Fun filled dance tunes were ‘The Orlons’ specialty, making them one of the most popular groups ever to come out of Philadelphia. The group was originally called ‘Little Audrey and the Teenettes’ in the early 50’s and included sisters, Audrey, Jean and Shirley Brickley along with Rosetta Hightower and Marlena Davis. When Mama Brickley refused to let the youngest, Audrey, sing with the others in one of Philadelphia’s small clubs, she and her sister Jean quit the group. When Stephen Caldwell heard Shirley, Rosetta and Marlena singing at Overbrook High School, he brought his baritone lead to the girls’ attention. Now a quartet, the unnamed group folllowed in the footsteps of their Overbrook rivals ‘The Cashmeres’ (who later became ‘The Dovells’) by calling themselves ‘The Orlons’.
In the fall of 1961, Len Barry of ‘The Dovells’ was instrumental in The Orlons getting an audition at Cameo Records. They were signed immediately and cutting records and backing Dee Dee Sharp on her big hit, “Mashed Potato Time.” The Orlons cut their own dance tune called “Wah Watusi” and it soon rose to No. 2 on the charts, with only Bobby Vinton’s “Roses are Red” above it.
The Orlons followed that up with another big hit: “Don’t Hang Up.” It climbed the charts in the fall and winter of 1962 to No. 4 in Pop and No. 3 R&B, and in 1963, “South Street” gave them another Top 5 hit.
Despite the British Invasion in the mid-60s, the group continued to entertain audience right when in 1968, Rosetta moved to England. Original members Stephen J. Caldwell and Marlene Davis reformed the group with two new members in 1988, entertaining audiences until Davis’ death in 1993.
The Orlons have employed many ladies to keep the sound and the group alive. Today’s group is Jean Brickley Maddox, Coco Muhammad and of course Mr. Original Orlons himself, Stephen J. Caldwell.