Thursday, May 31, 2007

My First Concert-Tony Orlando and Dawn

Earlier, in my Beverly Hills Supper Club post, I noted that "Wild Honey" reminded me of Dawn and that the event took place at the Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati. All of this got me thinking about the very first actual concert I ever saw which happened to be at that same venue about a year and a half earlier.

The Coliseum was new and I wanted to see what it was like. The first act I wanted to see was Sammy Davis, Jr in concert with Freddie Prinze as opening comedian. For reasons lost to time, that never happened. Instead I talked friend Terry (and his mom again) into attending Tony Orlando and Dawn's concert at the Coliseum in 1975.

In 1976, I was into the Beatles, Wings, the Monkees, the Moody Blues, and was just discovering FM radio. I loved AM pop though and Tony Orlando and Dawn had arrived in force with a string of big hits from "Candida" to "Knock Three Times" and the monster hit that was "Tie a Yellow Ribbon." Originally Tony with a couple of girl backup singers he had never even met, the records were first released under the group name of Dawn. Tony's charisma got his name up front quickly, though and luckily, when he met the girls, there was an amazing chemistry. Joyce Vincent Wilson and most especially Telma Hopkins were savvy, funny women who rode their success high as Orlando's million dollar smile lit their way.

Given their own TV variety show in 1974 (perhaps as a replacement for the now divorced and thus unfunny Sonny and Cher?), Tony and Telma each showed a marvelous flair for comedy and absolutely no lounge singer ever worked a crowd like Tony Orlando!

In early 1977, Freddie Prinze who had become quite friendly with Orlando after dozens of lookalike jokes brought them together, killed himself. Not long afterwards, Tony Orlando had a nervous breakdown on stage and the hit factory he headed slammed to a stop. Tony recovered and its still a treat (however infrequent) to see him today. Joyce went back to session work and eventually, I've heard, retired. Telma ("When I was a kid, mom told me to get the 'H' outa there!")reinvented herself as a popular comedic actress in sitcoms.


  1. Anonymous12:49 AM

    Interesting article, but weirdly enough, not the first one about Tony Orlando and Dawn. Mark Evanier said he updated his "Old TV Tickets" website, which also has interesting ancedotes about the shows as well. Here's more stuff about Tony Orlando and Dawn:
    A good supplement to your post, Steve.

    Tony C.

  2. Anonymous12:51 AM

    In my last post, I meant to say "not the first one about Tony Orlando and Dawn I read today" not that it's the not the first one ever written on the Internet. I think about everything's been written about online by now.

    Tony C. (again)

  3. Anonymous6:11 AM

    Sometime after Dawn disbanded, Tony had a solo album on Casablanca Records, on which he did disco versions of some old standards (I think...) I believe he also made some noise in the 80s about cutting some country tracks (a la Tom Jones and Wayne Newton) but I don't know if he ever did.

    Tony Orlando was a big draw here in NJ, in the glitzy showrooms in Atlantic City, and he's done many national telethons over the years, too. He always struck me as being a genuinely nice guy. Loved seeing people like him and Charo as guests on the old Dinah Shore show!


  4. Anonymous11:08 PM

    Tony is still at it, traveling around the country and playing to sold out theaters whever he goes. He is the most caring individual I've ever met, and I know him well,and he is such a showman as well as a fine man. His shows are fantastic. If you ever see him near you, it would be such a treat for you to go see him. Gail R.

  5. Anonymous12:48 PM

    I need help from some Tony Orlando fans. I need the date of Tony's November 1977 concert at the Circle Star theatre in San Carlos California. It's really important to me in establishing a timeline in a legal issue. Thanks