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A Book Of Matches And A Candy Bar

May 21, 2010

Sometimes when you meet people you know that there is more to it than just the one meeting. This is about one of those moments and an ongoing friendship. I was in full swing as a songwriter and after getting real close to a big hit a couple of times I decided to get into production. At least the outcome would be up to me. That’s not always the recipe for success as I’ve had many of my songs interpreted totally different from the way I would have approached them and they ended up sounding great and achieving success. On the other hand I had a lot of songs end up nothing due to shoddy production. I was very friendly with Clive Fox, who is the son of Harry Fox, arguably the most important person to publishers as he made sure they got paid. Clive and I had a brotherly relationship, which we share to this day. His sister Myrna and her husband managed The Cowsills among other acts so it was natural for Clive to be involved in management also. He told me about an act that he was managing called, The New Yorkers and offered me a chance to meet them and see if we had any chemistry between us with the objective to produce a single for Decca Records. I had very few credits so the offer was totally out of friendship, which displays the nepotistic attitude of the music business. I would have done anything to  make this happen. As it turned out all I had to do was be myself. They were a band but the three main guys were brothers and they were half Italian. Only their last name gave away the fact that they were not 100%  Italian, as I am but as is the case with my children they only counted the Italian half. Ah, kindred spirits. I found this out in the first few minutes of our meeting and we’ve been family since that moment. Bill(19), Mark(18) and Brett(16) Hudson are from Portland Oregon where they lived in a house shared by their mother, uncle and grandparents, seven in all. This is a family fiercely protective of their children so the thought of these young boys running around the country seeking their place in the universe was understandably uncomfortable. I didn’t know if they had the songs but I knew they had the attitude and an undefinable magic. It wasn’t until they played their songs for me live that I found out that they had a terrific three-part blend. I also soon found out that they were the funniest guys I had ever met. Bill was the straight man for Mark and Brett. Anyone who ever saw Razzle Dazzle, their Saturday morning television show, knows that Brett’s Chuckie Margolis and Mark’s Alan were as hysterically funny as it gets. I personally think it was way ahead of its time and television is just now catching up to where they were way back when but I’m getting ahead of myself. It became apparent that they were very eclectic so defining them would be impossible but now we were making a commercial record with the objective of becoming a hit record act. Clive put together a deal with Decca Records they changed their name to, Everyday Hudson and we went into the studio with one of their songs, “Laugh, Funny Funny”. It was a hooky melodic tune and I thought we did what we had to do to accomplish our objective. All we needed was a little support from Decca and I was sure we would be riding the charts. Since my experience was with independent record companies I thought that a major would go after air play and sales aggressively. Hah, even The Who(also on Decca), couldn’t get them to promote. What chance did we stand. The guys went on the road due to Clive’s managerial skills and they did everything possible to get exposure and came very close but without the support of the record company it wasn’t going to happen. Decca gave us a p.o. number to try again and I was excited because we could do some experimenting with guitars. Since Bill is a great guitar player with the angst of  Keith Richards and also at home with either the electric or acoustic I just knew we could do something astounding. We did a song called “La Lalenya”, where we went from an acoustic sound to the electric. I thought we were onto something. When I played it for Decca they informed me that you can’t use acoustic and electric guitars on the same record. This was just before the release of the first Crosby, Stills and Nash record. I guess they didn’t get the memo from Decca records. Even though we didn’t record together any more they helped me many times with background vocals on other projects. In fact Bill played the guitar on the original Chick-a-Boom , of the show “Sabrina and the Groovie Goolies” which was a part of the saturday morning cartoon line up. Our friendship which started back then has endured through the years. I think that this was possible because I recognized the differences in their psyche right in the beginning. Even though Brett was only sixteen I knew he was an intellectual, an uneducated one but an intellectual just the same. Bill, along with being an accomplished guitar player was a shrewd business man and Mark, oh Marco, a complex tortured soul with skills at every creative level. He was the lead singer, an important addition to the song writing, the drummer with the ability to play keyboards, guitar, bass, harmonica and percussion. After he finished the production on one of Ringo Starr’s records he designed and drew the cover. When you can do many things it can be very confusing. Brother Bill always said a person should do what they do best, not what they do worst. Mark would never admit to the validity of that statement. His abilities were never confusing to me as can be exemplified by his miraculous back up vocals on my recording of “It’s a good day” on my current album,“This Time”. Even though we have had our moments he has alway’s included me, one way or another, in his projects. There were many times but one that stands out was when he asked me if I had a Christmas song as he was doing a Christmas album with Ringo. I didn’t but I went home and sketched out an idea that I had been trying to develop ever since my wife and I started giving a Christmas party. The song was called “I Wanna Be Santa Claus”. When I showed Mark what I had he had me put down a simple chord pattern and sing the lyrics that I had. He and Ringo finished it and customized it for the album, in fact it ended up the title of the album which was a very big thrill for me. It is the only song I ever wrote with Mark and to say that I wrote a song with a Beatle was beyond belief. Thank you Marco.  Billy was handsome, talented and lucky. Now that is a formula for what ever you want it to be. Bill was the father figure so his responsibilities were more than just the business of getting successful. Just the idea of trying to cope with three guys with raging hormones would be overwhelming for most but Bill dealt with everything. Bill was the first to be married  he and Goldy seemed perfect. She was funny and a wonderful human being, she fit right in with the whole family. She was the same person you knew and loved on “Laugh In”. Even though she was an Academy Award winner you would not have known it from her demeanor. She was natural and beautiful. I’m sure she is the same today. I never met Kate but Oliver was at my house with Bill and Goldy when he was a baby. After his divorce from Goldy he married Cindy Williams also hysterically funny and a wonderful person. I eventually became friendly with Cindy’s mother and sister who lived about a mile away from where I live. Bill and Cindy lived in a beautiful house in Malibu, overlooking the ocean with their two children Emily and Zac. Even though Bill was on the T.V. show Doogie Houser I don’t think he came close to displaying his expertise as a guitar hero. I guess he didn’t follow his own advise, “Do what you do best..  The youngest brother Brett is the funniest person I have ever met. Even Mark agrees. When Bill and Mark told Brett that he would be the bass player, he didn’t blink he never doubted that he could do it, in those days whatever Bill said was the way it was going to be. The roles started to change when Razzle Dazzle became a reality. Their show included a fair amount of comedy and the strength of that was Brett and Mark. I have so many pleasant memories of Brett that it would be impossible to single out just one but I must talk about the darkest day I had in our relationship. All of us began to notice that Brett’s voice was taking on an odd sound. Mark said he sounded like Kermit the frog. He did, so when he told me that he was diagnosed with throat cancer I was devastated. His attitude was that, “It was a bad day for cancer”. He is a no quit guy so I wasn’t surprised at his positive thought process. He is an intellectual. He started into therapy and I talked to him often. One night he mentioned that Cher had given him some money to go to a clinic in Germany. He wasn’t sure but while we were talking I went on-line  and found the web site for the clinic and I read about this fantastic place where miracles were being performed. I gave him the address and we both read about the facility, now anybody who knows Brett knows that he only does what he wants to do so I knew better than to give my opinion so all I said was, “What do you have to lose?”. He agreed and the rest is history because he is cancer free and has become an advocate for the clinic and the doctor. I’m sure you are wondering what does all this have to do with, A book of matches and a candy bar?  One time when Mark and I were swapping stories he told me one about his grandmother. When they were younger every time they were leaving on a trip that would take them far from home she would give each of them, a book of matches and a candy bar. They never asked the significance of the gift and they would try to figure out the meaning. She would tell them that it would keep them safe. They speculated that the matches could be lit to help them see in dark places maybe they could melt down the chocolate and use it somehow. They eventually found out that the matches were to keep them warm if they were cold and the candy bar, in case they were hungry. Good advise. At one of my Christmas parties, before we knew about Brett’s cancer, I gave Brett, a book of matches and a candy bar, I wrote a note that said I knew his grandmother used to give this to him and that it worked up to this point. Judging by Brett’s bleak prognosis for recovery It would be hard to convince me that their Grandmother didn’t have something to do with the positive out come. Everywhere I look in my house I see something that has to do with the Hudson Brothers. My dining room table was given to me by Bill, the lithograph of the Ringo Rama album cover, autographed by Mark and Ringo hangs in my sun room and the Christmas snowball music box with a picture of Chuckie Margolis, given to me by Brett, sits atop an antique given to me by my mother. I love you Hudson Brothers and I hope  you will always have, A book of matches and a candy bar.

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2 comments

  1. Looks like that book we kept talking about and always procrastinated is finally seeing the light of day. That makes me very happy. Don’t quit now.


  2. My brother gave me a match and a half eaten candy bar….. and a button and a piece of lint and a chiclet. That was all he had in his pocket. What a cheap bastard! If only he could sing I could have made some money off him.



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