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The Spaniels

The Spaniels are best known for their massive 1954 hit, "Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight" (number five R&B). They were the first successful Midwestern R&B group, coming from Gary, Indiana by way of Chicago. Lead vocalist James "Pookie" Hudson was a graceful lead singer who influenced many who came after him, most notably Aaron Neville. They were also one of the first (if not the first) R&B groups to perform with the lead singer on one microphone and the rest of the group sharing another, and initiated a trend toward using tap dance routines in live shows. Their often a cappella recordings showcase the purity of a sound and style uniquely their own. It was also the Spaniels who partially brought about the formation of one of R&B's legendary labels, Vee-Jay, which became one of the most successful black-owned record companies in the country.

The story of how the Spaniels came to prominence begins in late 1952, when lead singer Hudson was convinced by four of his Roosevelt High classmates -- Ernest Warren (first tenor), Opal Courtney, Jr. (baritone), Willie Jackson (second tenor), and Gerald Gregory (bass) to join them for a school talent show. They had debuted as Pookie Hudson and the Hudsonaires for the Christmas show and fared so well they decided to continue. Not wanting to join the bird group club (Orioles, Ravens, etc.), they decided on the name Spaniels.

In the spring, the group visited the local record shop owned by James and Vivian Bracken, who had begun developing a record label called Vee-Jay Records. They soon moved their operation to Chicago, in a garage off 47th Street (later they would relocate to offices at 1449 South Michigan Avenue). The Spaniels were one of the first two artists signed to the label (the other was blues guitarist Jimmy Reed). On May 5, 1953, the Spaniels recorded "Baby It's You," released in July. On September 5, "Baby" hit number ten on the national R&B best-seller charts.

The Spaniels' next session produced additional singles, including "Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight," which took off in March 1954, but it took about six months for the record to break nationally, charting at number five on the R&B charts. Its success prompted the McGuire Sisters to cover it for the "white" market, stealing a lot of the Spaniels' thunder when their version landed in the Top Ten (number seven).

The Spaniels' next single, "Let's Make Up," earned more for songwriter Hudson as someone else's B-side when it appeared on the flip of the Top 20 hit "The Ballad of Davy Crockett" (number 14, 1955). On June 11, 1954, the Spaniels made the first of numerous appearances at the Apollo Theatre and began touring the greater Midwest. Another single, "You Painted Pictures," reached number 13 R&B in October.

After Opal Courtney, Jr. was drafted, Vee-Jay A&R man and Spaniels producer Calvin Carter was pressed into service during their road trips for a few months until James "Dimples" Cochran took over permanently. Shortly thereafter, Ernest Warren was drafted and the group continued recording as a quartet. Two subsequent Spaniels singles failed to connect. Disappointed, Pookie Hudson and Willie Jackson both decided to leave the group. The Spaniels bravely continued on, with Carl Rainge (lead), Gerald Gregory (bass), James Cochran (baritone), and Don Porter (second tenor). This contingent lasted for only one single until Pookie rejoined.

In April 1957, Vee-Jay released the first full-length album, Goodnight, It's Time to Go. By mid-summer, the group was back to turning out terrific singles. Incidentally, around this same time Hank Ballard (of Hank Ballard & the Midnighters) had just rewritten the Drifters' 1955 number two pop hit "What'cha Gonna Do" -- already a revision of an old gospel tune, "What're You Going to Do" -- and offered his rewrite, called "The Twist," to the Spaniels, but they passed on it. It later became a number one hit for Ernest Evans, who recorded it under the name Chubby Checker.

By 1960, the Spaniels were Hudson, Ernest Warren, Gerald Gregory, Bill Carey, and Andy Magruder (former lead of the Five Blue Notes). They recorded the group's last Vee-Jay single "I Know" in 1960; it reached number 23 R&B that summer. Meanwhile, Vee-Jay Records issued a second full-length album.

A year later, Magruder and Gregory left the group, and the group broke up briefly after trying to sort out what to do. Road manager Ricky Burden took over on bass for the group's recording for Neptune. Hudson did a few solo sides for Jamie and in 1962 recorded with the Imperials (minus Little Anthony) for Lloyd Price's Double-L label. In the late '60s, Hudson formed his own North American Records and issued "Fairytales," which was picked up by Nate McCalla's Calla Records (distributed by Roulette). It became Pookie's last charting single (number 45 R&B) in the fall of 1970.

Two more singles were issued in the early '70s with a new Spaniels lineup: Hudson, Charles Douglas (first tenor), Alvin Wheeler (second tenor), Alvin Lloyd (baritone), and former guitarist for the group Pete Simmons (bass). He was later replaced by Andrew Lawyer (the Truetones) when the group recorded a remake of "Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight" for Buddah. Their last release was for Henry Farag's Canterbury label of Gary, Indiana in 1974. Up until the time they disbanded, Hudson and the Spaniels were one of the more in-demand acts on the oldies circuit. ~ Bryan Thomas, Rovi
full bio

Comments

joseph44mill e r
Another sing along.. ..MB/ JA
RIP pookie!
1591425100
Wow! Love these guys!
Excellent non can compare cookie or base from old. School. Who knew them personal l
marvins39
pookie was an amazing lead. saw them about 10 yrs. ago. still sounded great. rip pookie
Great group! Didn't have many hits.
10p in Italia
Love The Spanials
Best last call song ever !!!
This song reminds me of stopping at the old Dept. store where they had a soda shop, you could order a vanilla sake or soda pop and a burger.The music was playing over the intercom speakers, (Goodnite sweetheart), WOW what a great time to be growing up in those days.
Goodnight sweetheart, Goodnight was usually the last song at the dances at The Grove & Lebanon Lodge in Pittsburgh
bigvalley7
Don't read this because this actually works u get kissed on the possible Friday by ur love of your life however if u don't post this on 3 other songs u will die in 2 days now u have started reading this don't stop This is scary put this on at least 5 other song in 143 min when u are done your lover name will appear in big letters on the screen this is scary
wasn't Eddie Cocker the front man for the Spaniels??? if he wasn't, he should have been...Star Fetch... Rover & Out
There is something eerie about old time music, like Stephen King eerie. ....ya know?
american graffitti got it on record and also have vhs movie wish i could go back in time those were the good times
Give me a old coke in a bottle and a burger
Its funny because the rest of the group used to make fun of Pookie for being a half beat late. What a great group.
Pookie was cool
djjp1049
I HAVE TO TELL EVERYBODY WHY HE WROTE THIS SONG, HIS GIRLFRIEND WAS BUNNY LAKE AND NHER PARENTS ALWAYS CHASED HIM HOME SO ON THE WAY HOME HE WROTE THIS SONG
I'm stuck in a timp warp, this is the only music i really enjoy listening to, grew up on it and still enjoy listening to it. Grew up in Brooklyn and used to sign on the corners to all of this....
My wife and I used to see him at most of the cabarets we went to. DC representing all the way. He was an icon to the Doo-Wop/my parents generation. I remember my parents partying to this music all the time. Dam I wish I could sing!!!..... .
I'm glad this group was reunited for 1 of the DooWop specials; so amazing!!!
I had the pleasure of meeting these guys @ UGHA New York in the 90's, very warm, humble and talented indivduals. Pooky Hudson was a class act.
jonell1428
memories, memories, memories.... w i s h I could go back
Classic "DOO-WOP" and it sounds great! More, please.
cd30318
Iwas sadden to hear that pookie hudson
had passed and thus taking with him that great lead voice that was so much the spaniels.
I HAVE THE SPANIELS COLLECTIONS FROM THE DOO WOP DAYS AND MANY MORE DOO WOP ARTIST I TRY TO SEE AS MANY SHOWS AS I CAN WHEN THEY COME TO FLORDIA. EVEN THO I GREW UP IN NY
LOVE IT......LOVE IT......LOVE IT!!!!!!
THE BEST LEAD BEST BASS GROUP HARMONY SOUND EVER.HAD THE PLEASURE OF SEEING THEM BEFORE GERALD GREGORY PASSED ON. U.G.H.A WILL LIVE ON FOREVER IN MEMORY WITH THEM.
Goodnight Sweetheart Goodnight is a very memorable song. DJ's used to play it at the end of their stints. Bowser from Sha Na Na gave it new life in the 70's, singing it at the end of every show.
One of the best groups I have ever heard, and it our loss that Pookie hudson isn't with us any more!!!!!!!! !
This Is a great song. It reminds me of being in NYC and listening to the DOO WOP Shop with Cousin Brucie on WCBS 101.1.
gamemom
I know this dates me, but you could understand the singers during this era. Early rock n roll...love it.
A GREAT DOO WOP SONG FOREVER
James "Pookie" Hudson died of Cancer last year.
Pookie Hudson Lead singer of the Spaniels passed away recently. Our loss. Thank you very much for that information peabody8.

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