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The Hudson Brothers

The Hudson Brothers

Power pop group

During the late 1970s, the music career of the Hudson Brothers became overshadowed by the comedic television personalities they cultivated on variety shows like The Hudson Brothers Show and the feature length film Hysterical. Often remembered more as actors or producers than a prolific pop group, in their hey day, the Hudson Brothers were crafting some of the finest power pop of the 1970s, right up next to groups like the Bay City Rollers, Bread, the Bee Gees, and the Raspberries.

Brothers Bill, Brett, and Mark Salerno grew up in a music loving family in the suburbs of Portland, Oregon. In high school, Bill and Brett played music together, and when middle brother Mark saw the Beatles play in 1965 in their hometown, he realized that wanted to be a part of the action. A foreshadowing conclusion as some 30 years down the line, Mark would produce records with ex-Beatle Ringo Starr. When Mark saw the "Fab Four" (the Beatles) perform, he finally understood the fun his brothers were having in their own band. "It was my lust for loving what they were doing and wanting to be a part of that. I just saw them having so much fun," Mark said in an interview with Mix.

Near the end of their high school years, the brothers had dubbed their band My Sirs. After competing and winning a number of battle of the band contests in the late 1960s, My Sirs were scouted by Chrysler to do a promotional tour on behalf of the automotive company. With their friend Kent Fillmore, the band was asked to rename the group after a Chrysler car model so they called themselves the New Yorkers. The group toured the country for Chrysler promotions and recorded two singles for Scepter Records; the 1967 tracks "When I'm Gone," which was a small regional hit and "Mr. Kirby," which got the band a bit of national attention.

After signing a deal with Decca records and releasing an unsuccessful cover of Harry Nilsson's "I Guess the Lord Must Be In New York City" in 1969 the band moved to New York, but the label soon dropped them and they moved back to Portland a year later. The band began to play shows around town and earned enough money to move out to Los Angeles. During this time they changed the band name from the New Yorkers to Everyday Hudson and then to Hudson. They spent their time in Los Angeles looking for a manager, a record deal and doing some vocal session work (including some with country star Kenny Rogers).

The band officially adopted Hudson as their last names and under the band name Hudson released their selftitled debut full-length record in 1972 for Playboy Records. Two years later, now calling themselves the Hudson Brothers, the band released Hollywood Situation on the Casablanca label. The breezy pop and crunchy rock of Hollywood Situation struck a chord in radio listeners and the melodic "So You Are a Star" reached the top 30 in the United States. Critics applauded the brother's first big outing, but blamed their very un-hip press photos and album cover as a roadblock to what could have been a massive pop smash. In between the glorious pop songs was a track called "The Adventures of Chucky Margolis," a live comedy piece that hinted at their future acting career. They had the songs and the charm to be teen idol sensations, but their image kept them as a underdog pop group, trailing behind other stars of the times.

In the same year as the release of Hollywood Situation, the Hudson Brothers released another record, the time on Elton John's label Rocket Records. Even though Elton John co-writer Bernie Taupin produced the album, Totally Out of Control, none of the songs had the radio potential of a track like "So You Are a Star." Recorded in France and London, rather than Los Angeles, the album was decidedly more British influenced than sunny California, often very Beatles-esque.

While the Hudson Brothers were gifted in making pop masterpieces, their interest in show business was never focused solely on making records. In 1974, the same year they put out two albums, the brothers were the stars of their own very short-lived variety show on CBS aptly titled The Hudson Brother Show. Performing mediocre sketch comedy, the brothers also sang and danced their way through brief show wearing wacky costumes and attempting to act. In an interview with Mix, Mark reflected on the band's choice to become TV stars. "It was the beginning and the ending of the Hudson Brothers," he said. "The TV guys didn't take us as serious comedians, because they thought we were a rock band. And the rock people didn't take us as serious rockers because we were on TV." CBS still liked the trio though and after The Hudson Brothers Show was finished, the group hosted the weekly Saturday morning kids show The Hudson Brothers Razzle Dazzle Show from September of 1974 until August of 1975.

Luckily, after all that, the band still had one more album in them. The Hudson Brothers' Rocket follow-up, 1976's Ba-Fa might have even been their masterpiece; All Music Guide 's Joe Viglione called it a "ground-breaking record." Once again produced by Taupin, this time, the band had another hit on their hands with the happy-go-lucky "Rendezvous," a track co-written by Beach Boys member Bruce Johnston (who also covered the song on his 1977 album Going Public). While "Rendezvous" was a top 30 smash in the summer, it wasn't actually Ba-Fa 's brightest moments. The glorious classic pop tracks like "Spinning the Wheel (With the Girl You Love)" and "Oh Gabriel," sounded like hits Bread could have had and should have made the Hudson Brothers mainstream pop stars.

In 1976, Bill Hudson married his girlfriend, actress Goldie Hawn. Though they later divorced, their two children, Kate and Oliver, became prominent Hollywood actors. The Hudson Brothers had never been a big touring band; they were often too busy making records, writing comedy skits, or working with other artists, but in the late seventies, they toured once again as a teen pop attraction before returning to TV. In 1978 the Hudson Brothers found themselves acting more like the comedy troupe the Marx Brothers than a band when they made two dozen episodes of a British-made sketch comedy show called Bonkers.

Music was now a side note to their television careers and the 1978 album The Truth About Us, which was mostly cover songs, was barely noticed. The group kept up their acting and starred in the made-for-TV movie The Millionaire, shot an episode of The Love Boat, and starred in the 1978 flick Zero to Sixty. Before they totally called it quits in music, they put out another album, Damn Those Kids, in 1980. But it was clear that their music had been left behind.

Before officially disbanding in 1982, the Hudson Brothers acted in the 1983-released film Hysterical, a three-Stooges like comedy co-written by Bill. In the nineties, long after their career as a pop group was nothing but a memory and a glitch on dedicated pop aficionados minds, Bill, Mark and Brett found more prominent and actually successful roles in the entertainment industry. After divorcing Goldie Hawn, Bill married Laverne & Shirley actress Cindy Williams and the couple owned a successful production company until their divorce in 2000. Mark became a sought-after music produce and songwriter. He wrote songs for Ozzy Osbourne and Alice Cooper in the 1990s, and in 1994 earned a Grammy nomination for co-writing Aerosmith's "Livin' on the Edge." As well as being a Hollywood Records exec, Mark also worked with Ringo Starr and another group of three brothers, Hanson. Brett kept a smaller profile while he wrote and produced television projects and continued to provide backup vocals for friends like Alice Cooper and Ringo Starr.

In 1995, Varese Records released the Hudson Brothers greatest hits record So You Are a Star. Inan interview with Entertainment Weekly, Mark reflected on the semi underground status of the Hudson Brothers' career; "When people remember us, they can't quite figure out what we did, but they know that whatever we did, they liked."

For the Record . . .

Members include Bill Hudson (born William Salerno on October 17, 1949; married Goldie Hawn, 1976; divorced; children: Kate, Oliver), guitar, vocals; Brett Hudson (born Brett Salerno on January 18, 1953), bass, vocals; Mark Hudson (born Mark Salerno on August 23, 1951), keyboards, drums, vocals.

Group formed in Portland, OR, by brothers Bill, Brett and Mark Salerno, c. 1965; began as My Sirs and The New Yorkers before changing name to Hudson and then the Hudson Brothers; released debut full-length album Hudson on Playboy Records, 1972; signed with Elton John's label Rocket Records, 1974 and released Totally Out of Control, 1974; starred in TV variety show The Hudson Brothers Show, 1974; hosted children's TV show The Hudson Brothers Razzle Dazzle Show, 1974-1975; released album Ba-Fa, 1976; disbanded, 1980.

Selected discography

Hudson, Playboy Records, 1972.

Hollywood Situation, Casablanca, 1974.

Totally Out of Control, Rocket Records, 1974

Ba-Fa, Rocket Records, 1976.

The Truth About Us, Rocket Records, 1978.

Damn Those Kids, Elektra, 1980.

Sources

Books

Larkin, Colin, editor, The Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Macmillan, 1998.

Nite, Norm N., editor, Rock On, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock N' Roll, The Modern Years: 1964-Present, Thomas Y. Crowell Publishers, 1978.

Periodicals

Entertainment Weekly, July 12, 1996, p. 47.

Online

"The Hudson Brothers," All Music Guide,http://www.allmusic.com (July 4, 2005).

Internet Movie Database, http://www.imdb.com (July 4, 2005).

"Producer Mark Hudson," Mix,http://www.mixonline.com/recording/interviews/audio_producer_mark_hudson (July 4, 2005).

—Shannon McCarthy

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