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Tony Orlando: 1944—: Singer

Had Short First Music Career

Orlando was born Michael Anthony Orlando Cassavitis in New York City on April 3, 1944, to a Puerto Rican immigrant mother and a Greek furrier father. His younger sister and only sibling, Rhonda Marie, had cerebral palsy. Orlando managed to avoid the dangers of drugs and alcohol—so prolific in his working-class Manhattan neighborhood—by devoting much of his youth caring for his sister.

Orlando fell in love with music at the age of 15 and spent much of his time singing doowop on the corner and in the subway with his friends from the neighborhood. With hopes of breaking into the business, he performed and recorded demos with local groups like the Five Gents. Hanging around the legendary Brill Building, the New York-based home of some of the leading pop songwriters of the day, he managed to snag an audition with record producer Don Kirshner, who hired him for a dollar a week to sing on songwriter demos. One tape, featuring the Carole King-penned tune "Halfway to Paradise," was considered good enough to release and hit the U.S. charts at number 39 in 1960. A couple of months later he recorded the Barry Mann-Cynthia Weil penned song "Bless You," which rose to number 15 in the United States and number five in the United Kingdom in the fall of 1961. Orlando became a minor-league teen idol and even made an appearance on Dick Clark's hugely popular show American Bandstand, but his star quickly faded. Orlando did a British tour with Bobby Vee, Clarence "Frogman" Henry and others in 1962, but by the next year he had quit the business. His last record, "Happy Times (Are Here to Stay)," peaked at number 82 in the United States.

At a Glance . . .

Born Michael Anthony Orlando Cassavitis on April 3, 1944, in New York, NY; married second wife, Frannie Amormino, 1991; children: (first marriage) Jon, (second marriage) Jenny Rose.

Career: Singer, 1960–; April-Blackwood Music (publishing arm of Columbia Records), general manager, 1967-71; actor, 1974–; Yellow Ribbon Music Theater, Branson, MO, owner and operator, 1993-99.

Awards: Grammy Award nominations, "Song of the Year" and "Best Pop Group Performance," 1973; American Music Awards, "Favorite Pop Single," 1973, 1974, "Favorite Pop Group," 1975; People's Choice Award, "Favorite All-Around Male Entertainer," 1975; awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1990.

Addresses: Agent—The Brokaw Company, 9255 Sunset Blvd., Suite 804, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

Orlando had married shortly before his retirement and he had to find a way to make a living, so he went behind the scenes to work for music mogul Clive Davis and became general manager of April-Blackwood Music, a publishing arm of Columbia Records. He loved the work and the opportunity it afforded him to work with stars such as James Taylor, Barry Manilow, and Blood, Sweat & Tears. At that time things seemed to be headed in the right direction for Orlando and he had no plans to return to show business.

Additional topics

Brief BiographiesBiographies: Grace Napolitano: 1936—: Politician to Richard (Wayne) Peck (1934-) Biography - CareerTony Orlando: 1944—: Singer Biography - Had Short First Music Career, Teamed Up With Dawn, Released Megahit, Hit Low Point In Career