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February 9, 2005

No 'Sweetheart' deal for this legend

New York Daily News (NY):

You don't have to collect early rhythm & blues to know "Goodnight Sweetheart, Goodnight". You probably even know the record, which starts with the late Gerald Gregory's five-note bass riff "Do-do-do-do-doooh," then goes into "Goodnite sweetheart, well, it's time to go. " It's another song that proves a catchy tune is a catchy tune. It was covered by the McGuire Sisters in 1954, later recorded by dozens of other artists and picked up for the soundtracks of movies including "American Graffiti" and TV shows, not to mention a Dodge TV ad.

So you'd assume that if the world were fair, or the music business were fair, whoever wrote the song and sang its most enduring version would be doing well, and deservedly so. That would be Thornton James (Pookie) Hudson, lead singer of the Spaniels. If he got a fraction of a penny every time his song has been played or sung over the years, he'd be just fine. But the world isn't fair, and neither is the music business. Pookie Hudson has never gotten much of anything for co-writing and singing the song, which is why today, in the early stages of a battle against cancer, he's living from one grocery bill and rent check to the next. Now, Hudson has never been a money manager. As he says in Richard G. Carter's fascinating Spaniels biography, "Goodnight Sweetheart Goodnight," he partied much of it away.

That's why it would have been nice if, 50 years ago, he'd had someone looking out for him. That's why things like pensions and royalties, which provide incremental money, are good. But Hudson isn't getting much of that, even though half the faces in America still smile when they hear his mostfamous song.

In fact, the Spaniels created a whole catalogue of wonderful music. The gospel-style "You Gave Me Peace of Mind" is breathtaking. "Play It Cool" and "Bounce" are hilarious. "Everyone's Laughing" is a great song, and their lovely ballads could go on all day: "Let's Make Up," "Dear Heart," "(You) Painted Pictures," "I Know." Hudson's bluesy lead, Gregory's bass and the group's unique vocal blend added a touch of what would later be called "doo-wop" to classic R&B harmony, and they make Spaniels records distinctive from everyone else's. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is incomplete without them.

Hudson sang until last fall, when his cancer was diagnosed. He hopes that after chemotherapy and other treatment, he'll be able to sing again. For now, fans can remember and thank him by writing to his home, 6939 Aqua Marine Court, Capitol Heights, MD 20743. The R&B group United In Group Harmony Association, at P.O. Box 185, Clifton, NJ, 07015, is also collecting donations. No one likes that this needs to be done. But with Pookie Hudson, as with others, it ain't charity. It's a small payback.

Posted by acapnews at February 9, 2005 12:49 AM