April 3rd is the 75th birthday of Tony Orlando. Born Michael Anthony Orlando Cassivitis in 1944, the son of a Greek father and a Puerto Rican mother.
Tony has a Jersey connection…in his teenage years, his family moved from New York City to Union City, and later Hasbrouck Heights, NJ! He formed a Doo-Wop group, The 5 Gents, in 1959 at the age of 15. Producer Don Kirshner hired Tony as a songwriter in the Brill Building, working alongside folks like Carole King, Neil Sedaka, Barry Mann, and others.
At 16 Tony had his first 2 hits…”Bless You” and “Halfway To Paradise”. By 1967, Tony was hired by Clive Davis as General Manager of Columbia records publishing subsidiary April-Blackwood Music. By 1969, he worked his way up to VP of CBS Music, where he gave Barry Manilow his first contract. He got back into recording, too, with a studio group he called Wind having a minor hit with “Make Believe”.
Then, he accepted a $3,000 advance and sang lead on “Candida” for 2 producer friends. They used the name Dawn, since Tony didn’t want his name associated with the project, because of his success as an executive. Well, it became a hit, and he followed it up with the song we’ve got the video of here…”Knock 3 Times”. Originally recorded with backup by songwriters Tony Wine and Linda November, Tony wanted to go on tour, so he hired session singers Telma Hopkins, and Joyce Vincent Wilson.
They became Dawn featuring Tony Orlando, and finally by 1973 Tony Orlando and Dawn. Lots more hits followed, with “Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Old Oak Tree” being their biggest. Tony also hosted a TV variety show with Dawn for 4 seasons.
Happy 75th, Tony…enjoy this 1971 video memory.