It kind of reads like a law office, right ? Well it’s not ; it is the cast members in my ill prepared for interview I had recently with mega star Tony Orlando who will be performing live for your listening pleasure in a couple of weeks at Kewadin Casino on November 23.
If you have been following my interviews in this column, you would know that I generally seek out to interview musicians that curtail to my preferred genre of music; hard rock. Now and then, however I stray, and I had put out a feeler for crooner Tony O sometime back, and to my delight the request was met not many days ago.
To make a long story longer, when the call came in from Tony, I had not done my due dilligience and was left ill prepared. In the past, I have not needed to organize my questions, as I grew up following the singers and entertainers I was to interview and could ad libitum, but this time I was left at the Shabby Motley coffee shop with no homework done whatsoever, aside from knowing one song.. Knock Three Times.
Anyway, aside from the general greetings, I asked Tony if he had performed the night before to; you know break the ice while I tried to conjur up an intelligent question or two using my spy phone for Googles and Wiki-leaks.
“No, I’m actually down here in Florida and am just finishing the script for a Broadway show based on my life; I actually have written 14 new songs to include in it and we have the money, the backers, and are ready to go. I have been so blessed in my life having over 60 years in the business with the ups and downs, but whatever happens in God’s time will be worth it.”
Tony expects the show to go on Broadway near the end of 2020 or in early 2021.
Now getting back to Benny being in the title, that came from my reference to Tony about Knock Three Times and the Benny Hill skit regarding https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r3FJzFqnGpc . I asked him if he was familiar.
” Oh sure (laughter) ; I used to love watching Benny Hill… and I wouldn’t just laugh at his skits, I would get belly laughs. He was so ahead of his time and his parodies were hysterical and I don’t really think he got the credit he deserved as a pure comedic genious. When I had my variety show, I would sometimes write sketches with guests and I once wrote one with Freddy Prinze called Road to Puerto Rico… and to me comedy is the hardest of the performing arts. When you write, it is easy to guage the reception from the audience in the studio, but you have to be confident that you will get the laughs in the living rooms across the country “
How does Michael Buble and Justin Bieber creep into the picture ? I asked Tony about any Canadian singers currently that he admires as his show will be attended by many Canucks as we are a border town that Tony has played many times before.
In relation to Michael Buble, Tony had this to say “MichaeI Buble to me, is one of the most eclectic singers ever and there is nothing he can’t do, and one of the nicest guys you’ll ever want to meet. On one of my birthdays, when I turned 70, I got this tape from Michael to congragulate me as I was an inspiration for him ; and to me that was a big complement as I am a big fan of his and for him to be so humble to take the time was really nice and I still play that tape for people (laughter) “
I proceeded to ask him about his opinions on younger singers and what he thinks of the music these days. “well, let me tell you something. I think the younger writers and performers today are better than ever, I really do. For instance if you listen to a Justin Bieber album, this young kid has such a sense for jazz that people don’t give him credit for. His writing and ability to read the lyrics (timing); I just don’t think he gets the credit that is due to him. On the other side of the coin, you take shows like American Idol or the Voice and you have these performers coming out live in front of 40 or 50 million people (on tv) and have to deliver. It’s not an easy thing to do. You can’t screw up, you can’t do a second take, you can’t miss a line. I mean you not only have the visual medium, but you have the vocal medium, and you also have the performing medium; I mean these kids today are just ridiculously talented.”
As many of you know, Tony has played the U.P. many times and those attending the show, don’t think that he has slowed down or missed a beat. Mr O, still plays in the ballpark of 130 shows a year from festivals, to casinos, to state fairs and he doesn’t have a standard set list. Tony will usually open with Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree and he tells me his gut will dicatate the rest of the way.You may be surprised to hear this but he will even throw a Led Zeppelin song in there once in a while and Whole Lotta Love is one of his favs. Yah, you read that right !
Not only has Tony worked with notable musicians such as Barbara Streisand, Barry Manilow, James Taylor and The Grateful Dead, he has had a lengthy television and movie career that has included cameos on the Cosby Show, Chico and the Man, and being cast in Adam Sandlers 2012 movie, That’s My Boy.
I for one am looking forward to this upcoming show and I know you are as well. Tony says he can’t wait and is even looking forward to some snow.
Ernest Skinner was born and raised in Sault Ste. Marie. After attending Humber College, Ernest worked in industry, management and front line customer service before realizing that writing was his real passion. Rock'N Roll Up North has been a staple of Mr. Skinner's abilities and since its inception he has interviewed members of Judas Priest, Motley Crue, Whitesnake, The Scorpions, Helix, etc. Adrian Vandenberg, Carlos Cavazo, John Corabi, Rudy Sarzo, Sass Jordan, Lee Aaron, Darby Mills, Bill Hudson II. Currently, Ernest is a freelance writer who submits to various establishments. Ernest has had his work published in MUEN Magazine, Rock Nation Magazine, Saultonline.com,and many other news sites. Please welcome him and share his pieces.