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Spaniels

This vocal ensemble was formed in 1952 in Gary, Indiana, USA. Universally recognized as one of the great R&B vocal harmony groups of the 50s, the Spaniels’ magnificent body of work was not truly reflected in their moderate chart success. The group originally comprised Roosevelt High students James ‘Pookie’ Hudson (Thornton James Hudson, 11 June 1934, Des Moines, Iowa, USA, d. 16 January 2007, Capitol Heights, Maryland, USA; lead), Ernest Warren (first tenor), Opal Courtney (baritone), Willis C. Jackson (baritone) and Gerald Gregory (b. 1934, Gary, Indiana, USA, d. 12 February 1999, Gary, Indiana, USA; bass). In 1953 the quintet enjoyed an R&B Top 10 hit with ‘Baby, It’s You’, but the following year achieved their biggest success when ‘Goodnight Sweetheart, Goodnight’ reached the US pop Top 30 despite competition from an opportunistic pop-style version by the McGuire Sisters. The Spaniels’ delicate doo-wop harmonies turned this ballad into one of the era’s best-loved performances, with the song’s emotional pull outweighing its intrinsic simplicity.

In 1955, the group followed with two fine regional hits, ‘Let’s Make Up’ and ‘You Painted Pictures’. The Spaniels reorganized in 1956, Hudson and Gregory joined by James Cochran (baritone), Carl Rainge (tenor) and Don Porter (second tenor). Top recordings by this group included ‘You Gave Me Peace Of Mind’ (1956), ‘Everyone’s Laughing’ (number 13 R&B, 1957) and ‘I Lost You’ (1958). Another reorganization in 1960, in which Hudson and Gregory brought in Andy McGruder, Billy Cary and Ernest Warren, yielded the group’s last hit featuring the classic Spaniels sound, ‘I Know’ (US R&B number 23 in 1960). Hudson went solo in 1961, but formed a soul-styled Spaniels group in 1969 that brought ‘Fairy Tales’ to the charts in 1970. Various line-ups of the Spaniels continued working into the new millennium.


The Spaniels were an American R&B doo-wop group, best known for the hit "Goodnite, Sweetheart, Goodnite".

They have been called the first successful Midwestern R&B group. Some historians of vocal groups consider Pookie Hudson to be the first true leader of a vocal group, because the Spaniels pioneered the technique of having the main singer solo at his own microphone, while the rest of the group shared a second microphone.


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.

 

50s, 60s Hits

Goodnight Sweetheart Goodnight

Members of this Group


Jeff

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