Tony Orlando's very first charting hit, "Halfway to Paradise" barely squeaked into the Top 40. It was written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin, who were Brill Building talent then working for Aldon Music.
It was a tailor-made hit for Orlando. His birth name was Michael Anthony Orlando Cassavitis. When Aldon Music took him in (Orlando was just 15 years old at the time, but very determined to get into the music business), Don Kirshner, Jack Keller, King, and Goffin practically adopted him like they would a stray kitten, ushering him to their studio or one of their apartments while grooming him as the next chart-topping singer. Simplifying his name was their idea, too.
In Rich Podolsky's book Don Kirshner: The Man with the Golden Ear
, Orlando recalls: "My father was Greek, which gave me the courage to knock on doors. For two years, I knocked on almost every door of every floor of the Brill Building and 1650 Broadway, hoping to get discovered, without an ounce of encouragement from anyone."
Orlando's stock audition song was "La Bamba
." Ritchie Valens was also a hero and inspiration to Orlando as a child, so while he was saddened to hear of the infamous plane crash that took the life of Valens, Buddy Holly, and the Big Bopper, he was motivated to follow in Valens' career path.