- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Thornton James “Pookie” Hudson, lead singer of the Spaniels doo-wop group best known for the 1954 hit “Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight,” died Jan. 14 of complications from cancer at his home in Capitol Heights. He was 72.

Mr. Hudson continued performing into the fall, when he learned that his cancer had returned after a remission. His last recordings were performed in October for an “Uncloudy Christmas” disc that will be released later this year, his publicist Bill Carpenter said.

Mr. Hudson’s longtime manager, Wellington “Bay” Robinson, said the singer should be remembered for his great writing ability.

Mr. Robinson said Mr. Hudson wrote “Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight” for a young woman he was dating at the time. “He was staying awful late at the young lady’s house and her parents said … he had to go. As he was walking home, that’s what inspired him to write that song.”

The Spaniels’ signature song was a million-selling rhythm and blues hit in 1954. The McGuire Sisters rushed out a version of the song that sold even more copies than the Spaniels’ version. At the time, only black radio stations played Mr. Hudson’s version, Mr. Carpenter said.

“He really made a blueprint for what a crooner should sound like. It was an unmistakable voice,” Mr. Carpenter said. “I think that his voice, that smooth tenor, was the voice that influenced Smokey Robinson. It influenced Aaron Neville.”

The Spaniels first came together at Roosevelt High School in Gary, Ind., where Mr. Hudson was raised and began singing in church choirs.

Mr. Hudson, who was born in Des Moines, Iowa, was homeless for a time after he went solo and hit a slump in the 1960s, but he got back to work in the 1980s. He began receiving regular royalties for “Goodnight, Sweetheart, Goodnight” in the 1990s.

The Spaniels were honored in 1991 by the Rhythm & Blues Foundation with an award that carried a $20,000 grant. The group used the money to record their album “40th Anniversary,” which was reissued by Collectables Records.

Survivors include his wife, Delores, and seven children.

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