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Taking A Trip Down Memory Lane With Tony Orlando

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Tony Orlando has entertained audiences around the world for over 40 years with hits like Candida, Gypsy Rose and Knock Three Times. He has even made history with his highly rated weekly variety show on CBS, which was the first multi-ethnic variety show on television. Orlando has also performed for troops overseas and continues to raise money for Veterans causes with one of his most famous songs, Tie A Yellow Ribbon ‘Round The Ole Oak Tree— the song that has become an American anthem of hope and homecoming. In his Penthouse Suite at Caesars Casino in Atlantic City for an exclusive one-on-one interview, Orlando shared with me many memories. Still today, this beloved personality says he is surprised with how the events of his life have unfolded. “I just went from each chapter to the next and however it took me, the journey has been unbelievable,” recalls Orlando.  Veronica and Tony Orlando

Bringing his warm and vivacious energy to the stage, Orlando along with Paul Anka and Ann Margret came together for a star-studded performance at Caesar’s Circus Maximus Theatre to celebrate the casino’s 30th Anniversary. “To work Caesars Palace (Atlantic City) was a badge of honor because; the people who performed here were the elite of show business,” Orlando said. “So to work Caesars Palace was to work where the greats worked.”

Thirty years ago, Orlando, Anka, and Margret all attended the opening of Caesars Casino in Atlantic City. So it’s no surprise that the three icons returned for the festivities. However, Orlando says the three entertainers met long before that day and have remained friends through the decades. “The first time I ever worked with Paul, believe it or not, I was 16 years old and it was 1961 and he was around the same age and we were doing a show in England, called: Jute box Jury which was a precursor to American Idol, it was the same kind of idea-only instead of rating new talent, we were rating records that were released, whether they were going to be a hit or not. I probably was Randy and he (Anka) was Simon for sure. But he was very accurate about his perceptions. Then I worked with Ann in that same year and she had just had her first record out before her movie career and I remember it was at a department store in New York City and we were doing a promotional thing for a radio station and that’s when I met her, so these are friends of mine also, these are 48 year friends of mine.”

Even now after all these years, Orlando reveals that he still gets nervous before performing. “I still have a nervousness in my stomach before I go on, because you want to do good and you want to make everything right, so when that goes away, it’s time to hang it up. That’s part of the excitement, is the challenge to go out and do good.”

Orlando recently returned from a 10 day tour performing for the troops in Iraq. ”It was interesting to see that these 19 and 23 year old young men and women, how they reacted to this Tie A Yellow Ribbon song— because of course it’s become an anthem of freedom and a homecoming for our troops and they really welcomed us beautifully in Baghdad. It was amazing,” he said of the trip. One which he will not forget anytime soon.

However, Orlando will be the first to yell you he never expected his song, Tie A Yellow Ribbon ‘Round The Ole Oak Tree, to be as successful as it is and to truly stand the test of time. “I had no idea. I mean the first time I ever sang that song was to welcome home the POW’s from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos in 1973 with Bob Hope at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas and from then on it became that song for them. And it’s been great for me because I have been able to use that song as a way of raising really, a lot of money for Veteran’s causes and that’s been a passion of mine so I’ve been doing it since 1973.”

Now, looking to the future, Orlando says in his opinion, the music industry is better that ever. “The artists today are better than ever, the writing today is better than ever, the production technology is better than ever, the collection of young people on American Idol—you can’t find truthfully, a bad singer among them. No, really you can’t!” he says. “And they’re all soulful, they’re all well versed, and they all know how to market themselves at a young age and you’ve got to understand something; these are all young kids coming off the street and not only are they becoming singers, they’re on a 50 million viewer television show where people are sitting there going: ‘I like you.’ ‘I don’t like you.’ The pressure that those kids are under, I never had to deal with that. You talk about nervousness, I never had to deal with that and the closest we ever came to that was on American Bandstand. That was nerve-racking enough, but you lip synced on that show!”

Orlando believes that American Idol has raised the bar in the music business. He commends the show for continuing to change the sound of music today, yet he is also proud and happy that the show appreciates songs of the past. “I’m hooked on that show and I think it’s a great thing for our business. I think it shows the world songs that may have been forgotten that were redone again. It creates standards, it makes songs live longer, it’s good for the business, it invigorates the record business.”