The Orlons





The Orlons specialty was fun filled dances tunes, making them one of the most popular groups to ever come out of Philadelphia. Originally called Audrey And The Teenetts, the group was formed in the late 1950s as a quintet, consisting of sisters Audrey, Jean and Shirley Brickley, along with Rosetta Hightower and Marlena Davis. When Mrs. Brickley refused to let Audrey, the youngest, sing with the others in one of Philadelphia's small clubs, she and sister Jean quit the group. Shirley, Rosetta, and Marlena continued singing at Overland High School where they were heard by fellow student Stephan Caldwell, who sang with a local group called The Romeos. Caldwell brought his deep baritone voice to the girls attention and was invited to join them.

In the Fall of 1961, The Orlons auditioned for Kal Mann and were signed to record for Cameo Records. A&R director Dave Appell started writing songs for the group and decided to feature Rosetta's strong voice on lead. The Orlons' first single "I'll Be True" generated little interest, as did their early 1962 follow-up, "Happy Birthday 21". The Orlons also provided back-up vocals for the label and can be heard on Dee Dee Sharp's "Mashed Potato Time", which hit the top of the R&B charts and #2 on the Pop chart in early 1962.

Their own break out tune was a song that they recorded in the Spring of '62 called "The Wah Watusi", which by July, made it to the #2 spot on the Billboard Pop chart. About the same time, they again provided back-up vocals on Dee Dee Sharp's second hit "Gravy (For My Mashed Potatoes)" which went to #9. For a change of pace from the dance craze songs, the follow-up to "The Wah Watusi" came in the form of a novelty tune called "Don't Hang Up", that featured Stephen Caldwell's baritone voice answering the girl's chorus. The record reached #4 on the Pop chart and #3 on the R&B chart in the Fall and Winter of 1962.

The Orlons' first major live performance was at New York's Apollo Theatre with The Crystals, Bob B. Soxx And The Blue Jeans, Chuck Jackson, Tommy Hunt, and Gene Chandler. In 1963 they returned to the studio to record their third and fourth straight hit records with "South Street" (#3) and "Not Me" (#12). Later in the year, The Orlons released a song called "Cross Fire", which peaked at #19 on the Pop chart.

In 1964, Marlena Davis and Stephan Caldwell left the group and were replaced by Audrey Brickley. With the start of the British Invasion, The Orlons style was suddenly yesterday's news, and the best that three of the four following singles could do was make it into the upper regions of the Hot 100 chart with "Shimmy Shimmy" (#66), "Rules of Love" (#66), and "Knock Knock" (#64). These three were the last of The Orlons' chart hits. Hoping a change of scene would help, they moved to Calla Records in 1966 and in 1967 to ABC Records. None of their efforts had any success, however their catalogue of hits allowed them to tour successfully until 1968, when the group split again.

Rosetta Hightower moved to England where she enjoyed a successful solo career. Shirley Brickley was shot and killed by an intruder in her Philadelphia home in 1977 at the age of 32. In 1988, Stephan Caldwell and Marlena Davis re-formed the group and performed live on the oldies circuit until Davis' death on February 27th, 1993 at the age 49. Audrey Brickley died of acute respiratory distress syndrome on July 3rd, 2005, aged 58. Stephen Caldwell and Jean Brickley continued to perform as The Orlons with two of Stephen's cousins, Albreta Crump and Madeline Morris. Rosetta Hightower died in Clapham, London, on August 2, 2014, at the age of 70. In 2016, The Orlons' official website still showed a handful of shows listed on their Upcoming Shows page.