The Spaniels Biography

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.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.