The Orlons

By Gary: Let’s take a look at a group from Philadelphia, who took the advice of a High School Friend, Len Barry of the Dovells and auditioned for Cameo-Parkway.  It took a couple of auditions but the where finally signed.  The sang background for Dee Dee Sharp’s “Mashed Potato’s”
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The Orlons
The Orlons consisted of lead singer Rosetta Hightower, Shirley Brickley, Marlena Davis, and Stephen Caldwell.

Videos:

Last Minute Jam / South Street /
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Sneak Peak / PBS Rock, Pop and Doo Wop /
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2014 / Sellersville Theatre /
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American Bandstand dancers / South Street /

1.   The Wah Watusi/ Cameo 218/ June 1962/ # 2



2.   Don’t Hang Up/ Cameo 231/ November 1962/ # 4


3.   South Street/ Cameo 243/ March 1963/ # 3


4.   Not Me/ Cameo 257/ July 1963/ # 12


5.   Crossfire/ Cameo 273/ October 1963/ # 19


Before they became the Orlons, they were an all-girl quintet called Audrey and the Teenettes. They formed in the late 1950s in junior high school and consisted of Hightower, Davis, and three Brickley sisters: Shirley, Jean, and Audrey. However, after the Brickleys’ mother did not permit 13-year-old Audrey to sing in certain clubs with the group, she and Jean quit, making the group a trio.In high school, the group’s three remaining members discovered fellow student Stephen Caldwell, who was lead singer of a local group called the Romeos. Impressed by him, they invited him to join the group in 1960 and named themselves the Orlons as a tongue-in-cheek nod to the friendly rivalry they had with a popular group at their high school, the Cashmeres. (Orlon was a synthetic fibre widely used around that time.)

A high school friend, Dovells lead singer Len Barry, encouraged them to audition for Cameo Records at the turn of the decade. The group took his advice in the fall of 1961, but were rejected at first, although the record label eventually signed the group after two more auditions. Cameo executive Dave Appell appointed Hightower as the lead singer, and began writing songs for them.

Before rising to fame with their first national hit, “The Wah-Watusi,” the group provided back-up vocals for Dee Dee Sharp’s hits “Mashed Potato Time” and “Gravy (for My Mashed Potatoes).” They recorded their own cover versions of those songs for their debut album, The Wah-Watusi.

Davis and Caldwell quit the group in 1964, and were replaced by Sandy Person for about a year. A short-lived stint by Yvonne Young was followed by original Teenette, Audrey Brickley, Shirley’s sister. By then, the group’s popularity had waned in the United States due to misdirection of their record company, Cameo Records. They continued to perform into the late 1960s with success in the UK. They disbanded in 1968 after Hightower decided to stay in England after a tour. Hightower had (and still has) a successful career as a soloist and as an in-demand session singer, backing Joe Cocker, John Holt and other popular artists. She married record producer Ian Green.

In later years, Davis married and found work as an executive secretary, while Caldwell became president of the bus drivers’ trade union in Philadelphia and served on the Philadelphia Board of Education for 25 years. In 1988, Caldwell and Davis re-formed the group with two new members and performed live on the oldies circuit until Davis’s death in 1993.

On October 13, 1977, Shirley Brickley was shot to death by an intruder in her home in Philadelphia. Davis lost a battle with lung cancer on February 27, 1993 (age 48). Audrey Brickley died of acute respiratory distress syndrome on July 3, 2005 (aged 58). Steve and Jean Brickley still perform as The Orlons with two cousins.

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One response to “The Orlons

  1. Denny MacDougall

    Tragic end at a relatively young age for most of the group. Especially enjoyed the “growl” in the voice of the lead singer on Don’t Hang Up.

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