartet consisted of lead singer Rosetta Hightower (born June 23, 1944), Shirley Brickley (born December 9, 1944), Marlena Davis (born October 4, 1944) and Stephen Caldwell (born November 22, 1942).
Before they became the Orlons, they were an all-girl quintet called Audrey and the Teenettes. They formed in the late 1950s in junior high school and consisted of Hightower, Davis, and three Brickley sisters: Shirley, Jean, and Audrey. However, after the Brickleys' mother did not permit 13-year-old Audrey to sing in certain clubs with the group, she and Jean quit, making the group a trio.
In high school, the group's three remaining members discovered fellow student Stephen Caldwell, who was lead singer of a local group called the Romeos. Impressed, they invited him to join the group in 1960 and named themselves the Orlons as a tongue-in-cheek nod to the friendly rivalry they had with a popular group at their high school, the Cashmeres. (Orlon was a brand name for the widely used synthetic fibre acrylic.)
A high school friend, Dovells lead singer Len Barry, encouraged them to audition for Cameo-Parkway Records at the turn of the decade. The group took his advice in the fall of 1961, but were rejected at first, although the record label signed the group after two more auditions. Cameo executive Dave Appell appointed Hightower as the lead singer, and began writing songs for them.
Before rising to fame with their first national hit, "The Wah-Watusi," which reached No. 2 in the U.S. pop chart, the group provided back-up vocals for Dee Dee Sharp's hits "Mashed Potato Time" and "Gravy (for My Mashed Potatoes)." They recorded their own versions of those songs for their debut album, The Wah-Watusi which received a rating of 4.5 out of 5 by Allmusic in 2006. They had a second hit in the same year with "Don't Hang Up", a No. 4 hit on the pop chart. They had their third, and last, Top Ten hit in 1963, with the single "South Street", which reached No. 3 in the pop chart.
Davis left the group in August 1963 and Caldwell quit the group in 1964, Sandy Person replaced Davis. A short-lived stint by Yvonne Young was followed by original Teenette, Audrey Brickley, Shirley's sister. By then, the group's popularity had waned in the United States due to misdirection of their record company, Cameo Records. They continued to perform into the late 1960s with success in the UK. They disbanded in 1968 after Hightower decided to stay in England after a tour. Hightower had (and still has) a successful career as a soloist and as an in-demand session singer, backing Joe Cocker, John Holt and other popular artists. She married record producer Ian Green.
In later years, Davis married and found work as an executive secretary, whilst Caldwell became a shop steward of the bus drivers' trade union, and then became the administrator of the union's legal fund in Philadelphia and served on the Philadelphia Board of Education for 29 years. In 1988, Caldwell and Davis re-formed the group with two new members and performed live on the oldies circuit until Davis' death in 1993.
On October 13, 1977, Shirley Brickley was shot to death by an intruder in her home in Philadelphia. Davis lost a battle with lung cancer on February 27, 1993 (age 48). Audrey Brickley died of acute respiratory distress syndrome on July 3, 2005 (aged 58). Stephen and Jean Brickley still perform as The Orlons with two of Stephen's cousins, Albreta Crump and Madeline Morris.
In March 2012, Stephen Caldwell and Jean Brickley took part in the benefit single, "Mull of Kintyre", featuring Charlie Gracie with Clutch Cargo.
(Chart positions and featured charted hits in parentheses)
- 1962: The Wah-Watusi—Cameo C-1020 (U.S. No. 80) ("The Wah-Watusi")
- 1963: All the Hits by the Orlons—Cameo C-1033 ("Don't Hang Up")
- 1963: South Street—Cameo C-1041 (Billboard No. 123) ("South Street")
- 1963: Not Me—Cameo C-1054 ("Not Me")
- 1963: Down Memory Lane—Cameo C-1073
Three of The Orlons' charted hits made their LP debuts on the following Cameo-Parkway "Various Artists" compilations:
- 1963: It's Dance Time—Cameo C-1068 ("Crossfire!")
- 1964: Shindig With The Stars—Wyncote W (Mono)/SW (Stereo)-9053 ("Bon Doo Wah")
- 1965: Hullabaloo With The Stars—Wyncote W/SW-9080 ("Rules Of Love")
- 1963: Biggest Hits—Cameo C-1061
- 1963: Golden Hits—Cameo C-1067 (Duet compilation with the Dovells)
- 2005: The Best of The Orlons (Abkco compilation under series title: "Cameo Parkway 1961-1966")
- 1961: "I'll Be True" / "Heart Darling Angel"—Cameo 198
- 1962: "(Happy Birthday) Mr. Twenty-One" / "Please Let It Be"—Cameo 211
- 1962: "The Wah-Watusi" (U.S. No. 2) / "Holiday Hill"—Cameo 218
- 1962: "Don't Hang Up" (U.S. No. 4; UK No. 39) / "The Conservative"—Cameo 231
- 1963: "South Street" (U.S. No. 3) / "Them Terrible Boots"—Cameo 243
- 1963: "Not Me" (U.S. No. 12) / "My Best Friend"—Cameo 257
- 1963: "Crossfire!" (U.S. No. 19) / "It's No Big Thing"—Cameo 273
- 1963: "Bon-Doo-Wah" (U.S. No. 55) / "Don't Throw Your Love Away"—Cameo 287
- 1964: "Shimmy Shimmy" (U.S. No. 66) / "Everything Nice"—Cameo 295
- 1964: "Rules of Love" (U.S. No. 66) / "Heartbreak Hotel"—Cameo 319
- 1964: "Knock Knock (Who's There)" (U.S. No. 64) / "Goin' Places"—Cameo 332
- 1964: "I Ain't Coming Back" / "Envy (In My Eyes)"—Cameo 346
- 1964: "Come On Down Baby" / "I Ain't Coming Back"—Cameo 352
- 1964: "Don't You Want My Lovin'" / "I Can't Take It"—Cameo 372
- 1964: "No One But Your Love" / "Envy (In My Eyes)"—Cameo 384
- "Biography by Ron Wynn". Allmusic.com. Retrieved March 8, 2009.
- "The Orlons". Archive.org. Retrieved 2012-04-18.
- Album Coverage @ Allmusic.com Retrieved June 2009
- Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. pp. 149 & 164. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
- Allmusic.com - Charts & Awards (albums)
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 410. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.