The group debuted in late 1952 at Roosevelt High School in Gary, Indiana as Pookie Hudson & The Hudsonaires. They changed their name to The Spaniels that Spring and, upon graduation, became one of the first two artists to sign with Vee Jay Records, the first large, independent Afro-American owned record label. The group recorded their initial release, "Baby It's You" on May 5, 1953. Released in July, 1953, the song reached number ten on Billboard magazine's Rhythm and Blues chart on September 5.
In Spring 1954, "Goodnite Sweetheart, Goodnite" hit number twenty-four on Variety's pop chart, and rose to number five on Billboard's R&B chart. The Spaniels played regularly at the Apollo, and were on the tour that proved fatal for Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and tthe Big Bopper.
The line-up changed numerous times over the ensuing years.
The Spaniels were the top selling vocal group for Vee Jay. The band broke up when the label went bankrupt in 1966, but in 1969, the group reformed, releasing hits like "Fairy Tales" in 1970. An entire new generation was exposed to the group's music when "Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight" was featured prominently in the blockbuster movie, American Graffiti.
Two Spaniels groups later performed simultaneously: one in Washington, D.C., and the original group still based in Gary.
The D.C. based group, with Pookie Hudson and Joe Herndon, appeared on the PBS special, Doo Wop 50. Hudson, wrote but never received much credit or income from "Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight".
Hudson died January 16, 2007 after a lengthy battle with cancer. Courtney, Jr. died September 18, 2008 after suffering a heart attack.