, Port Arthur, Texas

March 18, 2013

Tony Orlando to headline 10th annual ‘Gulf Coast Gala’

The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR — The Carl Parker Center at Lamar State College-Port Arthur will be rocking April 27, when 70s superstar Tony Orlando takes the stage to entertain patrons of the 10th annual “Gulf Coast Gala.”        

Lamar State’s first gala was developed in 2004 to benefit cultural and visual arts at the Museum of the Gulf Coast, and to provide support for the college’s “Discovery” youth program, Alumni Fund, athletic scholarships, musical and theatrical productions  and a variety of special projects, such as Lamar State’s July 4 celebration and the Regional Citizen Bee.

Orlando is perhaps most famous for his songs “Tie A Yellow Ribbon ‘Round The Ole Oak Tree”, “Candida” and “Knock Three Times”. As Orlando takes the Parker Center Stage, he celebrates the 40th anniversary of “Yellow Ribbon”, which became an enduring anthem for POWs and other military veterans returning home from duty.

LSC-PA president Dr. Sam Monroe said the event, which is co-sponsored by the Port Arthur Higher Education Foundation, provides support for many programs that “enhance career potential, broaden intellectual horizons and enrich the quality of life for people in the area.”

“The gala has grown each year. We’ve had some wonderful entertainers,” Monroe said. “And we’re really looking forward to an exciting performance from Tony Orlando at this year’s gala.”

The formal event, which includes dinner and entertainment, begins with a 6 p.m. reception. Dinner will be served at 7 p.m., followed by the entertainment.

Four levels of sponsorships are available to help the efforts of the college. Individual tickets are $125 per person.

For sponsorships, tickets or information, call Donna Schion at 984-6101.

Orlando, born and raised in New York City, began hitting the national charts at the age of 16 with “Halfway to Paradise” and “Bless You” as the first vocal artist to sign with Epic Records. He later routed his musical career to the nonperformance side and became one of the youngest vice-presidents for CBS Records, heading their April-Blackwood music label.

Through no plans of his own, Tony was coaxed into putting his voice on a demo record for a song titled “Candida” for his friends Hank Medress and Dave Appell at Bell Records. The record was released under the name of the record promotion director's daughter, Dawn.

"I think it is really the rule of show business that every big break you get, you back into it without knowing it at the time. A few weeks after recording “Candida”, I had forgotten all about it and then Hank Medress calls me and says, 'Hey man, we've got a hit.' The crazy thing was, the song kept climbing the charts until it hit number one," said Orlando.

Hoping lightning would strike again, Medress had Orlando record “Knock Three Times”. The song not only became No. 1, it was the top song of 1971, selling over six million copies worldwide. The immense popularity of the song is still evident today. Tony's recording of the song was featured in the hit movie “Now and Then”.

Realizing it was probably safe to give up his successful career at CBS Records, Tony decided to jump full force into what was already a meteoric rise to the top. Along with Telma Hopkins and Joyce Vincent Wilson, Tony Orlando and Dawn became an international sensation.

Amazingly enough, Tony hadn't even begun to scratch the surface of his stardom. In 1973, he recorded “Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Ole Oak Tree”. The song was No. 1 for the year, became Orlando's theme song and grew into an American anthem of hope and homecoming, reunion and renewal.

A string of hits continued including “Sweet Gypsy Rose”, “He Don't Love You”, “Who's In The Strawberry Patch With Sally”, “Cupid”, “Steppin' Out (Gonna Boogie Tonight)” and “Mornin' Beautiful”.

Orlando then set his sights on television which resulted in his highly rated weekly variety series on CBS. Breaking new ground, it was the first multi-ethnic variety show on television. Orlando, of Hispanic and Greek origins, and Hopkins and Wilson, African Americans, were an instant hit. The show, which ran for four seasons from 1974 to 1976, welcomed the biggest names in show business each week as Tony's guests, including his boyhood idols, Jackie Gleason and Jerry Lewis.

Orlando remains one of America's best loved personalities. He has been a recipient of three American Music Awards and a People's Choice Award. For outstanding achievements to the entertainment industry, Tony was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1990.

Tony has played to packed arenas and for five Presidents. His universal appeal has bridged many a generation gap. Tony was one of the first entertainers to be featured as a subject of VH1's Behind the Music in 1998. The episode continues to be aired and received one of the network's highest ratings for the series.

Since 1993, Orlando has been a resident of Branson, Mo., where he has performed more than 2,000 shows. His current performing home in Branson is The Osmond Family Theatre. Tony has been named Branson's Entertainer and Vocalist of the Year.

In addition to Branson, Tony has written and produced musical productions to critical acclaim. In 1998 he created and starred in the show “Jukebox Dreams” where he took the audience on a doo-wop serenade showing the power of one man's dreams. The show premiered at Harrah's in Atlantic City and later toured to some of the top venues in the country. This winter Tony has a special production set to go for the Christmas season, entitled “Santa & Me”.