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Pookie Hudson

Thornton James “Pookie” Hudson was born on June 11, 1934 in Des Moines, Iowa. Hudson received his nickname from an aunt who babysat him. He was the only child of Ardath Robinson. His father, who he never knew, was rumored to be a gypsy. James Hudson married his mother while she was pregnant and shortly after his birth the family moved from Iowa to Gary, Indiana. Hudson attended Roosevelt School from first grade until he graduated in 1953. He developed a love for music and singing at a young age and shares the bloodline with famous performers Josephine Baker and Fats Waller. In 1948, while only in junior high school, he formed his first Doo Wop singing group, The Four Bees with fellow members Billy Shelton, Gerald Gregory and Calvin Fossett. The group eventually broke up when one of the members graduated.

The Spaniels were created in 1953 at Roosevelt High School. The teenage celebrities included Hudson as the lead singer, first tenor Ernest Warren, second tenor Willie C. Jackson, baritone Opal Courtney, Jr and bass Gerald Gregory. Upon graduation in 1953, the group became the first artists to sign with Vee Jay Records, the first large, independent African American-owned record company. The group’s initial release Baby It’s You reached number ten on Billboard’s Rhythm and Blues chart. In the spring of 1954 that The Spaniels reached the height of their Doo Wop success when Goodnight Sweetheart Goodnight hit number twenty-four on Billboard’s Top 40 and rose to number five on the R & B chart. The multi-million dollar single was just one of hundreds of songs written by Hudson. To date, the song continues to be a popular favorite among Doo Wop, classic rock and R & B music fans.

In the 1950s, The Spaniels were the top selling vocal group for Vee Jay records. When the label went bankrupt in 1966, Hudson embarked on a solo career and began recording for several other labels. In 1969, the group reunited and returned to the music of their youth. Their song Fairy Tales became a national hit in 1970. Hudson continued to perform with various Spaniels groups until he reassembled the original group.

In 1992, Hudson was inducted into the Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame. He continued to perform with two Spaniels groups, one in Washington, D.C. and the original group still based in Gary. Hudson raised money to open a Doo Wop museum in Washington, D.C. where he resided with his wife, Delores.

Hudson passed away on Tuesday, January 16, 2007.

Hudson was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on March 2, 2004.

Accession Number

A2004.010

Sex

Male

Interview Date

3/2/2004

Last Name

Hudson

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

James

Organizations
Schools

Theodore Roosevelt College and Career Academy

First Name

Thornton

Birth City, State, Country

Des Moines

HM ID

HUD02

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Iowa

Favorite Vacation Destination

Las Vegas, Nevada

Favorite Quote

I Love You.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

6/11/1934

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Barbecue

Death Date

1/16/2007

Short Description

R & B singer and doo wop singer Pookie Hudson (1934 - 2007 ) Pookie Hudson was the the lead singer of the musical group, The Spaniels.

Employment

General American

Favorite Color

Brown

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Pookie Hudson's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Pookie Hudson lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Pookie Hudson describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Pookie Hudson describes his stepfather

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Pookie Hudson describes his mother's side of the family and early exposure to music

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Pookie Hudson talks about his earliest memories

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Pookie Hudson describes his childhood community in Gary, Indiana

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Pookie Hudson describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up in Gary, Indiana

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Pookie Hudson describes his childhood personality and his elementary school years

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Pookie Hudson talks about attending church as a child

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Pookie Hudson speaks about his friends at Theodore Roosevelt High School in Gary, Indiana, and forming his band, The Spaniels

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Pookie Hudson describes developing a love for singing while listening to 'Randy at Night' on the radio

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Pookie Hudson talks about the music acts at his great aunt's home in Davenport, Iowa

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Pookie Hudson talks about visiting his grandmother and great aunt in Davenport, Iowa

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Pookie Hudson talks about his role models growing up

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Pookie Hudson describes his first performance with the Three Bees

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Pookie Hudson talks about the formation of Pookie Hudson and the Hudsonnaires

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Pookie Hudson describes the origins of the 1952 song 'Goodnight Sweetheart'

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Pookie Hudson talks about auditioning with Pookie Hudson and the Hudsonnaires at the Chicago Theater in the early 1950s

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Pookie Hudson describes being approached by Vee-Jay Records in 1953

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Pookie Hudson talks about his experiences at Theodore Roosevelt High School in Gary, Indiana

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Pookie Hudson describes his personality as a performer and writing 'Goodnight Sweetheart' for a girl he liked

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Pookie Hudson talks about supporting himself financially as an entertainer

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Pookie Hudson describes first hearing his songs on the radio

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Pookie Hudson describes his experiences with segregation in Chicago, Illinois and in the South while travelling with Pookie Hudson and the Hudsonnaires

Tape: 2 Story: 14 - Pookie Hudson describes touring with Pookie Hudson and the Hudsonnaires during the 1950s

Tape: 2 Story: 15 - Pookie Hudson talks about his life as an entertainer in the 1950s

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Pookie Hudson talks about his first marriage

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Pookie Hudson talks about returning to singing and Vee-Jay Records after the end of his first marriage

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Pookie Hudson talks about his relationship with deejay Alan Freed

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Pookie Hudson talks about the doo-wop genre and his 1960s music career

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Pookie Hudson describes changing labels, the end of the Spaniels and evolving music genres in the 1960s

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Pookie Hudson talks about the Civil Rights Movement's impact on music during the 1950s and 1960s

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Pookie Hudson talks about securing royalties for 'Goodnight, Sweetheart' in the 1970s

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Pookie Hudson describes reconnecting with Vee-Jay Records founder Vivian Carter at her home in the 1970s

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Pookie Hudson talks about his career and activities in the 1970s

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Pookie Hudson describes his most valuable lesson

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Pookie Hudson describes his hopes for doo-wop musicians and similar artists

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Pookie Hudson speaks about the doo-wop genre, including its future

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Pookie Hudson shares advice for younger artists interested in doo-wop, and compares the genre to rap music

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Pookie Hudson talks about his experience performing for a European audience and being inducted into the Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame in 1992

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Pookie Hudson reflects on both his accomplishments and regrets in terms of his music career

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Pookie Hudson talks about his ongoing relationship with the Spaniels

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Pookie Hudson shares his hopes for the African American community

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Pookie Hudson reflects on how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Pookie Hudson expounds upon his definition of the doo-wop genre, including its and the Spaniels' contribution to the music industry as a whole

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Pookie Hudson talks about 'Peace of Mind' as another song he would like to be remembered by and his songwriting process

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Pookie Hudson reflects on the best decade of his life

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Pookie Hudson narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$2

DAStory

4$6

DATitle
Pookie Hudson describes his first performance with the Three Bees
Pookie Hudson describes the origins of the 1952 song 'Goodnight Sweetheart'
Transcript
Do you remember your first performance in front of an audience, how old were you?$$You mean professionally?$$No, just the first time you sang in front of an audience, whether it was at church or--$$Well the Three Bees we used to sing, we had a place called the neighborhood house, we used to sing for the YWCA [Young Women's Christian Association]. We didn't do any talent shows, we just sang in the hallways and things, you know. But they put us out of school because we made all the noise, they called all the noise. But basically, really the first real, I guess, audience was when we first formed Pookie Hudson and the Hudsonnaires, and we did the talent shows, so we had a very big, you know, school [Theodore Roosevelt High School, Gary, Indiana] audience at that time.$$When you were singing in hallways and at church, do you ever remember being nervous. What were those performances like, what was it like?$$I don't know, I enjoyed it, you know, I didn't find it to be nothing to be scared about, you know. Yeah, we always had butterflies and things what you're doing because you hit the wrong the note you don't sound bad and whatever 'cause we didn't have instruments. We had to use our voices so. As long as we got the right note and you could see the reaction on people, they was enjoying what you were doing, and that just helps build you up more.$So at the time you were in the Three Bees, you all spent a lot of time singing songs that had already been written and produced.$$Right.$$When did you start making the transition into not only singing, but writing as well?$$That happened just as we were getting ready to record we would sing other people's songs, so the people (unclear) say, "You can't sing other people's songs, you have got to have your own material."$$So was this after high school [Theodore Roosevelt High School, Gary, Indiana]?$$Yeah, uh-huh. See we came out of high school recording, so we had to finish school. And so we were trying to put a song called 'Baby It's You' together which was our first release. 'Goodnight Sweetheart' I had written back in '52 [1952] and it was not really writing a song, it was for a young lady name Bonnie Jean. I used to be in love with Bonnie Jean, and I used to go to her house and I stayed and stayed, and her mama got tired of me staying so she told me one night, said, "Son, your mama may not care about you being out after twelve o'clock, but she didn't mean for you to be here after twelve o'clock." So walking home I put together 'Goodnight Sweetheart', but we did that in '52 [1952]. We didn't even want to record 'Goodnight Sweetheart' because we thought it was a childish song. I took it to the group and we put it together. So when the company tried to get us to do 'Goodnight Sweetheart' it took us almost eighteen hours to do the song 'cause we didn't want to do it. We thought it was a childish song, we thought it was something that you would do in a nursery rhyme, or something. And see how much we know about it-- the biggest thing we ever had was 'Goodnight Sweetheart.'