1963 Orlons – Not Me
while still in junior high school, Shirley Brickley, Marlena Davis, and Rosetta Hightower formed Audrey and the Teenettes with two of Shirley’s sisters, Jean and Audrey. When Shirley’s mother would not let Audrey perform in some nightclubs, she and Jean quit the group.
While in high school, the trio convinced singer Stephen Caldwell to join them. Another group in their school was named Cashmeres, and the quartet began calling themselves The Orlons (the brand name of an acrylic fiber).
Len Barry, the lead singer of the Dovells, encouraged the group to audition with his record company, Cameo-Parkway Records. It took three auditions, but Dave Appell finally signed the group to a recording contract.
Kal Mann had written Teddy Bear, Butterfly, and co-wrote Let’s Twist Again with Dave. Kal co-wrote Mashed Potato Time for Dee Dee Sharp, and the Orlons sang background vocals on the recording. That record topped the R&B chart and reached #2 on the Hot 100 in early 1962.
Dave and Kal co-wrote three songs that took the Orlons into the top five of the Hot 100 and the R&B chart in 1962 and 1963: The Wah-Watusi, Don’t Hang Up, and South Street. All three singles sold over a million copies.
Frank Guida discovered Gary U.S. Bonds and co-wrote his 1960/1961 hits New Orleans and Quarter to Three. He co-wrote the next Orlons single, Not Me, with Gary L. Anderson.
The single did not do as well as their previous hits, peaking at only #12 on the Hot 100 and #8 on the R&B chart in 1963.
Their next single that year was another song from Dave and Kal. Crossfire stalled at #19 on the Hot 100 and #25 on the R&B chart.
The group reached the R&B top forty 4 more times, but never again reached the top forty on the Hot 100. Marlena left the group in 1963 and Stephen left in 1964. New singers took their places, but by 1968, the group had completely disbanded.
Rosetta had a successful career as a studio musician and sang background vocals for Joe Cocker and others.
Frank went on to write If You Wanna Be Happy, which was a number one hit by Jimmy Soul in 1963.
Stephen and Marlena reformed the Orlons in 1988 and began singing in oldies shows. After Marlena died in 1993, Shirley’s sister Jean took her place. Stephen and Jean still continue to appear as the Orlons with help from addtional singers.
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