Orleans





The seeds of what would become a Rock 'n' Roll band known as Orleans were sewn when guitarist John Hall met drummer Wells Kelly in a band called Thunderfrog in the late 1960s. Kelly would go on to join an early incarnation of King Harvest, but left in 1970, three years prior to them scoring a Billboard #13 hit with "Dancing In The Moonlight". That same year he played on Hall's first solo album, "Action". In early 1971, Hall and his wife Johanna started to become noticed when their song "Half Moon" was included on Janis Joplin's posthumous album "Pearl". Wanting to be closer to the music scene around Woodstock, NY, the Halls soon relocated to the area. Larry Hoppen, an old friend of Kelly's, called him in December 1971 and asked him to join his group. Kelly accepted and came on board as a keyboard player, joining Roy Markowitz on drums and Bill Gelber on bass. Markowitz and Gelber only lasted until January, 1972 and at Kelly's suggestion, Hoppen invited John Hall to sign on. The three, now known as Orleans, played clubs and colleges as a trio, often switching instruments during their shows. In late October, 1972, Larry's 17-year-old brother, Lance Hoppen, was brought in to play bass, which freed up Larry to play more guitar and keyboards. As their popularity grew, Rolling Stone magazine wrote that Orleans was 'the best unrecorded band in America' and soon ABC Dunhill Records signed them and released their self titled, debut album in the Fall of 1973.

Without gaining a successful single from that early effort, the band soldiered on with "Orleans II" in 1974, but it was only released in Europe and Japan as the record company decided that there was no hit material to be had. ABC Dunhill soon dropped the group from their roster, but would issue "Orleans II" in 1978 as a double album with additional tracks from their first LP, renaming it "Before The Dance". By March, 1975, Orleans had signed with Asylum Records who issued their third album, "Let There Be Music", from which the title track became their first Billboard Hot 100 entry when it reached #55 that May. The LP also contained what would prove to be their break-out hit, "Dance With Me", which shot to #6 in America that October. A tour with Melissa Manchester soon followed.

For their next album, "Waking And Dreaming" in the Spring of 1976, the band brought drummer Jerry Marotta into the fold to free up Wells Kelly to sing and play keyboards. That LP would produce the band's biggest hit single, the twin lead guitar effort, "Still The One", which reached #5 in late Summer of that same year. In support of the record, Orleans criss-crossed America on a ten week tour with Jackson Brown, which ended in November. Unfortunately a second single from the album, "Reach", with John Hall on lead vocals, stalled at #85 during only a two week stay on the Hot 100 in January, 1977. By the following Summer, internal strife and petty arguments were causing dissention among the band members and John Hall decided to leave in pursuit of a solo career. Drummer Jerry Marotta also resigned to go with Daryl Hall and John Oates before eventually joining Peter Gabriel.

After a brief period of working with other acts, Larry and Lance Hoppen, along with Wells Kelly, decided to keep the band going by bringing in multi-instrumentalists R.A. Martin and Bob Leinbach. This new incarnation of Orleans signed with Infinity Record and released the album "Forever" in April, 1979, which yielded the #11 Hot 100 hit, "Love Takes Time". The title track from the LP rose to #24 on Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart. Now with more than seven million records sold, the band continued to tour with the likes of Chicago and Stephen Stills. Once again, bad luck came to Orleans when Infinity Records declared bankruptcy and was absorbed by MCA Records in 1980. The group's next album, "Orleans", which included a guest appearance by John Hall, received little promotion and failed to produce a hit single. At this point, Bob Leinbach left to join John Hall's band, and guitarist Dennis 'Fly' Amero was hired to replace him. A Summer tour had to be cut short when it was discovered that an accountant had misappropriated much of their cash, leaving the band in serious debt. With this latest set-back, R.A. Martin quit and was replaced by Lance and Larry Hoppen's brother Lane Hoppen on keyboards, and drummer Charlie Shew. By early 1981, Wells Kelly had had enough turmoil and also left the band.

Orleans, still a popular live act, signed with upstart Radio Records, but were forced to replace Dennis Amero with Michael Mugrage for the recording of "One Of A Kind" in the Summer of 1982. Jerry Marotta briefly rejoined to play on the album, but was replaced by Nicholas Parker soon after it's release. As luck would have it, Radio Records went out of business just after shipping "One Of A Kind". Now without a record deal, Orleans was forced to play small clubs and venues in and around the Northeastern United States. Lance and Larry Hoppen also formed a side group to play at smaller gigs called Mood Ring with Bob Leinbach, Nicholas Parker and Robbie Dupree (of "Steal Away" fame). In 1984, Mood Ring was being billed as Robbie Dupree and Orleans, but vocal chord trouble caused Larry Hoppen to take time off to heal.

Sadly, Wells Kelly was found dead in a London, England flat on October 29th, 1984 while on tour with Meat Loaf. A post mortem examination revealed high levels of morphine and cocaine in Kelly's body. His untimely death was the catalyst for a reunion of the Hoppen brothers with John Hall and Bob Leinbach, who relocated to Nashville, resigning with MCA for the release the album "Grownup Children" in June, 1986. That effort included such luminaries as Steve Wariner, Ricky Skaggs and Chet Atkins. At this point, Orleans added bassist Glen Worf and drummer Paul Cook (who was eventually replaced by Tommy Wells) for concert dates.

By 1988, the Nashville scene had proved to be the wrong base for Orleans' music and the group moved their entire operation back to Woodstock, NY, hiring drummer Peter O'Brien in the process. Lance Hoppen however decided to stay in the Music City to work as a song writer and session musician. Bassist Jim Curtin was brought in to replace him for the live shows he couldn't attend, and Orleans continued to try and re-establish themselves in the Northeast. On October 6th and 7th, 1990, the band recorded at Woodstock's Bearsville Theatre to produce "Orleans Live", issued in February, 1991, which included Bob Leinbach, John Sebastian and several other guest artists. A highly successful tour of Japan followed that April. 1994 brought a new album called "Analog Men" for the Japanese start-up label, Pioneer, which was supported by another tour of the Far East. Returning home, Orleans took part in Woodstock '94, for which Bob Leinbach joined them.

1995 saw the Hoppen brothers, John, Larry and Lance, mostly playing small clubs, still billing themselves as Orleans. They also appeared at several shows with Fleetwood Mac, Pat Benatar and REO Speedwagon. The following year, the LP "Ride" was released through the indie label Dinosaur Entertainment out of New Orleans. Unfortunately, just as the single "I Am On Your Side" began to break out, the record label folded, which ended any chance of getting radio play. By 1997, band members had decided to take a break, with John Hall and Lance Hoppen finding work as Nashville session men with various Country artists. Larry Hoppen moved to Florida and joined Voices Of Classic Rock, made up of lead singers from various '70s and '80 bands such as Rainbow, Survivor, Toto and Santana.

In mid-2001, nearly four years after splitting up, Larry and Lance Hoppen, along with John Hall, Peter O'Brien and Bob Leinbach, reunited to perform at the Opus 40 Amphitheatre in Saugerties, NY. The show went so well that the core group decided to reform Orleans. By 2003, former Elton John drummer Charlie Morgan entered the fold and Lane Hoppen rejoined the band after a nineteen year absence. October, 2005 brought a new studio album for CD Baby called "Dancin' In The Moonlight". When John Hall announced his campaign for U.S. Congress in 2006, Dennis 'Fly' Amero rejoined Larry, Lance and Lane Hoppen, along with Charlie Morgan. The live DVD/CD "We're Still Havin' Fun", recorded in August, 2006, hit store shelves in May, 2007. On November 7th, 2006, John Hall was elected as a Democrat to the United States House of Representatives from the state of New York. He was re-elected in 2008, but was defeated in 2010.

Orleans continued to perform across America into 2012 when Larry Hoppen died of an apparent suicide on July 24th. On October 16th of that year, the band played a memorial show at the Bearsville Theater in Woodstock in his honor. After the tragedy, Orleans continued on with a lineup of John Hall, Dennis Amero, Charlie Morgan and Lance and Lane Hoppen. In 2013 they appeared as part of the Sail Rock Tour, performing their own hits and playing back up for Christopher Cross, Firefall, Gary Wright, John Ford Coley, Robbie Dupree, Player and Al Stewart. That year also saw the release of a DVD called "The Last Band Standing" and a two-disc compilation CD, "No More Than You Can Handle: A 40 Year Musical Journey", which contained several previously unreleased recordings. Into 2017, Orleans continued to tour at select venues across the United States.

For more, be sure to read Gary James' interviews with Lance Hoppen, Larry Hoppen and John Hall