The Orlons were an R&B group from Philadelphia that turned out a series of hits in the early 60's. They worked with a group of five boys from Overbrook High School in their hometown and both groups went on to have success on the charts.
In the late 50's a group of five girls in junior high school formed a vocal group in Philadelphia which featured lead singer Shirley Brickley. After some time some of the personnel were shuffled and the group took in Steve Caldwell, Marlena Davis, and Rosetta Hightower, along with Shirley. Rosetta became the lead singer of the new group.
Calling themselves the Orlons, they performed at various locations around Philadelphia, sometimes with the group from Overbrook High called the Cashmeres. This group was led by Leonard Borisoff, who performed under the name Len Barry. Barry's band changed it's name to the Dovells and put five songs in the top forty in the early 60's, beginning with Bristol Stomp in 1961.
It was Len Barry who recommended the Orlons to his record label, Cameo-Parkway. They signed with that label in 1960 and by the following year they had their first big hit. It was a catchy song written by Dave Appell and Kal Mann titled The Wah Wahtsui. The first top forty song for the Orlons, the song about a "dance made-a for romance" made it all the way to number two and would prove to be their biggest hit ever.
But it was not to be the only huge hit record for the Orlons. They followed immediately with two giant hits that went to the top five, Don't Hang Up and South Street. They also sang backup on some of the records made by the stable of stars at Cameo-Parkway, such as Dee Dee Sharp and and Bobby Rydell. They followed with two more top forty entries of their own in 1963, Not Me and Cross Fire! and some other minor hits.
In 1964, Steve Caldwell left the group to become a music producer. Shirley Brickley was the leader of the three-girl group, but Marlena Davis left and eventually Rosetta Hightower married an English musician and dropped out of the Orlons. Audrey Brickley joined the group in 1964, but by that time the Orlons had completed their run on the top forty. Len Barry left the Dovells and had a number two hit as a solo artist in 1965 titled 1-2-3. The Orlons disbanded in 1968. Shirley Brickley suffered a gunshot wound and died in 1977, at age 32. In the 80's the Orlons were re-formed, this time taking in Jimmy Lewis and Ella Webster.
The Orlons had some snappy hit records that were very successful in the early 60's. Songs such as The Wah Watusi, Don't Hang Up and South Street remain as icons of that era in popular music.
Return to Rock-and-Roll Page.
Return to Home Page.
Send email to the author, Tom Simon email@example.com.