Tony Orlando and Dawn

  • Pop music group formed in 1970, from New York New York. Dawn was comprised of lead vocalist Tony Orlando (born Michael Anthony Orlando Cassavitas), and backing vocalists Thelma Hopkins and Joyce Vincent Wilson.
  • Orlando formed a doo wop group named The Five Gents in 1959 when he was 15 years old. A demo by the group got the attention of producer Don Kirshner, who hired Orlando as a songwriter. Orlando provided the vocals to some demos at Kirshner’s office, and soon he was releasing songs – by 1964, he had released 10 singles, 3 of which cracked the Hot 100 chart. By the late 60s, he had been promoted to Vice President of CBS Music, producing music with artists like Barry Manilow, James Taylor and The Grateful Dead. In 1969, he sang vocals with the studio group Wind, and the single Make Believe reached #28 on the Hot 100 chart.
  • In 1970, as a favor for 2 producer friends, he recorded the song Candida with backup singers Toni Wine (who wrote the song and was the female vocalist for the cartoon The Archies), Linda November (a singer of over 10,000 jingles), Cynthia Weil and Jay Siegel. They went by the name Dawn so that if the song failed, Orlando’s reputation was protected, and because it was released by a rival record company. It peaked at #3, and a follow-up song, Knock Three Times (this time only with Wine and November on backing vocals) topped the chart, selling 6 million copies and ranking as the #10 song for 1971. An album was released in 1970, titled Candida – it still did not identify Orlando as a member of Dawn.
  • Given the success of the 2 singles, it soon became clear that Orlando could not stay undercover. The record label wanted more music and a concert tour, so Orlando hired Hopkins and Wilson to become Dawn. Orlando first worked with them when he produced music for Barry Manilow in the late 60s. In 1971, billed as Dawn featuring Tony Orlando, they released an album of the same name. While it wasn’t successful, the trio started to establish their pop sound that would become immensely popular.
  • In 1973, they released their third album, Tuneweaving. The first 2 singles from the album barely charted. The third became their biggest hit – Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree was #1 for 4 weeks in the U.S. and in the UK, and it was the #1 song for the entire year. The songwriters first offered it to Ringo Starr, but it was rejected by Starr’s record company.
  • Dawn featuring Tony Orlando next released the album Dawn’s New Ragtime Follies in 1973. It became the group’s best selling album. It included the single Say, Has Anybody Seen My Sweet Gypsy Rose, which peaked at #3 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart.
  • Now riding a wave a popularity, they began to perform as Tony Orlando and Dawn. They were given a television variety show in the summer of 1974, which ran until December 1976. Four albums were released during this time, and 7 singles broke into the top 40, including their second #1 song on the Hot 100, He Don’t Love You (Like I Love You). 
  • By 1977, with declining popularity of their happy pop sound, the group disbanded. Wilson returned to her career as a session singer, and Hopkins turned to acting, becoming on regular on sitcoms like Bosom Buddies, Gimme a Break, and Family Matters. Orlando beat a drug addiction and became a born again Christian. He had a solo act in Las Vegas and released 3 solo albums – a couple of singles sneaked onto the charts. He was performer of the year in Las Vegas for 4 years, as well as a multiple winner in Atlantic City. He hosted the New York portions of the Labor Day Muscular Dystrophy Telethon from the 80s until 2011. In 1993, he opened a theater in Branson Missouri – the Tony Orlando Yellow Ribbon Music Theater (now closed). He is active in several projects to support the military veterans.
  • The group reformed in 1988 for a 5 week tour that lasted until 1993. They occasionally reunite for television appearances and benefit concerts.
  • If you enjoyed feel good pop music in the 70s, Tony Orlando and Dawn was one of your favorite groups. Here’s a video of the group singing their mega-hit, Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Ole Oak Tree.

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