K-Chuck Radio: Tony Orlando and Dawn to make your day

Sometimes in our lives, we need a bit of sunshine pop.  Feel-good music.  Songs that allow you to sing and dance and smile.

And in the 1970’s, we received plenty of that with Tony Orlando and Dawn.

But how did we get to Tony Orlando and Dawn?

First, we need to study where Tony Orlando came from.

TONY ORLANDO
Halfway to Paradise

Orlando was one of several dozen “teen heart-throb” singers that populated radio between 1958 and 1964, and this was his first Top 40 hit.  In fact, it was a good start for Orlando, as his next track made a bigger impact.

TONY ORLANDO
Bless You

A song co-written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, a song produced by Carole King, and a song with a killer intro bass riff?  This song has so much Brill Building on it, Orlando could have had “1619 Broadway” sequinned onto his performance tuxedos.

But then came the British Invasion, and teen heart-throb singers vanished from the radio.  Orlando found a new avenue in the music industry, working in Columbia Records as a producer and talent executive.

NEW COLONY SIX
I’m Just Waiting (Anticipating For Her To Show Up)

Oh, did I mention that Orlando also wrote some music during his Columbia front office tenure?  Yep, Tony Orlando wrote this minor track for the New Colony Six, and you get a sense that even in the front office, Orlando still had that itch to perform and sing.

And by 1969 … he got his chance.  This is his voice on the studio group …

WIND
Make Believe

So after Orlando spent several years as a record company executive and producer … he had a bit of an itch.  An itch to sing again.  And he recorded this track as part of a studio group named “Wind.”  Despite its release on a small, independent label, “Make Believe” cracked the Top 40, and gave Orlando his first charting hit in nearly a decade.

So then came another studio group … by the name of …

DAWN
Candida

Again, Orlando was more than willing to add his voice to this sunshine pop song, so long as he wasn’t credited on the record – see, he still had a job at Columbia Records, and recording for rival label Bell Records would have been a big fat conflict of interest.  Thus, we have another studio group – Dawn, featuring Orlando and backup singers Toni Wine and Linda November.  And you gotta love the sweet production chops from the Tokens, who like Tony Orlando, had moved to production during a lull in their performing careers.

So what happens?  “Candida” hits the Top 10.

Naturally, this requires a follow-up song …

DAWN
Knock Three Times

Yeah, who’s going to appreciate a song about banging on metal radiators to communicate in a tenement apartment complex?  EVERYBODY’s going to appreciate it!  Appreciate it so much, in fact, that the song hit #1 – and Tony Orlando’s side job as lead singer of a studio band was revealed.  Besides, there were six or seven “Dawn” groups touring the country, seeing as the Dawn on these hits didn’t physically exist.

So now we get a few records with “Dawn Featuring Tony Orlando,” including …

DAWN
Summer Sand

Eventually Orlando connected with Telma Hopkins and Joyce Vincent, two Stax/Volt studio singers, and the physical trio known as “Dawn Featuring Tony Orlando” manifested.

DAWN FEATURING TONY ORLANDO
Runaway / Happy Together

The trio were still finding their way together, and this mashup of the Del Shannon / Turtles #1 hits received some regional play.  And you can definitely hear the soulfulness that Hopkins and Vincent brought to the group.  We’re not talking bubblegum pop any more.  Now it’s full-fledged sunshine pop.

DAWN FEATURING TONY ORLANDO
Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree

I realize that this song might seem very cheezy today … but take a listen to the verses, rather than just the refrain.  This song came out as the soldiers were returning from Vietnam, returning to their families and loved ones.  So the song could be taken from the perspective of a returning soldier … or from the perspective of a pardoned criminal, hoping that his family still remembers and cares for him after he’s served his sentence.  Pretty heady stuff.

DAWN FEATURING TONY ORLANDO
(Say Has Anybody Seen My) Sweet Gypsy Rose

Of course, after the success of tying a yellow ribbon round an old oak tree, the next few Tony Orlando and Dawn songs followed that same musical format- plucky guitar licks, overly crafted lyrics, and now we have a song about a woman who moonlights at a burlesque show.  Hmm…

TONY ORLANDO AND DAWN
He Don’t Love You (Like I Love You)

Another transformation for the trio – they’re now branded as “Tony Orlando and Dawn,” with their catalog packed with soulful updates and re-interpretations of the same 1960’s R&B classics that were on the radio during Orlando’s earlier recording career.

TONY ORLANDO AND DAWN
Cupid (My Funny Valentine version)

Now this is cool.  The trio took the Sam Cooke classic and had a Top 40 hit with it … and if you bought the album track (or the promotional 45 single), you could get an extended track with a sax-sweetened interpretation of the jazz classic “My Funny Valentine.”  Swank.

One more for today.

TONY ORLANDO AND DAWN
Look In My Eyes, Pretty Woman

Dawn could still cut some amazing 2:30 pop tracks, and htis one – that nearly slid into the Top 10 – wasn’t a cover or a remake.

Of course, I could add clips of their 1970’s CBS variety series – apparently this was a big deal, where pop groups got their own half-hour or hour-long TV shows, and the Tony Orlando and Dawn program was quite popular in its day.

But I’m just going to leave this here, and let you enjoy the great music of a group that … well … outside of maybe “Tie a Yellow Ribbon” or maybe “Knock Three Times,” you don’t hear as often on the oldies stations.

Now you can hear them.  Thanks to your Internet blog radio station that plays ALL the hits, K-Chuck Radio!