Press Release From The Family Of Pookie Hudson – Doo Wop Legend Pookie Hudson Is Dead At 72
Pookie Hudson, lead singer of the Spaniels doo wop group best-known for their 1954 million-seller "Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight," died Tuesday, January 16, 2006 @ 2:10 p.m. at his home in Capitol Heights, MD. Last year, he had been treated for thymus cancer. "The cancer was in remission and then, it came back," says his manager, Wellington "Bay" Robinson. "Around Christmas time, Pookie decided that he didn’t want to do the chemotherapy anymore."
"Chuck Barsdale of the Dells and I spoke today about Pookie," says legendary dee jay Bobby Bennett, who hosts "Soul Street" on XM Radio. "Pookie had such a strong influence on the groups of the doo wop era that it was amazing. He was the Smokey Robinson of the 50s and I consider that a great compliment. Pookie was just that talented and what he was able to contribute was he was one of the finest lead singers. No one sounded like him. It was amazing some of the things he was doing with his voice. Even though he didn’t get the personal acclaim of some others, other singers respected him. You could see his influence in The Temptations and many others. So many singers today are copy cats, but he was unique and that’s why his music has lasted."
Born Thornton James Hudson on June 11, 1934 in Des Moines, Iowa, he earned his nickname Pookie from an aunt who used to change his diapers. "She used to say, `All you do is Pookie Pookie," he once joked. Most of his wonder years were spent in Gary, Indiana where he began singing in church choirs at the age of eleven. He first sang in a high school group called the Three Bees, but later met up with two classmates, Gerald Gregory and Willis C. Jackson, who asked him to join them on a Christmas talent show. They enjoyed working together so much that they formed a group under the name Pookie Hudson & the Hudsonaires. They later changed their name after Gerald’s wife made a wisecrack about their singing. They asked her what she thought of the group and Pookie recalled her saying, "That we sounded like a bunch of dogs. So, that’s how we ended up becoming the Spaniels."
The Spaniels were one of the first – if not the first group to coin the term doo-wop. "We were the first to put that doo doo doo and all of those kinds of sounds in our music," Hudson once said. They formed at Roosevelt High School in Gary and hung out at Vivian Bracken’s record shop. After Bracken formed Vee-Jay Records in Chicago, the Spaniels became her first signing. Hudson’s romantic tenor was the perfect counterpoint to Gerald Gregory’s heavy bass notes. Ernest Warren, Willis C. Jackson and Opal Courtney rounded out the harmonies. From 1953 to 1960, they cut radio hits such as "Baby, It’s You," "You Painted Pictures," "Peace of Mind," "I Know" and "Everybody’s Laughing."
However, their signature song was 1954’s million-selling Top 5 R&B hit, "Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight." Hudson wrote the song: "I was going with this girl and I used to walk home from her house and as I walked, I put `Goodnight, Sweetheart’ together because her mother was always telling me, `well, it’s 3:00 in the morning and it’s time for you to go.’" The McGuire Sisters then rushed out a version of the song that reached #7 Pop and sold even more copies than the Spaniels’ version. Sha Na Na, Ben E. King, Paul Anka and George Clinton have also recorded the tune. The song has appeared in a variety of films "American Graffiti," "Three Men and a Baby" and "Diner." Ted Danson’s "Becker" sitcom even built an entire episode around the song.
"White radio stations didn’t play black records then," Hudson once said. "They played white artists, and so we were limited to the black audience and black radio stations. Because of this policy, there are a lot of people who are under the impression that the McGuire Sisters were the first group to record `Goodnite, Sweetheart.’" Notorious disc jockey, Alan Freed, who was known for only playing original versions of records, didn’t play the original of "Goodnight, Sweetheart" on his radio show for a different reason. According to Hudson, Freed approached him in 1954 and asked for writer’s credit on the song in return for radio airplay. Hudson refused and Freed boycotted the song from his show and also barred the group from appearing on his popular all-star concert revues.
However, Hudson made little money and left the group to go solo in the sixties. "We were getting $100 a piece a week and had to pay our own transportation, our own meals and expenses," he said. "We were making no money." His solo ventures didn’t work out. For a while, he slept on a park bench and became an alcoholic. He worked a number of menial jobs until the oldies but goodies circuit put him back to work from the eighties onward. After 30 years of not receiving royalties for "Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight," an attorney helped Hudson begin to receive regular royalties in the 1990s.
In 1991, the Spaniels were honored by the Rhythm & Blues Foundation with its Pioneer award. They used the $20,000 grant to record their album, "40th Anniversary" which has been reissued by Collectables Records. They’ve been profiled on BET’s "Screen Scene" and Entertainment Tonight’s "Hart File." They appeared in the Washington Post, the New York Daily News and assortment of regional publications and television programs.
The group received renewed interest from booking agents when they appeared in the PBS special, "The Doo Wop Cavalcade" in 2005. Hudson’s last recordings were done in October 2006 for an "Uncloudy Christmas" cd that will be released in fall 2007.
Hudson is survived by his wife, Delores, nine children, 16 grandchildren and 2 great-grand children..
For more information on Hudson, log on at:
Pookie Hudson’s Manager: Wellington "Bay" Robinson 202-603-9011
Media Contact: Bill Carpenter at (202) 636-7028 or firstname.lastname@example.org