1961 Tony Orlando – Bless You
Michael Anthony Orlando Cassavitis grew up in Hells Kitchen in Manhattan until he became a teenager and his family moved to New Jersey. When he turned 15, he formed The Five Gents and began recording demos. The demos impressed Don Kirshner, who hired him to work as a songwriter in the Brill Building in New York City.
Tony also began singing demos for other songwriters, and in 1961, he began releasing his own singles. He first charted with a song written by fellow Brill Building writers Carole King and Gerry Goffin, Halfway To Paradise. Al Nevins, Don Kirshner & Jack Keller produced his single, which peaked at #39 on the Hot 100 in 1961.
Billy Fury covered Halfway To Paradise and reached #3 on the UK chart that same year.
Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil wrote Tony’s second single, Bless You, and he used the same producers again. The record peaked at #15 on the Hot 100 in October 1961.
Tony’s career took a turn over the next few years, as he began to work in the offices instead on records as the general manager of Columbia Records publishing subsidiary April-Blackwood Music. He later became the Vice-President of CBS Music.
In the late sixties, Tony got the itch to record again, and did the lead vocals for a studio group on the song Make Believe. A single got released using the band name Wind and the record peaked at #28 on the Hot 100 in 1969.
A second single by Wind did not do chart. A year later he recorded another song using another anonymous name, Dawn. When Candida became a big hit, he recruited two women as backup singers and began doing appearances as Tony Orlando and Dawn.
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