Tony Orlando

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Tony Orlando
Orlando in 2022
Orlando in 2022
Background information
Birth nameMichael Anthony Orlando Cassavitis
Born (1944-04-03) April 3, 1944 (age 80)
New York City, U.S.
  • Singer
  • songwriter
  • producer
  • actor
Years active1958–2024

Michael Anthony Orlando Cassavitis (born April 3, 1944) is an American pop/rock[1] singer, songwriter, and music executive whose career spans over seven decades. He is best known for his work as part of Tony Orlando and Dawn.

In 1993, he opened the Tony Orlando Yellow Ribbon Music Theatre in Branson, Missouri. He ended his act there in 2013 and has since continued to perform many live shows as a headliner, mostly in Las Vegas, Nevada.[2]

Early life[edit]

Michael Anthony Orlando Cassavitis was born on April 3, 1944, the son of a Greek father and a Puerto Rican mother. He spent his earliest years in Chelsea, Manhattan on West 21st St]], New York City.[3] In his teenage years, the family moved to Union City, New Jersey, and later Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey.[4]


Orlando's musical career started with The Five Gents, a doo-wop group he formed in 1959 at age 15, with whom he recorded demo tapes. He got the attention of music publisher and producer Don Kirshner, who hired him to write songs in an office across from New York's Brill Building, along with Carole King, Neil Sedaka, Toni Wine, Barry Mann, Bobby Darin, Connie Francis, and Tom and Jerry, who didn't make it in the office until they changed their name to Simon and Garfunkel.[5]

Kirshner also hired Orlando to record songwriter demos as a solo artist, and his first success came at the age of 16 when he charted in North America and UK with the hits "Bless You" and "Halfway To Paradise".[5] He also appeared at the Brooklyn Paramount Theater with DJ Murray the K.[6] Orlando also had four records that "Bubbled Under" the Hot 100: "Chills" in 1962, "Shirley" and "I'll Be There" in 1963, and "I Was A Boy (When You Needed A Man)" as by Billy Shields in April 1969.[7] Gerry Goffin and Jack Keller wrote a doo-wop version of Stephen Foster's song "Beautiful Dreamer" for Orlando. Released as a single in 1962,[8] the song was picked up by the Beatles who included it in their set lists on the Beatles Winter 1963 Helen Shapiro Tour;[9] a recorded version was released on their 2013 album On Air – Live at the BBC Volume 2. New Colony Six recorded an Orlando composition, "I'm Just Waitin' (Anticipatin' For Her To Show Up)", which charted locally in Chicago and "Bubbled Under" the Hot 100 in July 1967.[citation needed]

April-Blackwood period

Orlando continued as a solo artist and also became a producer himself, as well as a successful music executive in the late 1960s. In 1967, Clive Davis hired Orlando as general manager of Columbia Records publishing subsidiary April-Blackwood Music.[citation needed] Earlier general managers for the publishing entity include David Kapralik who stepped into the position in 1964,[10] and stayed until early 1965.[11] During Kapralik's period, Van McCoy was employed as a staff writer.[10]

By the late 1960s, Orlando had worked his way up to vice president of a larger publishing company, CBS Music, where he signed, co-wrote with, and produced Barry Manilow (under the name "Featherbed"). He also worked with other artists, such as The Yardbirds; James Taylor; Grateful Dead; Blood, Sweat & Tears; Barry Manilow, and Laura Nyro.[5][12][13][14] In the summer of 1969, he recorded with the studio group Wind and had a #28 hit that year with "Make Believe" on producer Bo Gentry's Life Records. Orlando was experiencing success, primarily as a music executive, and Davis pretended not to notice when Orlando accepted a $3,000 advance and sang lead vocals on a song called "Candida" as a favor for two producer friends. If the record failed, Orlando didn't want it to affect his reputation, so the producers, Hank Medress and Dave Appel used the pseudonym Dawn. The name was based on the daughter of label Vice President Steve Wax, in hopes of getting more promotion for the single.[15][16]

Further activities

When the song "Candida" became an international number-one song, he began to use his name in the group becoming "Dawn featuring Tony Orlando" and then "Tony Orlando and Dawn". The group had 19 other top 40 tracks, including "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree", the top-selling hit of 1973 and one of the biggest selling singles of all time. The group also had a hit variety program, The Tony Orlando and Dawn Show on CBS from 1974 to 1976.[17] They then broke-up in 1977, after which he has performed as Tony Orlando.

Orlando retired from performing on the road, in concert in 2024, after sixty four years. He shifted his focus to movies, broadway, streaming new product, and writing his next book. [18]

Tony Orlando and Dawn[edit]

Performing in 1974 alongside Telma Hopkins
Dancing with First Lady Betty Ford after a state dinner at the White House in 1976

Orlando recorded "Candida" with backup singers including Toni Wine (who wrote the song) and Linda November. Concerned about a possible conflict of interest with his April-Blackwood duties, Orlando sang under the condition that his name not be associated with the project, so it was released under the simple name of "Dawn", the middle name of the daughter of Bell records executive Steve Wax.[19]

"Candida" became a worldwide hit in 1970, reaching number one in five countries, and the top ten in many others, including number three in the United States.[20] Dawn, with Wine and November again singing backup, recorded another song, "Knock Three Times", which itself became a #1 hit. Orlando then wanted to go on tour, and asked two other session singers, Telma Hopkins and Joyce Vincent Wilson to join for the tour. Orlando then discovered that there were six touring groups using that name, so Dawn became "Dawn featuring Tony Orlando", which changed to Tony Orlando and Dawn in 1973.

The new group recorded more hits, including "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree" (1973) and "He Don't Love You (Like I Love You)" (1975), a cover of the Jerry Butler hit, "He Will Break Your Heart". With a successful recording career, Orlando then set his sights on television. As described in the San Francisco Chronicle, "Tony Orlando and Dawn burst out of television sets during the Ford administration, a sunny antidote to the dark cynicism that followed Watergate. He represented simple, traditional values, a conservative return to pure entertainment. He drew a happy face in the "O" of his autograph. It was not terribly cool, but America loved him."[6] The Tony Orlando and Dawn Show on CBS became a hit, a summer replacement for the Sonny & Cher show, and ran for three seasons from 1974 to 1976.[21] It welcomed the biggest names in show business each week as Orlando's guests, including his boyhood idols, Jackie Gleason and Jerry Lewis.

On October 12, 2015, with Telma Hopkins and Joyce Vincent Wilson present, Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters honored Orlando with their Art Gilmore Career Achievement Award at a celebrity luncheon.

Late 1970s struggles and solo work[edit]

Along with the fame, Orlando had personal battles in the 1970s. He was briefly addicted to cocaine, and battled both obesity and depression. In 1977, due to the death of his sister and the suicide of Orlando's close friend, comedian Freddie Prinze, Orlando had a breakdown and retired from singing.[22][23] He was briefly institutionalized, but returned to television with an NBC comeback special. From then, he continued as a solo artist, charting with two singles – the dance hit "Don't Let Go" in 1978 and "Sweets for My Sweet" in 1979. In the 1980s, he was a dominant force in Las Vegas, headlining various hotels with sold-out audiences.[24]

Orlando continued primarily as a solo singer, performing on tour and regularly in Las Vegas and Branson, Missouri.[25] He hosted the New York City portions of the MDA Labor Day Telethon on WWOR-TV since the 1980s but quit in 2011 in response to Jerry Lewis' firing from the Muscular Dystrophy Association. He has won the Casino Entertainer of the Year Award, the Best All Around Entertainer – Las Vegas four times, and, prior to that, three times in Atlantic City, the Jukebox Artist of the Year Award from the Amusement and Music Owners Association of New York, The Ellis Island Medal of Honor, and has also been bestowed with The Bob Hope Award for excellence in entertainment from the Congressional Medal of Honor Society in honor of his efforts on behalf of United States veterans. His work on behalf of American veterans led to his being named Honorary Chairman at the 40th Anniversary at the NAM-POW's Homecoming Celebration at the Richard M. Nixon Presidential Library in 2014.[3]

In 2020, Orlando began hosting a Saturday night oldies program for WABC Radio as the New York City station partially restored its music format.[26]

Acting career[edit]

Orlando (left) and Freddie Prinze in Chico and the Man (1976)

Orlando's first TV appearance was in 1976 on the series Chico and the Man as "Tomas Garcia".

Orlando starred in the 1981 TV movie 300 Miles For Stephanie, playing a police officer who promises to walk over 300 miles to a sanctuary in order to obtain God's help to cure Stephanie, his gravely ill daughter. Others in the cast included Edward James Olmos, Pepe Serna and Julie Carmen.[citation needed]

In May 1981, Orlando appeared on Broadway in the title role of Barnum, replacing Jim Dale, who was on a three-week vacation.

During the 1984–85 season of The Cosby Show (its first season), Orlando played Tony Castillo, who runs a community center. He also had a cameo, appearing as himself in the 2002 film Waking Up In Reno, in which he sang a version of "Knock Three Times".[citation needed]

In 2003, Orlando had a recurring role in the children's animated series Oswald, in which he did the voice of "Sammy Starfish".

Orlando appeared in an episode of MADtv doing a sketch involving a court case, where the defense sings to persuade the jury about their side. He sang for the prosecution, thereby persuading the judge to give the defense jail for life. In another television program, Orlando was featured in "Larry the Cable Guy's Star Studded Christmas Extravaganza".[27] He appeared in That's My Boy as Steve Spirou, a Happy Madison production starring Adam Sandler in 2012.

Support for veterans[edit]

Orlando is a longtime advocate for U.S. military veterans and "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree" has become an anthem for service members.[28][29][30]

Orlando serves on the board of directors for the Eisenhower Foundation, as well as honorary chairman of Snowball Express, an organization that serves the children of fallen military heroes.[3]

He hosts the annual Congressional Medal of Honor dinner in Dallas. He has served as the master of ceremonies at the Secretary of Defense Freedom Awards at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.[21][31]

Personal life[edit]

Orlando was introduced by Jerry Lee Lewis to his future wife, Elaine, who had previously dated Buddy Holly. Tony and Elaine married in 1965, and had one child, Jon; they divorced in 1984. Five years later, Orlando was engaged to Francine Amormino, whom he married on April 29, 1990.[3][23] The couple remained married as of 2021; they have one child.[6][32]

On February 27, 2013, his mother, Ruth Schroeder of Hollister, Missouri, died in Branson, Missouri[33] of a diabetic stroke.[34]

In 2002, he wrote a memoir, Halfway to Paradise with Patsi Bale Cox.[35][36]

Orlando was interviewed on The 700 Club explaining that he was raised Catholic and was "brought up with the Lord as my Savior"; but after a self-destructive period following his professional success with Dawn, he became a born-again Christian in 1978.[37]

In 1990, Orlando received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6385 Hollywood Blvd.[38]



  • Bless You and 11 Other Great Hits (1961)
  • Make Believe (1969) (with 'Wind')
  • Before Dawn (1973)
  • Tony Orlando (1978)
  • I Got Rhythm (1979)
  • Livin' for the Music (1980)
  • Halfway to Paradise: The Complete Epic Masters 1961–1964 (2006)
  • Bless You (2014)

Solo singles

  • "Halfway to Paradise" (1961) US #39, CB #17
  • "Bless You" (1961) US #15, CB #17 UK #5[39]
  • "Happy Times (Are Here To Stay)" (1961) US #82, CB #76
  • "Chills" (1962) US #109, CB #111
  • "At the Edge of Tears" (1962) CB #146
  • "Shirley" (1963) US #133, CB #109
  • "I'll Be There" (1963) US #124, CB #123
  • "What Am I Gonna Do" (1963) CB #tag
  • "Tell Me What Can I Do" (1964) CB #147
  • "To Wait For Love" (1964) CB #119
  • "I Was A Boy" (1969) US #109, CB #89 (as Billy Shields)
  • "Make Believe" (1969) US #28, CB #18 (with 'Wind')
  • "I'll Hold Out My Hand" (1969) CB #114 (with 'Wind')
  • "Don't Let Go" (1978) Dance #27,[40] AC #48
  • "Sweets for My Sweet" (1979) US #54, CB #55, AC #20

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Tony Orlando Songs, Albums, Reviews, Bio & More". AllMusic.
  2. ^ Berk, Dr. Nancy (August 17, 2018). "Music Legend Tony Orlando's Full-Circle Moments in Vegas". Parade. Retrieved June 3, 2023.
  3. ^ a b c d Webb, Pennylynn (November 2, 2018). "An American icon Tony Orlando is still knocking". Palestine Herald-Press. Retrieved March 14, 2022.
  4. ^ Ervolino, Bill (May 12, 2011). "Tony Orlando to perform in Morristown". The Bergen Record. Retrieved May 17, 2011.
  5. ^ a b c "From chart-topping teen to music executive, Tony Orlando has done it all". Reno Gazette-Journal. February 28, 2017.[dead link]
  6. ^ a b c Selvin, Joel (December 15, 1989). "Tony Orlando looking for respect". San Francisco Chronicle.
  7. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1992). Joel Whitburn's bubbling under the hot 100 (1959–1985). Record Research, Inc. p. 138. ISBN 978-0-8982-0082-9.
  8. ^ "Record Details". 45cat. Retrieved August 3, 2012.
  9. ^ Lewisohn, Mark (1996). The Complete Beatles Chronicle. Bounty Books. p. 98. ISBN 978-0-7607-0327-4.
  10. ^ a b Gross, Mike (October 10, 1964). "A-B Mapping Triple Threat Invasion: Theater, TV, Films". Billboard. p. 4. Retrieved June 3, 2023.
  11. ^ "A-B Makes Change in Staff" (PDF). Billboard. January 23, 1965. p. 4. Retrieved June 3, 2023.
  12. ^ Conner, Shawn (April 6, 2016). "Q&A: Tony Orlando talks the Beatles, Elvis, and Meghan Trainor". Vancouver Sun. Retrieved June 3, 2023.
  13. ^ Freeman, Paul (February 16, 2012). "Knock 3 times if you want Tony Orlando". San Jose Mercury News. Retrieved June 3, 2023.
  14. ^ "Featherbed Featuring Barry Manilow – Could It Be Magic". Retrieved February 8, 2018.
  15. ^ Knopper, Steve (July 23, 2015). "Tony Orlando still hasn't needed that backup career option, despite his mother's advice". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved February 8, 2018.
  16. ^ On the October 3, 1970, edition of "American Top 40", Casey Kasem claimed that the name of the lead singer on "Candida" was "Frankie Spanelli".
  17. ^ "The Dawning of a Legend: Tony Orlando puts 'blood, sweat and tears' into shows". The Entertainer! Magazine. January 31, 2017.[dead link]
  18. ^ "Tony Orlando Sets Farewell Tour". Billboard.
  19. ^ Warner, Jay (1992). American singing groups: a history from 1940 to today. Billboard Books. ISBN 978-0-6340-9978-6.
  20. ^ "'Candida' by Dawn – Classic Hit or Miss". WFGR. October 21, 2013. Retrieved June 3, 2023.
  21. ^ a b "An Evening with Tony Orlando – March 24 – Seminole Casino Immokalee". Jay Goldberg Events & Entertainment. Retrieved February 8, 2018.
  22. ^ Roger, John (July 26, 1998). "For Tony Orlando, road to Branson has been a thrill". St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
  23. ^ a b Nolasco, Stephanie (April 20, 2021). "Tony Orlando recalls how faith helped him cope with personal tragedies: 'I was ashamed of disappointing God'". Fox News. Retrieved May 12, 2022.
  24. ^ Weatherford, Mike (April 24, 2014). "Classic showmanship of singer Tony Orlando endures in Vegas". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved May 18, 2022.
  25. ^ Jones, Joy (November 30, 1999). "Orlando dawns a new era". Sun Herald. Biloxi, Mississippi.
  26. ^ Venta, Lance (October 29, 2020). "Tony Orlando joins WABC". Radio Insight. Retrieved October 30, 2020.
  27. ^ "Larry the Cable Guy's Star-Studded Christmas Extravaganza". TV Guide Online. November 21, 2008. Retrieved January 10, 2009.
  28. ^ Runnells, Charles (March 1, 2016). "Tony Orlando: It's all about the veterans". The News-Press. Ft. Myers, Florida. Retrieved April 4, 2022.
  29. ^ "Celebrities give organization for veterans' families a boost in Dallas". The Dallas Morning News. October 4, 2013. Retrieved April 4, 2022.
  30. ^ Paulson, Dave (November 9, 2018). "Story Behind the Song: 'Tie a Yellow Ribbon'". The Tennessean. Nashville. Retrieved April 4, 2022.
  31. ^ Fuoco-Karasinski, Christina (January 31, 2017). "The Dawning of a Legend: Tony Orlando puts 'blood, sweat and tears' into shows". The Entertainer! Magazine. Retrieved April 4, 2022.
  32. ^ Bossick, Karen (June 20, 1999). "Tony Orlando leads lineup of entertainers". Idaho Statesman. Boise.
  33. ^ "Mother of Tony Orlando Dies". Retrieved September 1, 2014.[dead link]
  34. ^ Miller, Dennis; Orlando, Tony (May 5, 2014). "The Dennis Miller Show" (Interview). Interviewed by Dennis Miller. Archived from the original on September 1, 2014.
  35. ^ Massey, Dawne (November 12, 2002). "Tony Orlando sets a course for "Paradise" with his memoir". St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
  36. ^ Orlando, Tony; Cox, Patsi Bale (November 8, 2003). Halfway to Paradise. St. Martin's Publishing Group. ISBN 978-1-4299-7912-2.
  37. ^ "Tony Orlando's Brush With Death". Christian Broadcasting Network. January 27, 2012. Retrieved June 3, 2023.
  38. ^ Rabinowitz, Chloe (March 19, 2021). "Tony Orlando Celebrates Six Decades in Music With TIMELESS: THE BIG HITS Album and More". Retrieved March 14, 2022.
  39. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records. p. 410. ISBN 978-1-9049-9410-7.
  40. ^ "Don't Let Go: Tony Orlando". AllMusic. Retrieved June 3, 2023.

39.Tony Orlando Legendary Singer & Hitmaker ‘Up Close & Personal’ Zoom Special Event on Interviewing the Legends with Ray Shasho

External links[edit]