Marilyn Orlando was born to Fred and Mary Orlando in San Jose, California. She had
a brother named Ricky. She grew up in
a rural setting of farm animals, oak trees and orchards. She attended Notre Dame High School and
studied fine arts at San Jose State University. She attributed her artistic talent and singing
voice to her mother and performed in pageants, fairs, on the radio and television shows.
We were provided a copy of an old "California Hayride" program that had a short bio on Marilyn.
When she was in the first grade, she sang in the Annual Christmas Show at her school and later,
represented her school in a County-wide Talent Contest. In 1950, she was chosen "Junior Queen"
at the Santa Clara County Fair. The program indicated she was all of 12 years old at the time
but seemed to know what direction her life was going - towards teaching and music. While she
enjoyed entertainment, her focus was to get a good education.
In 1954, Marilyn Orlando was on the Hoffman Hayride, a successor to the original program
hosted by Dude Martin but now hosted by Eddie Kirk and Cottonseed Clark. She
was a youngster appearing on that show.
That show had quite a talent lineup and included such names as Carolina Cotton, Eddie Dean. Big Jim
DeNoon was the leader of the house band backing up the acts. The show was aired over KPIX
out of San Francisco. In another publication, we find that other acts included Patty Prichard,
Johnnie Guess (another young performer), Bill Carter, Dusty Dale.
Perhaps a shift in sponsorship or producers, the Hoffman Hayride was replaced by the
California Hayride that originated out of Richmond, California. A newspaper
article promoting the show seemed to indicate the show went on the air around October 1955. Hosted by Cottonseed
Clark and Eddie Kirk, acts included Cal Smith (Country Bumpkin), Lyle Keeney,
Little Mike Calkins, Jerri JOnes, Red Murrell, Pete Harrison, The Cochran Brothers and Jess Willard.
The show was getting decent press during its tour of Bay Area communities in 1956 and
we start to see mention of Marilyn as one of the featured acts on the show. Venues
mentioned were Santa Rosa Veteran Memorial Auditorium, the Lodi Grape and Wine Pavilion in
Lodi, CA and San Mateo.
In 1957, the 90-minute show was aired over KOVR-TV in the Central Valley of California on Wednesday nights.
The team of Cottonseed Clark and Bill Kirk proved adept at creating these shows and had sort of a spin
off show called Country Western Time - another 90 minute show on Monday nights that had three
different 30 minute segments.
A 1954 Hillbilly and Western Hoedown Magazine article, Cottonseed had indicated Marilyn and little
Johnny Guess were "branded for stardom". Marilyn was said to have impressing the audiences
all season long while Johnny was a newcomer.
We have seen some of the older publications refer to her as "Mary" and "Margaret" as well
As we traversed the internet, we learn that she had married Frank Dorsa around 1963
and had gotten some honors and recognition.
Further research into the later life of Marilyn shows the remained in the San Jose area
and became involved in the community. In 2015, she was honored at Notre Dame High School
in San Jose as part of the "Women's Place Project" - an activity that was described as an
activity for all freshmen who are assigned a "woman of impact" from a list of alive
and deceased women who had made some kind of impact in the world. The honors luncheon is
usually held in October of each year.
The Board of Supervisors recognized her for her valuable service to the County of Santa Clara/Province
of Florence, Italy, Sister-County Commission on August 26, 2008. Se had served
on that commission from April 1995 to August 2008. She also co-chaired the highly successful
2007 Medici Masked Ball. That 2008 declaration reveals
some of her other talents such as being an award-winning artist - she taught painting, life
drawing and jewelry design. She also developed the concept of specialty retail boutiquest that
became integrated with her husband's full-service car wash business - and even in our local
central valley location today we see such a car wash with that kind of setup.
She has her own web site for her design efforts at: Designs by Marilyn Dorsa
Credits & Sources
- California Hayride Program Copy Courtesy of
Don Hoisington, son of Jerri Jones.
- Country Song Roundup; No. 28; January 1954; American Folk Publications, Inc.;
Charlton Building; Derby, CT
- Hillbilly & Western Hoedown Vol. 1 No. 8; April 1954;
Hoedown, Inc.; 381 West Center Street; Marion, OH
- Pickin' and Singin' News; June 26, 1954; Chas. G. Neese, Inc.;
303 Home Federal Building; Nashville, TN
- San Mateo Times; February 23, 1956; San Mateo, CA
- San Mateo Times; April 21, 1956; San Mateo, CA
- Humboldt Standard; June 23, 1956; Humboldt, CA
- Cowboy Songs; No. 47; July 1956; American Folk Publications;
Charlton Building; Derby, CT
- The Valley Catholic; April 14, 2015; Article by Liz Sullivan; San Jose, CA
- Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors Proclamation August 26, 2008