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Passings: Rosetta Hightower, Lead Singer of the Orlons (1944 - 2014)

Rosetta Hightower, the lead singer for the group The Orlons, died on August 2 at the age of 70. Some sources are listing her cause of death as a brain hemorrhage.

The Orlons were formed in the late-50's as Audrey and the Teenettes while Hightower, Marlena Davis and sisters Shirley, Jean and Audrey Brickley while they were still in Junior High. Audrey and Jean soon quit the group after their mother refused to let Audrey appear in clubs, and the Teenettes moved on as a trio.

While in high school, they added Stephen Caldwell and changed their name to the Orlons. Len Berry, lead singer of the Dovells, told them they should audition for Cameo-Parkway Records and, although they were not signed at first, they were added to the label's roster after their third try.

At first, the group was used for backup vocals, including Dee Dee Sharp's Mashed Potato Time and Gravy (With Mashed Potatoes), but they were finally allowed to cut their own music including their first two singles, I'll Be True (1961) and (Happy Birthday) Mr. Twenty-One. It was their third single for Cameo, The Wah-Watusi, that shot them up the national charts, peaking at number 3.

In a time with numerous one-hit wonders, the Orlons managed to put together a string of five top twenty hits, following Wah-Watusi with Don't Hang Up (1962 / #4), South Street (1963 / #3), Not Me (1963 / #12) and Crossfire! (1963 / #19).

A number of lineup changes came after their hit streak ended but they continued to tour, including in England where they remained popular. The group finally broke up in 1968 and Hightower decided to stay in England.

Post-Orlons, Hightower became an in-demand backup singer for sessions, recording with the likes of John Lennon, Joe Cocker, Madeline Bell, Kiki Dee and Lesley Duncan. She also married record producer Ian Green and recorded two solo albums.

Rosetta's son, Ian Green, Jr., is a producer and remixer with Paul Oakenfeld.


Joseph Monreal said…
Although Rosetta enjoyed great success as lead singer of The Orlons she remains imo one of the most underrated singers of the rock era. I grew with The Orlons music and for a couple great years they were as hot as anybody gets.I will miss Rosetta greatly. May she rest in peace.
Unknown said…,,,and.meeting.bobby...i.stayed.the.whole.summer,she.was.beautiful!!.she.about.19.or.20,iwas.9.or.10