Michael Anthony Orlando Cassavitis (born April 3, 1944), known professionally as Tony Orlando, is an American singer, songwriter, producer, music executive, and actor, best known as the lead singer of the group Tony Orlando and Dawn in the 1970s.
Orlando formed the doowop group The Five Gents in 1959 at the age of 15, with whom he recorded demos, and got the attention of music publisher and producer Don Kirshner. Kirshner hired him to songwrite at 1650 Broadway, Manhattan as part New York’s thriving Brill Building songwriting community, along with other songwriters Carole King, Neil Sedaka, Toni Wine, Barry Mann, Cynthia Weil, Bobby Darin, Connie Francis, and Tom and Jerry, who didn’t make it in the office until they later changed their name to Simon and Garfunkel. Orlando was also hired to sing on songwriter demos, and singles released with Orlando as a solo artist began to hit the charts in the US and the UK beginning in 1961 with "Halfway to Paradise" and "Bless You" when he was 16. Orlando continued as a solo artist and also became a producer himself, as well as a successful music executive in the late 1960s. He was hired by Clive Davis as the general manager of Columbia Records’ publishing imprint, April-Blackwood Music in 1967, and by the late 1960s had been promoted to vice-president of Columbia/CBS Music.
In 1969, Orlando signed Barry Manilow to his first recording contract with Bell Records, co-writing with him and producing Manilow’s earliest tracks. He also worked with other artists, such as The Yardbirds, James Taylor, Grateful Dead, Blood Sweat and Tears, and Laura Nyro. He recorded "Candida" as lead vocalist under the pseudonym "Dawn" in 1970, and when the song became an international number #1 hit, he began to use his name in the group becoming "Dawn featuring Tony Orlando" and then "Tony Orlando and Dawn". The group had 19 other top 40 hits, including four other recordings which were major international chart toppers - "Knock Three Times", ""Say, Has Anybody Seen My Sweet Gypsy Rose", "He Don’t Love You (Like I Love You)", and "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree" - the latter being the top selling hit of 1973 and one of the biggest selling singles of all time. The group hosted a hit television variety program, The Tony Orlando and Dawn Show on CBS for four seasons from 1973–77, and then broke up in 1978.
Orlando has continued primarily as a solo singer, performing on tour and regularly in Las Vegas and Branson, Missouri. He hosted the New York City portions of the MDA Labor Day Telethon on WWOR-TV since the 1980s but quit in 2011 in response to Jerry Lewis’ firing from the Muscular Dystrophy Association. He has won the Casino Entertainer of the Year Award, the Best All Around Entertainer - Las Vegas four times, and, prior to that, three times in Atlantic City, the Jukebox Artist of the Year Award from the Amusement and Music Owners Association of New York, The Ellis Island Medal of Honor, and has also been bestowed with The Bob Hope Award for excellence in entertainment from the Congressional Medal of Honor Society in honor of his efforts on behalf of United States veterans. His work on behalf of American veterans led to his being named Honorary Chairman at the 40th Anniversary at the NAM-POW’s Homecoming Celebration at the Richard M. Nixon Presidential Library in 2014.
Orlando serves on the Board of Directors for the Eisenhower Foundation as well as Honorary Chairman of Snowball Express, an organization that serves the children of fallen military heroes. Orlando also hosts the Congressional Medal of Honor dinner every year in Dallas, Texas to honor our Medal of Honor recipients. He has also served as the Master of Ceremonies at the Secretary of Defense Freedom Awards at the Pentagon in Washington, DC. Orlando has headlined around the world and entertained for five US Presidents. He is a recipient of three American Music Awards and two People’s Choice Awards for best male entertainer. For outstanding achievements to the entertainment industry, Orlando was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.