Formation and early days
Pop/soft rock group Orleans formed in New York City, New York in the early 1970s. The founding members were John Hall (vocals, guitar), Larry Hoppen (guitars, vocals) and Wells Kelly (drums, vocals). Larry’s teenaged brother Lance later joined the group as bassist.
John Hall and his wife Johanna had been songwriters, and one of their compositions “Half Moon” appeared on Janis Joplin’s posthumous LP Pearl. Hall had also been a session musician who had worked with Taj Mahal and Seals and Crofts. Meanwhile, Larry Hoppen and Kelly were former members of band named Boffalongo.
Orleans started to play in local clubs and in the college circuit, and gradually found their core audience and playing style. They inked their first recording contract with ABC Dunhill Records in 1973 and shortly after released their self-titled debut album. Orleans was recorded in the famed Muscle Shoal Studios in Alabama and produced by Roger Hawkins and Barry Beckett.
The following year, Orleans recorded their self-produced second album simply titled Orleans II at New York’s Bearsville Studio. However, ABC rejected the album nationally because they felt that the album had no hit singles and Orleans was dropped from the label’s roster.
Another label Asylum decided to release their third album Let There Be Music in 1974. The album’s single “Dance with Me” came out the following year, and eventually went to #6 of both Billboard Hot 100 and adult contemporary singles charts.
Orleans hired Jerry Marotta as their second drummer, allowing Kelly to take up more vocal and keyboard duties. They were on the way to record their fourth LP, which later became Waking and Dreaming, released in the summer 1976.
The album’s first single “Still the One” became Orleans’ second Top 10 hit single, peaking at #5 on the pop chart. Ironically, the song was used as the theme song of the television network ABC, the parent company of the Orleans’ former label ABC Records — that very imprint that once dropped them.
all’s departure, and last Top 40 hit
Due to pressure and disagreements among band members, John Hall left in 1977 to pursue a solo career. Orleans decided to move on without Hall, but now with some newer members. The revamped lineup signed a deal with MCA’s subsidiary label Infinity.
Forever (1979) was their first album without Hall. Its single, “Love Takes Time,” was a Top 20 hit that reached #11.
However, Infinity went bankrupt and was incorporated into MCA, which released the band’s sixth self-titled album (1980) but failed to promote it. Orleans signed to a fledgling label Radio Records which released their seventh studio LP One of a Kind in 1982.
Orleans, now without a record label, returned to performing in local clubs. Larry Hoppen lost his voice while the band was on a two-week tour in Bermuda, and had to return home in New York to recuperate. In October 1984, Kelly suddenly passed away in London, of heroin overdose.
John Hall back to Orleans again; Larry Hoppen’s passing
Slowly, Orleans began to re-surface once more. In the 1990s, Hall abandoned his solo career and reunited with his band mates. Together they released a handful of albums such as Ride (1996) and Dancin’ In The Moonlight (2005). They also continued to play live gigs.
In 2006, Hall left the group again to run for a Congressional seat, which he won. Two years later he was re-elected for the same position, but in the 2010 elections Hall was defeated.
Meanwhile, Orleans continued to record and perform. Hall returned to the group once more. In the middle of their commitments, however, Larry Hoppen died in July 2012.
The band has decided to carry on the Orleans legacy since Larry Hoppen’s death. The current lineup consists of Hall, Charlie Morgan, Dennis Amero and Larry’s brothers Lance and Lane.