Award-winning, legendary entertainer performs at Alto’s Spencer Theater
There are few artists who have had a career as Tony Orlando has. The top selling musician, songwriter, network TV and movie star, Broadway performer, author and music publisher is an entertainer extraordinaire who can look back on six decades in the business, having performed in front of five presidents. His most known song, “Tie A Yellow Ribbon,” wasn’t only the No. 1 Billboard top song of 1973, but created a legendary and true American tradition. Though the song was about a prisoner longing for his girlfriend and hoping that she remained true to him, the upbeat song became an anthem for families longing for their loved ones who were fighting in Vietnam. Since then, it has become a significant tradition of service members' families to “tie a yellow ribbon” around a tree or lamppost in the hopes of the return of a loved one who is deployed.
Orlando grew up in New York City in a working-class neighborhood as son of a furrier with Greek ancestry and his mother was an immigrant from Puerto Rico. In his biography he writes that having to take care of his only sibling, who had special needs, kept him from getting into trouble. As a teenager, Orlando began performing, cutting demos and searching for rock and roll tunes to perform. His career did stall in the 1960s, so he started working in the publishing sector of the business, becoming in the late ’60s manager of April-Blackwood Music, part of Columbia Records.
This could have been his career if Orlando hadn’t been asked by a friend to overdub a new song by a group named Dawn in 1970. The song was “Candida” and it became a No. 3 hit on the Billboard pop charts in 1971. Together with the female members of Dawn, they became one of the best-known pop groups in the U.S. and oversees. They are considered the first multi-racial singing group and Orlando one of the first Latin American entertainers to host a network variety television series.
Other songs, such as “Knock Three Times,” “My Sweet Gypsy Rose” and “He Don’t Love You (Like I Love You)” cemented his career.
Grammy nominee Orlando has sold millions of records, has two Platinum albums, three Gold albums and 15 Top 40 Hits. Orlando and Dawn earned their title as one of the Top 100 Billboard Magazine artists of All-Time. Orlando has performed to millions of adoring fans, including entertaining troops on U.S. bases, in Iraq and entertainment centers around the world. He is a recipient of three American music awards and two People’s Choice Awards for Best Male Entertainer. For outstanding achievements in the entertainment industry, in 1990 Orlando was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
In 1993, he began his free Veterans Day Homecoming Celebration at his Yellow Ribbon Music Theatre in Branson, Missouri. He is credited for supporting up to 175,000 veterans every year during the week of November 11. His performances in Las Vegas, Nevada brought Orlando in 2016 the Casino Entertainer of the Year Award, recipient of the “Best All Around Entertainer” in Las Vegas, which he has won a total of five times, and previously four times in Atlantic City; The Bob Hope Award for excellence in entertainment from the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, honoring his efforts on behalf of the nation’s veterans; The American Eagle Lifetime Achievement Award for Latin performers; The Ellis Island Medal of Honor, one of the nation’s most prestigious awards, and the East Coast Music Hall of Fame’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
During the pandemic, Orlando worked on a series of new projects, including the release of “Timeless: The Big Hits” in March 2021. This includes a heartfelt song, “America Is My Hometown,” which was co-written by Orlando and multi-Grammy Award winner Michael Omartian, which aired in his weekly radio program, “Saturday Nights with Tony Orlando.” Not slowing down a bit, Orlando took his new and favorite songs on tour as soon as the lockdown eased up.
The public has two chances to see Orlando’s new show with his band at the Spencer Theater for the Performing Arts, 108 Spencer Road, Alto: On Aug. 6 at 8 p.m. and on Aug. 7 at 2 p.m. For more information, visit spencertheater.com or call 575-336-4800.