Sunday, April 24, 2005

STEVE CALDWELL: The Fabric of THE ORLONS



Steve Caldwell (born November 22, 1944, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) has the distinction of being one of the few men to have been a solo male vocalist in an otherwise all-female singing group. His group, The Orlons, were major hitmakers for Philadelphia's Cameo-Parkway records in the early 1960s.

Originally called Audrey and the Teenettes, the Orlons formed in the late 1950s at a Philadelphia junior high school. The group consisted of Audrey, Jean, and Shirley Brickley, Rosetta Hightower, and Marlena Davis. When the Brickley sisters' mother refused to let Audrey (who was thirteen) sing with the others she and sister Jean left the group. After some time the personnel changed and the group took in Steve Caldwell as bass while Rosetta became the lead singer of the reformed group.

Calling themselves the Orlons, they performed locally around Philadelphia. On occasion the Orlons would appear with a group from Overbrook High called the Cashmeres. Leonard Borisoff, who performed under the name Len Barry, was The Cashmere's lead singer. When Barry's band changed it's name to the Dovells and put five songs in the top forty, Barry brought the Orlons to his record label, Cameo-Parkway.

The Orlons signed with the Cameo-Parkway label and by 1961 they had their first big hit. It was a song written by Dave Appell and Kal Mann titled The Wah Watsui, the first top forty song for the Orlons. The song, about a "dance made-a for romance", made it to number two on the national charts and became the first in a string of hits for The Orlons.

The Orlons followed their dance song success with two records that went to the top five, Don't Hang Up and South Street. They also were invited to sing background vocals on records made by the other stars at Cameo-Parkway, including Dee Dee Sharp and and Bobby Rydell. Two more top forty entries followed for The Orlons in 1963, Not Me and Cross Fire!.

In 1964, Steve Caldwell left the group to pursue a career as a music producer. Marlena Davis left and Rosetta Hightower married an English musician and also exited the Orlons. Audrey Brickley joined the group in 1964, but by then the spotlight was fading for The Orlons..

The Orlons disbanded in 1968. Steve Caldwell went on to work in the Philadelphia Public School system for many years. Horrendously, Shirley Brickley suffered a gunshot wound during the robbery of her apartment and died in 1977, at age 32.

In 1988, Steve and Marlena reformed the group and preserved the original flavor of The Orlons until she passed away in 1993. Currently, the Orlons consist of Steve, Jean Brickly Maddox, Audrey Brickley and Lillian Washington Taylor, who had been with the group in the '70s.