It’s hard to believe Tony Orlando has been entertaining audiences around the globe for the better part of five decades. But that doesn’t mean he’s shown any signs of slowing down.
In fact, 2016 was a year full of accolades and awards for the singer, including being named winner of Casino Entertainer of The Year Award and Best All Around Las Vegas entertainer.
In early 1970, Orlando, with his female backing group Dawn, sold millions of albums with the hits “Tie A Yellow Ribbon ’Round The Ole Oak Tree,” “Candida” and “Knock Three Times.”
Tony Orlando and Dawn also had a variety show on CBS that ran for four season.
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Orlando returns to the Coast on Friday with an 8 p.m. show at the Golden Nugget Casino in Biloxi.
Q. I’ve been a big fan of your music since I was a child. I loved AM Radio when I was young. I remember hearing all of these great songs by The Carpenters and Tony Orlando and “Suspicious Minds” by Elvis.
A. Thank you so much. You know, my keyboardist Toni Wine was married to Chips Moman when he owned American Sound Studio in Memphis where “Suspicious Minds” was recorded. She was married to Chips for 27 years. He passed away recently. Chips produced all of those great Elvis albums in the ’70s and Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings — he wrote “Luckenback, Texas” and Toni sang backgrounds on a lot of those songs. She also wrote “Candida” for me.
Q. Any fond memories of playing Biloxi?
A. We love Biloxi. We’ve played all of the rooms there over the years. This will be our first time to play the Golden Nugget. That area has always been very good to me and very kind to me.
Q. You just played the inauguration. You’re no stranger to playing for presidents. Have you performed at inaugural balls before?
A. I played at the one for George Bush — I’ve worked for five presidents at state dinners. I’m old school, Jeff. I think that whoever is in office even if you respectfully disagree with that person, you come together and if you’re invited to play the inauguration, you do it because it’s an honor. We can disagree or agree with our leaders, but we should still respect the office. I’m old fashioned that way, and I was honored to do it. My job was to do a show for the armed forces and first responders and their families. It was great.
Q. You have a long history of helping veterans.
A. I started in 1973 when “Yellow Ribbon” came out by welcoming home POWs from Vietnam and that changed my life. Since that day, I’ve dedicated my life to two places that are deep in my heart — the Muscular Dystrophy Association and my work with the military. It’s my passion.
Q. You mentioned “Yellow Ribbon,” which I loved as a child. But that song and Kool and The Gang’s “Celebration” will always remind me of the Iran hostage situation of the late 1970s.
A. That’s really when it hit nationally. Penne’ Laingen, who was the wife of (diplomat) Bruce Laingen, who was held hostage in Iran for 444 days, tied a yellow ribbon around her tree and that created a national symbol. It began in 1979 as a symbol of hope.
Q. What’s it like to have a song you recorded become embedded in American culture?
A. It’s overwhelming. I was just the messenger who delivered the letter. The guys who deserve credit for that song are the guys that wrote it, Irwin Levine and L. Russell Brown — Larry Brown. They had no idea the song would become an anthem of homecoming and freedom.
When I look at the journey on which that song has taken me, it’s overwhelming. I’ve had the experience many times of being with parents on bases as they welcome their sons and daughters home from fighting for our freedom. It’s so humbling.
There’s no way to describe the feeling of going into a hospital of wounded soldiers and have them say, “Thank you, Tony.” Do you know how humbling it is?
When I look back on my career, it’s been what’s the most important — helping and supporting our military.
If you go
Golden Nugget Casino at 151 Beach Blvd., Biloxi
8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 17
Tickets start at $25 and are available at Ticketmaster.com.