Tony Orlando & Dawn - March 31, 2014

And so we continue our exploration of the records of the Music Room.  Today, we will talk about Tony Orlando & Dawn, and their 1975 album He Don't Love You, Like I Love You.

Michael Anthony Orlando Cassivitis was born in New York to a Greek father and a Puerto Rican mother.  His love of music started early in his life, so early that Orlando was discovered by famed music producer Don Kirshner in 1961 at the young age of 16!  After recording a few minor hits, he decided to follow Kirshner's footsteps and get into producing.  He only got in front of a microphone again in 1970, when he was specifically requested to record a demo of the song "Candida."  Concerned that it might prove a conflict with his production duties, he sang under the name Dawn.  When it became a hit, performing became his priority again, and he performed as Dawn featuring Tony Orlando.  Three years later, he swapped out the band's name to Tony Orlando and Dawn, which it remained for many years.  His upbeat music proved a successful antidote to the post-Watergate stupor of the country and his popularity became undeniable.  In fact, he's been performing ever since.  In 1993, he opened the Tony Orlando Yellow Ribbon Music Theatre in Branson, Missouri.  It proved a popular venue, and it remained a destination until a business dispute compelled him to close its doors.  Now, you can find Tony Orlando performing on the concert circuit, so keep your eyes open for when he visits a venue near you!


With whom did Tony Orlando establish a partnership in Branson, MO?

a)  Andy Williams

b)  Yakov Smirnoff

c)  Wayne Newton

d)  Toby Keith

e)  Dolly Parton


The year was 1854, and something important happened for international affairs. Matthew Perry had lived in his older brother Oliver Hazard Perry's shadow much of his life.  He fought under Oliver's guidance during the War of 1812, but established his own abilities in the war against Mexico between 1846 and 1848.  It was in 1854 when Commodore Perry made a name for himself, without big brother's help.  It was, in fact, on this day 160 years ago that he compelled Japan to sign the Treaty of Kanagawa, which officially - if forcefully - opened the ports of Japan to American trade. Accompanied by a naval force, Perry "convinced" the Japanese Shogun to permit American merchant vessels to come to ancient, imperial Japan.  And the two nations never had any problems dealing with each other ever again.  Unless, of course, you factor in something that occurred on December 7th, 1941, but who's paying attention to the details? 

The events of today can be used to support the accusation that the United States has had overseas ambitions for decades.  First, we discussed the American forced entry into Japan.  Now, we have a peaceful act of commerce. On this date in 1917, the American government signed the Treaty of the Danish West Indies, which legally made the Caribbean Island chain a U.S. Territory, now called the U.S. Virgin Islands.  Three of the largest islands in the chain, St. Thomas, St. John, and St. Croix, have all become attractive vacation destinations for people from the mainland, so we can thank President Woodrow Wilson for approving the purchase.  But please be aware when you get there:  they drive on the opposite side of the road than the rest of American territories and states do.  Some habits are very difficult to break....


Today is the birthday of a man who was surrounded by controversy during his lifetime.  Born in 1878, the man nicknamed "The Galveston Giant" was the son of freed slaves.  He hoped to make a better life for himself in the north, but, when he jumped onto a freight train bound for New York, he was discovered, beaten, and kicked off. So he stayed in Texas and learned how to box.  He learned well and became heavyweight champion when he was thirty years old.  But then he ran into trouble.  Being of African descent in a segregated America was difficult enough.  Being a famous sports celebrity made it much, much more difficult for Johnson.  There were so many people who hated his success that his fights demanded a no-guns policy for attendance, which was unusual at the time.  Ken Burns made an exceptional documentary about Johnson, his fights, his celebrity, and his troubles with the law, called Unforgivable Blackness.  We at the blog recommend this as a more-effective way to learn about this fascinating man than the one paragraph we can dedicate to him here.

We at the blog are always happy to celebrate controversial Americans.  The color of Johnson's skin made him controversial during his day, but our next birthday honors someone who brought the controversy to himself. Cesar Chavez was born in Yuma, Arizona in 1927.  Chavez's family was extremely poor, and by the Great Depression they lost their home and land, and were compelled to move to California, where Chavez dropped out of school to help support his family as a migrant worker.  In 1952, he became an organizer for the Latino Community Service Organization. This was the beginning of the work that became his legacy - he strove to help migrant farm workers and protect their interests.  Which is to say, he made many farm owners fairly unhappy.



If you really want to make a friend, go to someone's house and eat with him... the people who give you their food give you their heart.  - Cesar Chavez

Answer:  c)  Wayne Newton.  Tony Orlando allegedly caught Newton recording his conversations in the theater.  Lawsuits were drawn up, then dropped, but the two former friends have not spoken to one another since.