Long before hits like “Still the One” “Dance with Me,” and “Love Takes Time,” Rolling Stone called Orleans “the best unrecorded band in the country.” That didn’t last long as their unique pop/rock sound brought them to the attention of record companies and a contract from ABC Dunhill records. With John Hall writing most of the songs and Larry Hoppen supplying the lead vocals, just three of the Orleans’ classics have a certified combined radio airplay of more than seven million and counting.
Orleans began in Woodstock, New York in 1972 with vocalist, guitarist and songwriter (and later Congressman) John Hall, vocalist, guitarist and keyboard player Larry Hoppen and drummer and percussionist Wells Kelly. Later that year, Larry’s younger brother, Lance, joined as the bass player and in 1976 drummer Jerry Marotta signed on, completing the quintet. The group took its name from the eclectic music they played early on, some R &B seasoned with Cajun and second-line roots from musicians from the Big Easy like Alan Toussaint and the Neville Brothers. Now 48 years later, the band has had some personnel changes, but co-founder Lance Hoppen, long-time mainstays Fly Amero and Lane Hoppen are joined by Nashville veterans Brady Spencer on drums and Chip Martin on guitar.
When Hall left to pursue a solo career and enter politics, the group continued with the Hoppens and Kelly. When Kelly died in 1984, a memorial gig reunited the Hoppens with Hall. “It was with that turning point and the perspective it brought that we started to refer to our Orleans project as a perpetual ‘work in progress,’” Larry Hoppen said.
By 1986, the reunited band had cut the Grownup Children album under the direction of famed Nashville producer Tony Brown. In 1990, they released a double CD anthology and toured the U.S. and Japan and were on the Can’t Stop Rocking Tour with Fleetwood Mac, REO Speedwagon and Pat Benatar in 1995.
When Hall ran for Congress in 2005, they brought back Fly Amero, who had performed with them before. They continued recording and touring and agreed that when it was possible, Hall would join them. They were headed for a 40th anniversary when Larry Hoppen died suddenly.
The group went into mourning but honored their mate’s memory by keeping on. With Hall back in the group, they finished their 2012 tour, ending with a special tribute concert to raise money for Hoppen’s family. It looked like the end of the road, and then new management gave the band new life. They were signed for a Sail Rock Tour, playing their own hits and backing up Christopher Cross, Al Stewart, Firefall and others. They released another DVD and the double-disc compilation CD, No More Than You Can Handle.
Hall retired in 2019, but the core group of the two Hoppens, Amero, and the newcomers, Spencer and Martin, continue to bring the great sound that fans of Orleans have expected for nearly 50 years.