Start your new year off with a journey through the pop hits of 1970s icon Tony Orlando. At 7 p.m. Friday, Jan. 13, Orlando will perform his classic tunes at the Yavapai College Performing Arts Center (YCPAC), 1100 E. Sheldon St., Prescott.
Orlando was already a successful music executive in the late ’60s when he agreed to sing lead on a song called “Candida.” The song became an international hit in 1970 and, with his backup group, “Dawn,” Orlando began an incredible run that included Top 40 hits such as “Knock Three Times,” “He Don’t Love You,” and 1973’s song of the year, “Tie a Yellow Ribbon (Round the Ole Oak Tree).”
The group’s engaging on-stage chemistry led CBS to create The Tony Orlando & Dawn Show, which anchored Wednesday nights on the network from 1974 to 1976. They were the first multiracial group to ever have a prime-time network television variety show. To this day, they remain the only singing group to have a network TV show.
Among Billboard’s 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, Orlando has two platinum albums, three gold albums, 15 Top 40 hits and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Younger generations who are unfamiliar with his ’70s music might know Orlando for his appearance in the Adam Sandler film, “That’s My Boy.”
“They don’t know Tony Orlando and Dawn, they are too young,” Orlando said. “So, I go through an airport — and I tell this to Adam all the time, just showing you the power of film — I sell 80 million records and [a young person] walks by me and he doesn’t even know that, but he knows me as this, ‘Wassup!’ The power of movies, my whole career comes down to one line.”
Orlando recalled how he insisted on auditioning when Sandler wanted him for the part, leading Sandler to play a joke on him.
“He said, ‘You want to audition, even though you have the part?’” Orlando said. “I said, ‘Yeah because it’s been a while since I’ve done a film and I want to make sure you’re happy with it because we’re friends.’
“So, I went and I auditioned in front of all the people from Sony and Adam in his office, and he played a trick on me. He acted like, ‘Well, thank you for coming.’ So, I thought I didn’t get the part and I left. About a whole month later, his people called and go, ‘Hey, what’s your size for this character you’re playing in the movie?’ He just made me wait because
I said I wanted to earn it.” As “Yellow Ribbon” became an icon for U.S. soldiers fighting and serving worldwide, Orlando took up their cause. His Prescott performance is co-presented by U.S. VETS/Prescott, which provides housing, workforce development resources and support for more than 500 local veterans.
“That song welcomed home the P.O.W.s in 1973 from Vietnam and we welcomed them home at the Cotton Bowl,” Orlando said. “There were 70,000 people there in Dallas, hosted by a guy who was known to be a leader for veterans as a show business megastar. His name was Bob Hope.”
“Yellow Ribbon” was recorded in 1973. Orlando has continued yearly reunions with those P.O.W.s and this year will celebrate the 50th anniversary of that experience at the Cotton Bowl.
Tickets for Tony Orlando start at $35, with a fundraising pre-show dinner also available with a separate ticket purchase.
Tickets may be purchased online at www.ycpac.com or at the YCPAC Ticket Office. Call 928-776-2000 for more information.
Jesse Bertel is a reporter/videographer for the Prescott News
network. Follow him on Twitter @JesseBertel, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 928-445-3333, ext. 2043.