Thursday, September 16, 2010

R.I.P.: Buddy Hughes

(Buddy Hughes, left, with Gene Krupa),CST-NWS-xhughes16.article
Charles 'Buddy' Hughes, 1919-2010; Singer Was Praised by Sinatra
by Maureen O'Donnell
Chicago Sun-Times, September 16, 2010

Singer Charles "Buddy" Hughes had a velvety voice that earned him praise from the Chairman of the Board himself, Frank Sinatra.

Music buffs say Mr. Hughes might have become a big star, but he just missed the heyday of the Big Band era, and soon the record sales of crooners were being drop-kicked by a single-sobriquet singer named Elvis.

But Mr. Hughes kept performing until he was 86.

His talent won him appearances with legendary bandleader Jimmy Dorsey -- who ordered him to get a good suit. He performed with Gene Krupa, whose videos of his manic drumming keep earning him new fans raised on rock. However, Mr. Hughes was rejected for a gig by the notoriously stingy Benny Goodman, reportedly because he wasn't a twofer -- he couldn't play an instrument in addition to sing.

Mr. Hughes, 91, who had cancer, died last month at his Glen Ellyn home.

He was born in Waterloo, Iowa, and was in the Army in World War II in Algiers, Africa, where he sang with Martha Raye's pianist, Eddie Bigham. After the war, he traveled to New York and auditioned for Dorsey, who was having cocktails with Chicago Mayor Ed Kelly at the time.

"Buddy had one suit. The suit didn't fit too well, and the sleeves were short," said Big Band historian Bob Knack. "But he went to the hotel, he sang a couple of songs for Jimmy Dorsey, and Jimmy Dorsey said, 'Here's the songs you're going to sing with us tomorrow night.'"

The impeccable Dorsey added: "'Get a suit with long sleeves.'"

Sinatra himself complimented Mr. Hughes after a New York City performance, said Mr. Hughes' daughter Patrice Hughes.

"Frank came through before he left and put his hand on his knee and said, 'Nice singin,' kid,'" she said.

Mr. Hughes saved the day when Chicago's Bert Rose Orchestra was backing Ray Bolger, who, in addition to being the Scarecrow in "The Wizard of Oz," had a hit song, "Once in Love with Amy." The orchestra blanked out.

"Buddy was the one that saved us," Rose said. "He was able to hum the song and play a few bars, and it got us through the thing."

His single "Sonata" was on the flip side of a million-seller by torch singer Fran Warren, "A Sunday Kind of Love," Knack said. "Buddy was on the B-side that nobody ever heard. We used to kid him, 'Buddy, you had a record that sold a million copies -- plus one.'"

He had a voice "like liquid mercury," said his daughter Charlene Hopeman.

Singer Mark Madsen added: "He was a feet-together crooner, the fingertips caressing the mike, like he was holding a woman. He was a romantic."

As expert as he was as a singer, he was an even better father, said Hopeman. "He worked three jobs to provide for us," she said.

With his Depression upbringing, he could fix a vacuum or rewire a lamp. "He would bring home busted-up old bicycles and tricycles and put them together so we could have one bicycle.... We thought that was the coolest thing in the world," Hopeman said.

He read his kids Sherlock Holmes, and "on Saturday mornings, they'd all pile in his bed and play 'Name That Tune.'"

His career might have been bigger if he'd broken into showbiz before the Big Bands waned.

"If Buddy had started his career five years earlier, then Buddy Hughes would have been a household name like Perry Como or Sinatra," said Knack.

He paid the bills with jobs ranging from railroad grain sampler, to copyist for a jingle writer, to TV repair. But he never stopped performing. After Goodman rejected him for not playing an instrument (he gave the job to singer-pianist Buddy Greco instead, according to Knack), Mr. Hughes taught himself to play the string bass. Even in his 80s, he played and sang at restaurants, Pheasant Run, and Glen Ellyn Jazz Fest.

His lifelong ability to do what he loved could probably be summarized by a tune he sang at the Hollywood Palladium with Krupa: "My Number One Dream Came True."

Mr. Hughes is also survived by his wife of 68 years, Minerva; daughters Pamela Jacob and Marsha Pertell; son John; four grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

A memorial will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sept. 25 at Wheaton Wesleyan Church in Wheaton.
Chicago-area jazz vocalist sang with legendary big bands
by Joan Giangrasse Kates
Chicago Tribune, September 16, 2010

Once described in a 1946 issue of Downbeat magazine -- the bible of jazz aficionados -- as "the freshest voice to be heard with a band," Charles Evans "Buddy" Hughes found a new voice as the demand for male vocalists began to wane.

"He realized that if he wanted to stay with jazz, he needed to become more multifaceted as a performer," said his daughter Charlene Hopeman.

That's when Mr. Hughes -- then a promising New York jazz vocalist with legendary big bands led by the likes of Jimmy Dorsey, Gene Krupa and most notably Claude Thornhill -- picked up the bass fiddle and seamlessly added it to his repertoire.

"From the start it was like singing through his strings," Hopeman said. "It just felt right."

In the early 1950s, Mr. Hughes moved to the Chicago area, eventually settling in Glen Ellyn, and began performing with such local musical icons as Joe Vito, Johnny Frigo and Bert Rose. He also worked as a copyist for composer and well-known Chicago jingle writer Bill Walker -- handwriting the music that Walker composed.

After his big band days ended, Mr. Hughes continued to sing and play well into his 80s, until his battle with osteoporosis made performing too painful.

"He'd have kept on playing if his back hadn't gotten so bad," Hopeman said.

Mr. Hughes, 91, who was also a World War II veteran, died Monday, Aug. 23, in his Glen Ellyn home of cancer.

Born in Waterloo, Iowa, Mr. Hughes began singing professionally at age 16 in musical shows in the Cedar Rapids area. From 1938 to 1942, he sang with the Minnesota-based Bennett Greten Orchestra.

"He was such a natural," said another daughter, Patrice Hughes. "He could really carry a tune and had a great sense of rhythm."

During World War II, Mr. Hughes served in the Army with the 102nd Cavalry in Algiers, where he sang in a weekly music show at a radio station 20 miles from his military base.

"It took a while to get there, but it was worth every minute once he started singing," Hughes said.

For several years, Mr. Hughes was also the owner and operator of a small television sales and repair shop in Glen Ellyn.

"The shop helped pay the bills, but next to my mother, jazz was his one true love," Hughes said.

Other survivors include his wife of 68 years, Minerva; a son, John; two daughters, Pamela Jacob and Marsha Pertell; four grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. Sept. 25 at Wheaton Wesleyan Church, 1300 S. President St., Wheaton.

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