Tony Orlando hits the road with Wayne Newton, ‘a kindred spirit’

The hitmaking duo share the bill on Saturday at the Hard Rock Live in Gary, Indiana.

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Tony Orlando brings his greatest hits to Hard Rock LIVE this weekend for a special “icons” concert.

Tony Orlando brings his greatest hits to Hard Rock Live this weekend for a special “icons” concert.

Travis Howard

Tony Orlando had us tying yellow ribbons around trees — oaks and otherwise — in 1973, while Wayne Newton had, one decade earlier, taught the world to say “thank you” in German.

In both cases, it was due to hit songs (“Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree” and “Danke Schoen,” respectively) from the musicmakers who are combining for the first of what’s being billed as a co-headlining “icons” tour, arriving Saturday night at the Hard Rock Casino in Gary, Indiana.

Newton and Orlando’s professional paths have crossed over the years, most notably in Las Vegas as major headliners beginning in the early 1970s, when the two became good friends.

Tony Orland and Wayne Newton

Wayne Newton + Tony Orlando

When: 7 p.m. May 13

Where: Hard Rock LIVE; Hard Rock Casino, 5400 W. 29th Ave., Gary, Indiana

Tickets: $69.50+ (21+over)


For Orlando, the road to his first big hit began just a few years prior.

In 1970, “Candida” was being recorded at Bell Records, when a producer, not satisfied with the song’s male vocals, turned to his friend Orlando (a young singer with two hits in the 1960s who then “retired” from making records in the wake of the British Invasion) to step in and lay down a new lead vocal track. In fear of losing his full-time music publishing job (“I was very good at it and made a lot of good deals”) at rival Columbia Records by stepping up to a competitor’s microphone, Orlando agreed to the proposition only if he was uncredited on the record. It was ultimately released as a single by an unknown band called “Dawn.”

Fast-forward a few months and a bona fide hit on the charts, along came the followup —the Billboard chart-topping “Knock Three Times” — this time by an openly credited Orlando, who quit that full-time job to again pursue a singing career.

“That song came from real life,” the 80-year-old Orlando said during a recent chat. “It came from the communication [system] in the tenement buildings,” in Hell’s Kitchen New York where he spent his early childhood, “where the long hallways had these great acoustics, and everybody had these steam heat pipes in their apartments. If you had to reach a neighbor, you’d take a broom and hit the ceiling and they would answer by knocking on the pipe with a spoon. [Laughing] I swear it’s true.”

Telma Hopkins and Joyce Vincent Wilson joined him in the recording studio in 1971 as his background singers, forming the definitive collective known as Tony Orlando and Dawn. The hits kept coming: five No. 1 tunes that included “My Sweet Gypsy Rose,” and “He Don’t Love You (Like I Love You).” Orlando calls Hopkins and Wilson “my sisters to this day.”

“My musical journey has been perfect all the way,” Orlando said, which includes the “Tony Orlando and Dawn” TV variety series from the mid-1970s. “I don’t have one regret. I only got through eighth grade in school, but I went on to perform in 33 countries and for eight U.S. presidents, raised millions of dollars on behalf of veterans causes and as co-host of the Muscular Dystrophy Association telethons, had my own theater in Branson [Missouri]. I’d say that’s a pretty good run.”

The singers are eager to share the bill on Saturday night. Orlando called Newton (along with the late Bobby Darin) “a kindred spirit.”

“We’ve done many TV show appearances together and worked in Branson opposite each other (Newton had his own namesake theater in the Ozarks locale). But we never did any concert together,” said Newton, 81, in a separate interview. “We both have the same background musically, and are able to roll with the punches in this business. So I’m looking forward to this opportunity with him very much.”

Newton, whose hits include “Danke Schoen” and “Daddy Don’t You Walk So Fast,” said “people still love this music that we do.”

Orlando thanked his fans, too, for their devotion throughout the years.

“The people who ask for my autograph or a selfie today, they’re [my] boss,” Orlando said. “How do deny a request to someone who’s made your life, put meals on the table for you? It’s the truth. My attitude has always been one of saying hello and acknowledging that I’m here because of them. It’s my thank you for giving me the opportunity to be where I am today.”

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